Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Paperless - closer than you think

I don't suppose we'll ever be completely paperless. At least not in the near future. But the opportunities to reduce our dependency on pulverised wood are there. Wherever possible I do all my transactions online, and hardly see a paper bill these days. E-books mean that bulky books are fewer, although I have to say I like to read a real book rather than an e-book. If I see anything online I want to make a note of, I capture the screen or web page, or just a part of it to Evernote, one of my favourite apps with a couple of clicks and it's there and available for posterity, across all my devices - my desktop iMac, my Macbook, my iPad and my iPhone, or indeed online from any internet connected computer.

It's the little scraps of paper that are annoying, or those old photos. However, there is a solution. I've been using a Doxie One  from Doxie for a year or so and I love it. It's a small portable scanner, mains or battery powered that enables you to scan in sheets up to A4 size to an SD card and then import them to, well, wherever you want to using the desktop Doxie application. It's brilliant, and I've cleaned out all but the most important of documents (birth certificates etc) from my "filing". I've never had less paper. Anything that does come on paper now that I need to keep gets "Doxied" and then shredded.

Not only is the hardware great, their customer service is exceptional. A few months after getting my Doxie One, I emailed them to mention that although the scanner was working fine, occasionally the scanner wasn't always being recognised when I connected it to the Mac via the usb cable (not a major problem as I nearly always use the SD card to transfer the files, but slightly irritating nonetheless). They emailed me back with a few suggestions that didn't work. Then they said don't worry we'll just send you a new one - and they did. No questions, no hassle, just "here, have a new one". They said keep the old one (even though it was still working fine apart from that one occasional gripe).

I'm so impressed that I've just upgrade to their latest version - the Doxie Go wireless. Like it's little brother but wireless so I can now transfer files from it's inbuilt memory without any cables or SD card swapping. The photo below shows how diminutive this is - a CD is provided only for scale comparison, not to say anything about my taste in music. If you like gadgets and have a bunch of paper and old photos lying around you want to scan, I'd recommend this little marvel, or indeed any of it's siblings.

Doxie Go Wireless

The wonders of space

I've always been interested in space. The sheer unimaginable scale of space. The possibility of extra-terrestrial life. Spaceships. Men on the moon. Many an hour I've spent watching the stars, with little comprehension beyond the known solar system. I could name a few of the more obvious constellations, find the North star, and have been able to point out Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus and even Mercury on one occasion. I'm particularly fond of the International  Space Station. I watch it fly across our skies regularly at 17,500 mph some 250 miles above earth, and follow several astronauts on Twitter both whilst they're up there tweeting from the ISS and afterwards once they're back on terra firma.

And so it was with some delight and significant surprise that for my birthday this year, my good lady bought me a telescope. Not any old scope mind you, but a Skywatcher 200 Dobsonian. That's it there in the photo!
It's almost as big as it looks! It's got an 8" mirror in the bottom and is a wonderful bit of kit. Easy enough to set up and pretty much point and look in use. I've been somewhat hindered by cloudy skies since I've had it. However, I've seen the moon where the detail is awesome, and a few stars (which just look like slight bigger versions of the ones I can see with my eyes!). I've even managed to find the Andromeda galaxy, although even with this beast it's little more than a slightly brighter blotch in the sky. Apparently it is visible with the naked eye in some darker skies, although with my eyes there's no chance. There's an interesting article about the Andromeda galaxy, and how big, relatively, it actually is here.

Last night was probably the clearest the sky has been since I had the scope and I spent some time trawling the skies. I found the Orion nebula (another milky blotch, although a distinct blotch! The other things about looking through a scope is being blown away by the sheer number of stars up there - you can point it at what appears to be a black and empt patch of sky, but when looking through the eyepiece all you can see is countless stars. It really is amazing.

My most wondrous moment however was finally seeing the massive planet of Jupiter and all four of it's moons. I've seen Jupiter before - it's easily visible as a huge bright planet with the naked eye, and I've also seen some of it's moons through binoculars, as tiny pinpricks of light. Through the scope though not only could I see all four moons aligned in a straight line, but Jupiter itself as a distinct and clearly visible planet, with the stripes from it's cloud formations very visible. It was a real "wow" moment for me - forget the picture you see - when you see it like that with your own eyes it's a tremendous feeling.

I even managed to take a photo. It's a crap photo, as it was taken handheld with an iPhone 6 held about 1cm away from the scope's eyepiece, and so full of movement which blurs the picture. It was taken with my widest angle eyepiece on the 'scope which can't make out the detail I described above (I used a greater magnification eyepiece to get that detail) but you can tell it's there, and you can clearly see the four moons. It's a ropey picture, but it's mine, my first ever picture of Jupiter, and I love it!

If you're even remotely interested in what's up in the heavens, I'd recommend an app such as Sky Guide (this is the iTunes link) which is brilliant and helps you start to understand what's where and find all sorts of stuff. It's £1.49 but frankly that's less than the price of half a pint of beer (and no, I have no link to the app of the developer).

If you're a Twitter user, following astronauts is easy. Currently NASA astronaut Terry Virts (@AstroTerry) is aboard and tweeting from the International Space Station (ISS).

