Category Archives: “Misc”

Pencil Search – Success Of A Kind

Over the past few years, I would often be inspired to post this on various office supply and stationery sites:

Hi, I have a request, and I hope someone can help. In my late father’s stuff I found a canister of mechanical pencil leads, with a cork stopper. From the markings I think they are from his job in the 1960s at the UK GPO (General Post Office, which later split to make the Post Office and British Telecom). I’d love to be able to use them, but they are 1.5mm size. It’s been some years now, and I just cannot find a mechanical pencil or lead holder that will hold them. 1.3mm is too small, and they fall out of my Staedtler 2.0mm.
Can anyone tell me if there is such a thing as a 1.5mm lead holder? I’ve searched around on eBay, without much luck.
Any ideas for what I could do? Can you put the word out?

I even bought a cheaper 1.3mm holder and some thin diamond files to see if I could increase the size. That didn’t work.

It seemed nobody could help. Disappointing.

In the end, and it is a real anticlimax to be honest, I tried wrapping a piece of thin card around one of the 1.5mm leads and then trying it in the Staedtler again. It worked fine, and it even let the lead slide out when I pressed the release button.

Moral of the story? If you believe in yourself, and reach for the stars, you may only hit the moon, but at least you have a pencil.

Inkscape Tutorial – Uneven Letraset Effect

I was browsing Pinterest, the way you do, looking at old ads and the raw graphical style they often used:

You get the idea. (Actually, looking at it now, it’s pretty straight, oh well)

As often happens, I was suddenly inspired to pointlessly recreate the style in Inkscape. So here’s how.

  1. Start Inkscape and create a new document.
  2. Using the Text tool type your desired slogan:

  3. Change the font and weight as you wish. I used the default “sans-serif” and set it to bold.
  4. Select the text and stretch out the letter spacing a little:

  5. With the text object selected, Path > Object to Path. This will turn the text object into a group of paths, one for each letter in your text.

  6. With the group selected, Object > Ungroup, to break the group into paths.
  7. You now have a bunch of individual paths. Make sure they are all selected, and select the Tweak tool:

  8. In the toolbar, select the following settings:


    Width sets the size of the circle within which the tool will act. Force sets how much of an effect it has – we set it low because we want a subtle effect. The Mode setting allows us to choose what kind of effect we want – we want random movement.

  9. Click and drag the tool over your selected objects. You will see the letters move a little. Keep “painting” over the objects with multiple strokes until you are “happy”.

  10. For extra fuzzy-photostat-ness, use the Filters > Morphology > Cross-smooth filter with these or similar settings:

  11. Then stick it on an old paper textured background (there are lots of tutorials for that out there), and save it as a JPG, with a high compression setting to get that “bad scan” look:

  12. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? !

Earworm Mashups

There’s a couple of tunes that are stuck in my head and mixed up with other tunes.

1. The theme to the podcast ‘Pod Save America’ (a good podcast if you skip the tedious pissing about in the ads and the cult of personality around certain of them) which I can’t find a good clear link to, but it keeps morphing (remember morphing? Ah, the 90s) into this gem:

2. John Lennon’s ‘Mother’, the opening theme to the FX TV show ‘Better Things’:

always seems to morph(!!??!?!) into Ph*l C*llin’s ‘I Wish It Would Rain Down’ (warning, self indulgent story bit at the beginning of the video, which cannot be saved by Jeffrey Tambor):

3. Robyn’s 2010 (surprisingly slow) dance hit ‘Dancing On My Own’:

and the drumless remix of Wire’s global worldwide smash hit chart topper ‘Ahead’:

Although the original is better IMHO:

Also stuck in my head for some reason are both the movie and album versions of The Who’s ‘Fiddle About’, possibly the most sensitive and empathetic treatment of the sexual abuse of a disabled person ever committed to a rock opera.

A Fortnight In The New Job

I’ve been in the new job for nearly a fortnight, so I’m taking a tea break to update you all. It’s been pretty straightforward so far. There have been some technical glitches, as is always the case with getting set up on the systems of a large company.

I’ll take some questions. You at the back. Grey shirt, no, you.

Where are you working now?

I now work for Bentley Systems, a software company from Exton, Pennsylvania. Their main products are Microstation, one of the two market leaders in CAD software (my contract includes a non-competition clause that says I’m not allowed to go and work for AutoDesk after this), and ProjectWise, a project data and documentation management system.

I’m based in the Dubai office, on Sheikh Zayed Road, just near the Emirates Towers.

Is it like Bentley the car?

No, different company.

What is your job?

