Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas, Western Australian style

Went out with the family today, taking in a trip on the Swan River. We stopped off for a barbie and sunk a few tinnies too. It was a nice day out, and I've included a few pics below.

To those of you enjoying snow, sleet, rain, cold temperatures ... ha ha ha. Then again, we almost hit 46C on Boxing Day (115F) so you can laugh at that. (It wasn't that hot today, or we wouldn't have ventured outside.)

And greets to my eldest daughter, who turned 13 yesterday. Yes, we now have a teenager in the house ... fortunately, she's not the wild sort.







Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to all!

Phew - two weeks weeding the garden, tidying the house & surrounds, buying stuff for xmas dinner (new folding chairs, food, etc), wrapping prezzies, hanging xmas decorations and lights, going to the dentist, more weeding, cleaning the pool, more cleaning ... I almost wish I was still slaving over my NanoWrimo effort!

Still, the turkey is defrosted in the fridge, the veggies are all peeled, cut, diced & whatever, and everything is ready for a great day tomorrow. We'll have around 20 people over for the day, and I'll be on the go from about 9:30 am, which is when I have to make my Special Stuffing (I just stuck the recipe on my website) Crumbled bacon, bread cubes sauted in olive oil, onion, egg, fresh rosemary and thyme ... last year it was so good people were passing up the turkey and tucking into the stuffing instead.

I'll put the turkey on at 10:30 am, since it's a 5kg size (about 11lb). I've cooked turkeys in our barbecue for the past 10 years, and this one won't be any different. When the summer temp is 38-40 degrees outside (over 105F) you really don't want the oven making things worse, so cooking on the BBQ is the solution. I use shallow oven trays and invert them over the hotplates and grille, then light the outer burners only (4 of the 5, leaving the centre one unlit.) The turkey sits in the middle, and the hood goes down. In our oven we usually roast at 180C, but the BBQ can hit 260-280 with 4 burners on full, so it's important to keep an eye on it.

The turkey will take 3 hours all up, and an hour or so into the cooking I'll put potatoes, pumpkin, whole onions and parsnips in to roast. These sit in baking trays, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. I usually wrap the pumpkin in tinfoil and bake it whole.

Half an hour later I add a huge metal stock pot containing peeled potatoes and lots of water - plus mint & salt. These will boil, and are ready by the time everything else is done.

Inside the house, in the nice cool aircon, we just have to steam the green veggies - brussels sprouts, peas, beans, etc. They only need 5-10 mins, and aside from heating custard and warming the christmas pud, that's the only cooking we'll need to do indoors.

I know I've missed some of the food (cured ham, for example, but that's just sliced & served cold) but these days I can cook a whole xmas dinner for 20-30 people on autopilot. I just make sure I have a spare gas bottle, and I check under the hood every 30 minutes to see whether anything is getting too well done. If so, wrap in tinfoil or reduce the heat.

Anyway, if I don't post again before the new year, Merry Christmas to everyone and I hope you have a fantastic time.

Simon Haynes

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Upgrading to the best version of Windows

Here's a comparison of XP and Vista, specially written for those stuck with the buggier of the two. (Non-computer types and the humour-impaired can safely skip this article.)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Terry Pratchett

I have to say, this really sucks. Here's a guy who's given an enormous amount of laughs and good cheer to a huge worldwide fan base, and he's rewarded with a cruel blow like this.

I still remember the first time I heard of Terry Pratchett. I was an enthusiastic teen computer user, spending hours per day on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and one of the games I picked up was a computer version of The Colour of Magic. That must have been 1984 or 1985, and it's been wonderful to see his books hit greater and greater heights ever since.

Well, here's hoping modern medicine can pull off a miracle ... and a few experts in high-end brain chemistry wouldn't go amiss either.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Catastrophic Windows Failure ... ho hum

Another day, another refusal to boot. Switched on my PC at 7:30 am and it wouldn't go anywhere. Tried safe mode and it kept rebooting after showing the MUP.sys driver. Used Google from the laptop, found a zillion people with the same problem and about as many solutions. (This is the third time this has happened to me in the past 18 months. You think I'd have switched to Linux by now. If it weren't for certain games ...)

Anyway, I set up a second copy of XP on a spare hard drive, booted it, tinkered with the main C partition, no go. Fortunately (or rather, intelligently) my C drive is just Windows and Program Files - my 'My Documents' folder is on its own 5gb partition on a second drive.

So, I ran Paragon Drive Backup, took a snapshot of the broken C partition, then restored my latest snapshot dated October the 11th. Rebooted into my now-working, but outdated install, let AVG and Firefox and Microsoft and Adobe and Java all update themselves, sorted folders in the Program Files folder by date on my C drive AND in the backup snapshot, and reinstalled all apps I'd added to my system after October. Updated to OpenOffice 2.3.1. Restored my Firefox profile in the Documents and Settings folder. Rebooted to confirm it's all working.

Total lost time: around 5 or 6 hours. I have to pick the kids up from school in half an hour, which means basically the whole day is shot, and I've yet to answer a single email. Mind you, I'm lucky I can fix this stuff. For the average punter it would have been wipe and reinstall, perhaps losing all their data in the process.

Now, had this been a Linux installation I'd have booted from a live CD, manually edited the broken config file in a text editor (no registry on linux, thank heavens) and rebooted to a working machine. Net wasted time: around 5 minutes.

And Microsoft want me to upgrade to Vista? The hell I will.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Vanishing act

I've been so busy lately that blogging has been the last thing on my mind. What with getting Hal 4 ready, completing nanowrimo, rewriting Remind Me Please and yWriter 4, doing essential maintenance on the house etc, etc, I've hardly had time for a breather.

I owe emails to quite a few people, and I have a load of paperwork to get through. Bear with me ... it will happen. NanoWrimo and the new yWriter 4 application have both generated huge quantities of email on top of the usual load, which hasn't helped.

Oh well, at least the Xmas break is coming up.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)