A prolific tweeter of all things space and astronomy, including the times of ISS passes is @VirtualAstro

Monday, December 29, 2014

On your doorstep - don't miss it

It's been a fantastically gorgeous day in Cardiff - wall to wall blue skies and sunshine. It's difficult to believe it's 29th December.

Making the most of the unseasonal weather we've been on a circular walk of Cardiff Bay. It's a great walk - about 5 miles give or take that we've now done a few times, but the key for me given my very dodgy knee, and other aching bones is that it's flat, and all or pretty much all on paved surfaces. A decent pair of trainers will see you all right unless it's chucking down.

We started at the free car park on Marconi Avenue just down from the Oystercatcher pub, and went anticlockwise, taking in the barrage first, passing Penarth Marina with it's collection of boats of all shapes and sizes. In fact the number of craft in the Marina, the river Ely and the bay itself is tremendous, and needs to be seen to be belived. The best place to view is on the Pont y Werin bridge looking down the Ely towards the bay towards the end of the walk.

We stopped in Mermaid Quay for a Starbucks coffee before the second half taking in the wetlands nature reserve  before crossing the road bridge and then Pont y Werin footbridge over the river Ely completing the walk and finishing off with a very good value meal in the Oystercatcher, which is one of the Hungry Horse chain of pub/restaurants.

As is so often the case, it's a reminder of what's on your doorstep and either taken for granted or, in many cases completely overlooked. As well as the barrage, impressive in itself with it's three sea locks and now, huge freshwater lake fed by the Taff and Ely, there are many important and historic buildings along the way. The Senedd, Norwegian Church with it's Roald Dahl connections, the Millenium Centre, Pierhead building and Millenium Stadium are all visible in the photo taken from the Penarth side of the barrage. Mermaid Quay is a bustling centre these days with coffee shops, ice cream parlours and eateries to suit every taste and pocket. The newer builds of the St David's hotel and spa, flats and unseen here, white water rafting centre, ice rink and swimming pool show how vibrant this area is these days.

On our way round we were ruminating about the "old days" of the mud flats, the Red House pub and the scrappies along Ferry Road. Rose tinted spectacles perhaps. The number of people out and about with kids or just adults around on their own today, whether taking in the weather or a visit to the Dr Who Experience or the wetlands nature reserve behind the St Davids hotel would never have been possible without the foresight to redevelop what was a pretty run down area of the City not too long ago.

It was a lovely walk in lovely weather, but whatever you do, just take the time to pop down and regardless of whether you do the whole circuit, or just a short stroll on part of it, don't miss it.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bad to worse...

I started by last post by saying "Just when you think things can't get much worse at Cardiff City...", but oh, how they can.

Today's dismal 2-4 defeat to Watford took both Cardiff City, and my support for them to a new low. Manager Russell Slade had called for a reaction after their capitulation of a 1-0 lead against 10 man Charlton on Boxing day, but even when they went 1-0 up today through an Adam LeFondre header, you just knew it wasn't going to be a great afternoon.

Empty seats throughout the stadium showed that a lot of people had stayed away (more on that later). City started brightly enough, and got that early lead, but Watford always looked neat and precise and a goal was always coming. It came on 42 minutes after some typically comic book defending by City, and then just 3 minutes later Watford took the lead after more defenders went awol. The boos were inevitable. The fight that City showed in the second half against Brentford never materialised, and Watford added to their lead on 63 minutes with another belter from way outside the box (this is happening every game now). By the time the Hornets bagged their 4th, the crowd were "ole-ing" Watford's passes, had chanted "You don't know what you're doing" to Slade when he subbed Adeyemi (arguably one of the better of a bad bunch today), and topped it off with "You're getting sacked in the morning" as the visitor's 4th went in.

I didn't see Jones get a second for City, because I'd walked out by then. I think I've only ever walked out of a City match in disgust once before, but at the moment they are an utter, utter, utter, shambles.

Slade appears to be way out of his depth. In mitigation it's not his squad, he's got too many overpaid and under-achieving players, but he was brought in (by Vincent Tan lest we forget), because he was such a good man manager. Well, let's just leave that thought there shall we?

The crowd also broke into laughter at Ali's announcement that there were 22,208 in attendance because there were clearly no where near that many there, and that's before most people walked out. There's a difference between tickets sold and bums on seats, and I reckon there were 18,000 there at most. If the club wants to delude people that it's being well supported, they need to get a reality check. The club is going down the pan fast. It saddens me, because the club is never going to admit things are bad - it's their jobs after all. But someone needs to sit Vincent Tan down, and be brave enough to tell him that frankly, he needs to go, or he needs to change things. Listen to people who know football. He doesn't, and I doubt he ever will.

I really do despair. There's a sickness, a poison around the club. The disillusionment is immense. On and off the pitch the club is an embarrassment, and no one except the supporters are prepared to say it.

Friday, December 26, 2014


Just when you think things can't get much worse at Cardiff City, our glorious owner issues a special Christmas Day message to fans saying we will not return to blue and any protest will be futile. Thanks, and a Merry Christmas to you too Vincent.