I am a Senior Consultant, working in the Progressive Assurance section, and our product is ComplyPro, a hosted software-as-service environment based on the huge and complex IBM DOORS requirements management system, but with a friendly dashboard and tools to allow projects to get on with managing requirements, without having to deal with the complex operation and maintenance of DOORS.

I will be helping clients get set up, train them, configure their systems, work with sales during the presales phase, and generally travel around and be a helpful little munchkin.

Will there be travel?

Yes. There are a few projects around the place that need attention. I am joining a very small team, and they need me to dive right in and help out. I will need to go to Qatar to help out on the Doha Metro, which will mean I have worked on the same project, in three parts of the for three employers. After that will be Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, which is exciting because I’ve never been that far east.  Also mentioned have been Riyadh, somewhere in Australia (also very exciting!), and then of course a couple of things around Dubai.

How is it different from your previous job(s)?

In my previous jobs, I was often responsible for managing requirements using tools similar to ComplyPro, in a project environment. That can be quite stressful, with the emphasis on getting stuff done and out of the door, and sometimes with a tension between trying to do things the “right” way, and getting them done at all.

In this job, I’m with the vendor of those tools. Hopefully I won’t come across that tension, because the client is using the tool already. I’m sure it won’t all be plain sailing, but I needed to get out of projects.

Have there been any problems with the new place so far?

One glitch which caused quite some ripples is that my user name and email address had been set as “Matt Petty”. I requested it be changed to the more legally accurate “Matthew Petty”, especially if that would be shown to clients and so on. It took a few days for the impact of this change to ricochet around the systems. It turns out that this name was chosen because I had entered “Matt” on a form as being a preferred name (in truth I don’t mind Matt or Matthew). I didn’t realize it would be my email address. I feel a little silly asking for this change, especially because of the delays it caused, but it was a reasonable request.

How will you commute?

At the moment I am taking public transport. From my apartment I walk 3 minutes to Jumeirah Beach Residences 2 tram station, and take the tram around the Marina to Dubai Marina tram station (not to be confused with Dubai Marina Mall tram station). There I change to Damac Properties Metro station, and take the Red Line up to Emirates Towers. From there it’s a 5 minute walk to the office.

At the moment traveling like this is fine, because the weather is getting “cooler” as we approach winter. Today it will hit 36°C, which believe me is mild. The walk to the tram, and the walk from the metro to the office, would be nothing if this were a temperate climate. When we get into the nasty months where the heat hits 45°C and the humidity makes you feel like you’re breathing hot treacle, even that short walk might be too much.

That is a big problem that the UAE has – never mind the “last mile” between public transport and your destination, even a 5 minute walk might be intolerable.

-oOo-

That’s about it for now. I try and keep you posted. I’ve got a bunch of little projects I’m working on that I mean to write up here.

Baby Milestones, Part 1

  • Sleeping quite well, but not through the night
  • Outgrowing oversized new pyjamas in a matter of days
  • I finished both sample tubes of Indian herbal toothpaste that came in the goodie bags from the hospital
  • Twins now sleeping in their own nursery
  • Video monitor image jumps from time to time, giving fun “paranormal jump scare” effect
  • Different formula means different types of teats
    • (there are different teats with different speeds, which I did not know)
  • She’s wearing his hand-me-downs already, and looking good in them
  • Been peed on and pooped on, but not yet at the same time
  • I get in the bath with them in the evening, and I’m not looking forward to the inevitable poo soup moment. At least I’ll be in the bath at the time.

Birthday Boy/Man

It’s taken him 4 years, but my favourite older brother is finally 13 today. Happy Birthday, Simon!

Change Is In The Air

Even a couple of days ago, I had to wear a fleece to walk the dog first thing in the morning. This morning I was in shorts and t-shirt, and when I got out of my car at work, the parking lot was stuffy and warm.

The weather is beginning to think about warming up again, from the lovely 18°C we’ve been having to the brutal 40°C+ with stifling humidity we can expect.

I was reminded of the scene in the 1956 classic ‘Forbidden Planet’ where Dr Morbius realizes the invisible monster that slaughtered his whole crew has returned to wreak more havoc. He sits slowly at his desk, and says to himself,

“It’s started again”

The Colours Of Babies

Cassie and I don’t want to perpetuate any kind of colour-based gender bias. It’s infuriating to see so much stuff on sale that is divided by colour for boys and girls. I think it may be particularly bad here, because people seem to have embraced it (or at least haven’t become more progressive about it yet). I’ve had people ask if Arthur was a girl because of an item of clothing he was wearing – despite the clothes being as neutral as we can find. To be honest, we both prefer neutrals and more “masculine” colours, and find the pink tutus and flower headbands to be gross IOHO.