And then, to cap off a truly wonderful Yuletide for the Bluebirds, we chuck away a 1-0 lead away at Charlton against 10 men. Not only did we squander the win but apparently only managed 38% possession against the 10 men of Charlton. Seriously, what sort of management, leadership and focus is being shown by this club?

Whilst I've always opposed the rebrand I've stuck to the club but I have to say my resolve is waning by the week. For the first time I am now really beginning to wonder about the thought of not renewing my season ticket for next season.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas crumble

Regular readers will have noticed that...well, there's been nothing to read. I haven't posted since March when Cardiff were beaten (trounced) by Liverpool back in the halcyon days of our Premiership season.

I keep meaning to write something but never quite find the motivation. Normally, because I've been exhausted by another inept display, either by the club as a whole, or the players on the pitch. My regular tweeting on Cardiff City and other stuff (@Statto1927) at 140 characters, is normally enough.

But I can't restrain myself any more. Today I watched my side capitulate as we went 3 down at home in 33 minutes to a side who were two divisions below us last season. They were great, we were woeful. In fact we weren't as good as woeful. The final score was 2-3, which rather hides the fact that it probably could have been about 0-7. Frankly Cardiff City on the pitch are awful at the moment (read the last two seasons), and anyone who thinks otherwise (and the club and some supporters seem deluded enough to think we should be much better) is on a different planet. At best we are ordinary. In the last week we've been beaten soundly, and deservedly by two sides who were in League 1 last year who have played neat, incisive football with a team ethic that's sadly lacking in the borough of Leckwith.

Where to lay the blame?

Well a lot of people blame the players. That's understandable. They get paid a lot of money to kick a bag of wind around a field, and whatever the manager says, or the tactics he asks them to play, it's them out there against 11 other blokes. But some of the play recently makes parks sides look good. Passes going astray when no pressure, attacking players whose shooting power wouldn't dent a paper bag, and an alarming degree of being static and not challenging for the ball when opposition players are running and challenging everything. And let's face it, we've got some donkeys in our squad.

One who isn't a donkey though, shows that players talk and play a different game. Peter Whittingham after the loss at Bournemouth said.

"We have to be better. We must start quicker".

Yes and yes. So why didn't you?

So it's the player fault.

Or the manager. Since getting rid of Malky Mackay we've never looked like a team. I'm not defending Mr Mackay - clearly something went awry there, although I don't think us ordinary folk will ever know the truth, but I don't believe it's as one sided as Vincent Tan seems to delight in telling others. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was woefully inept as his replacement, and some of his signings beggar belief in hindsight. The current incumbent, Russell Slade was dragged from Leyton Orient (and let's not forget he's Vincent Tan's man this time), on the back of being a good man-manager, but with no experience at this level. A brief honeymoon period when a few results went our way, even though we weren't playing very well, and some nice media interviews, doesn't disguise the fact that he may be out of his depth too.  He blames a big squad, but hey, you've got them all to pick from. Surely there must be 11 who can play as a team in there somewhere?

Managers don't help themselves though do they? Here's one of Slade's quotes after todays performance.

"There were two ways to go at half time after we were knocked down and on one knee. We needed a response, we had to get up fighting. The players did that and they are the type of people you want in your changing room, the type of people I want around me".

No, no, no Russell. I want players around me who don't play so ineptly that they end up 3 down after 33 minutes in the first place.

So it's the manager's fault.

Or the fans. Clearly the fans aren't supporting their team and that's the problem. (That's a joke by the way). Idiots like me turn up to every match paying good money, cheer on the team and get rewarded with the dross we've seen lately. Don't blame the fans. Even the ones who boo, walk out, or have even given up coming.

Or the owner. Now we may be getting to the nub of it. The rumblings against Malaysian owner Vincent Tan have been loud and long, but not universal. The change of colour from blue to red caused an outrage, seemed to die down, and is back with a vengeance. The change of badge/crest to the awful beer mat effort is just laughable. And to what end. Lucky red certainly isn't lucky. But Mr Tan is too arrogant, or more likely stubborn to see that his re-branding and handling of the club is what I think is pushing the club to crumbling point. Fans divided. Fans fighting amongst themselves, and all because of what Tan has done. An we were supposed to be debt free by now. Instead we are still in HUGE debt. And pretty much of it all owed to the owner.

Just going back to the fans for a moment, let's remember everyone is different. Those who walked away at the first sign of a rebrand were perfectly entitled to. I thought they were wrong. I thought the rebrand was wrong too and still do - vehemently. But they had a point of principle. I'm now getting as disillusioned as they are. But I don't think I'll walk away. After all, supporting a club is about supporting through thick and thin, and whilst I think the club is in a mess, it's still the club I support. It doesn't not become so because we've got an owner and a lick of red paint. If you have a different view that's fine. It's not mine. Vincent will be gone at some point, and a new owner has a gigantic gimme of a win over for the fans waiting for him (or her) on a plate. Back to blue.

It could be worse. We could be Hereford United.

If the club had half a brain, they wouldn't be in this position. You've got to wonder.

Merry Christmas people.