It’s hard with twins who are different sizes and have different dietary requirements. We have to keep track of whose clothes are whose, and whose bottle contains which formula. Using blue and pink bottle lids does make it easier to remember which bottle is which. In fact, we divided the lids into two groups – blue and green; and pink, red, and yellow. We could swap it around, but in this case, surrendering to the socially-reinforced stereotypes does make it easier. “Everyone knows” pink is for a girl.

Where did this colour business come from anyway? Apparently clothing colour only became a gender signifier in the early 20th century. Before that babies just all wore dresses. But it seems that as time goes on, these beliefs have become more entrenched, to the extent that some people have quite strong negative reactions to you making your boy wear pink, for example. Girls in blue seem to not be such a problem, but it’s disturbing to think that people actually believe that the clothes babies wear should reflect their assigned gender, and that using the wrong colour could even affect them – like “turning them gay” for example. PAFI.

I remember when US department store Target caused a ruckus in the ignorant-as-all-hell community by simply taking down the signs on the aisles that said ‘Toys for Boys’ and ‘Toys for Girls’. One aisle was still full of toy trucks and footballs, and the other was still full of dolls and make-up toys, but it was now up to the customer to decide who got what. Target was bombarded with comments and emails, saying it was “political correctness gone mad” (a wonderful way to identify people whose opinions you shouldn’t rate too highly), claiming Target was enforcing some kind of liberal agenda, and vowing to boycott. Again, PAFI.

We do the best we can. In terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy, Arthur and Edith have it pretty good.

2016-02-16 12_19_04-Doc2.pdf - Adobe Acrobat

DIY Crib Mobile Arm From PVC Pipe

Cassie bought a lovely felt aeroplane mobile (UK pronunciation: mōbīl, US pronunciation: mōbēl, it’s a wonder we ever get anything done) from the nice people at Dundry Hill Feltworks to hang over the babies crib. It’s beautiful, but I didn’t want to hang it from the ceiling or attach it to the wall. For one thing, this is a rental, so making holes is undesirable. This is why I have a relationship with 3M Command Strips and hooks bordering on the obsessive. Also you can never tell here in the Abu Dhabi suburbs whether a particular wall or ceiling will be harder than diamond or crumble like meringue.

The other option is a supporting arm of some kind that clamps to the crib. These are available to buy, but not conveniently in the UAE. Delivery is a PITA.

So DIY it was. I know that a lot of people use PVC pipe to make the frameworks for various things. A quick Google image search demonstrates that. So I went to the local Ace Hardware (they have them here, thank goodness – and right next to IKEA!), bought some bits and rigged something up.

I did eyeball it all and make some rough assumptions, but in the end it worked out great. The mobile is at the correct height, and hanging right over the centre of the crib. I might shorten the top length of string so it hangs a little higher.

Materials and Costs

  • 2 metre length of 3/4″ white PVC pipe (can’t remember, but it can’t have been much more than dh20)
  • 1 3/4″ white PVC pipe 45 degree angle fitting (elbow?)  (dh7)
  • 1 3/4″ white PVC pipe end cap (dh6)
  • Cable ties – already had millions of them
  • Hook – the mobile came with a little screw-in cup hook to hang it from
  • Total about dh35

Instructions

  1. Cut the pipe in half with a hacksaw.
  2. Clean up the ends with some sandpaper or a pilfered emery board.
  3. Attach one half vertically to the corner of the crib, using as many cable ties as necessary. I made sure the bottom of the pipe was resting on the crib frame, so it won’t slide down.
  4. Trim the ends of the cable ties so they don’t impale anyone.
  5. Attach the angle fitting to the top of the pipe. This isn’t a plumbing job, so no glue or sealant is involved. Just pushing the fitting on seems to be tight and secure enough.
  6. Start a little hole in the end cap with an awl.
  7. Screw the hook into the hole.
  8. Attach the end cap to the second half of the pipe.
  9. Insert the second pipe into the angle fitting on the first pipe, making sure the hook is the right way up.
  10. Hang mobile on hook.

I’m very happy with the results. I think it will be plenty strong enough, as long as nobody tries to climb it, or suspend housebricks from it. The plain white pipe looks fine. The arm rotates out of the way when access is required. I might try and remove the black printed manufacturers writing on one side that I tried to turn towards the wall.

Now if I combine PVC pipe with Command Strips…

Audacity Crash Path To Permissions Hell