• Hold the front page! Candidate wins election.

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    Oh, I’m sorry. But really. Can we not just get over ourselves?

    What has actually happened?

    The USA has chosen its 45th President (The 20th Republican).

    There is some debate over the exact allegiance of some of the Presidents, but one reasonably popular set of numbers is 15 Democrats, 20 Republicans (including the Donald), 4 Whigs, 4 Democratic-Republicans (really), 1 Federalist and 1 George Washington.

    I am far from a fan of the winning candidate. I find many of his utterances utterly repulsive. In their intention, their content and frequently their grammar. I am not alone in those feelings.

    Yet 60 million (give or take) Americans voted for him in the election.

    Depending on whom you listen to, this is because those voters are stupid or sexist. Racist or angry. Scared or scary. Some will tell you that he only won because the opposition was so poor.

    As I write, disappointed citizens are demonstrating against the President-elect. Social media contains images of people likening Mr Trump to Adolf Hitler. The pollsters, the same ones that got the election completely wrong, are telling us that the redneck, misogynist, racist dumb-asses have won the day.

    A detached observer might note that hip, liberal, political elite are throwing around unfounded hyperbole and nonsense about all those who voted for hyperbole and nonsense.

    Many in the media are drawing parallels with Brexit. Not least the Donald himself. Once can see why. In both campaigns there was a degree of complacency. The British public wouldn’t vote Leave, surely. The Americans wouldn’t elect Donald Trump, obviously.

    In both cases, there is a rush to explain how the redneck/mysogynist/racist/sexist/scared/scary dumb-asses have thrown the world to the dogs with scant consideration for themselves or their children. My God, think of the children!

    Look, I am prepared to accept that I might be wrong. The UK may be about to plunge into depression and need to beg the Greeks for a bailout. Donald may be the front-man for the four horses of the apocalypse.

    Is it too much of a stretch to believe that people voted for what they believed was best, quite probably for a whole range of reasons?

    The British people have voted to leave the European Union.

    The American people have voted for a Republican candidate in the election.

    Those that disagree with those choices have every right to continue to make their case, voice their opinions and even demonstrate. These are rights in a democracy. However, I’m not sure that patronising and insulting those who disagree is a very effective way of winning them over.

    This xenophobic cockwomble, for example, would still vote for Brexit.

     

     

  • Hello, Google

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    Yesterday, I posted about my love affair with Apple coming to an end.

    This was a little scary – as over the last few years, my brief encounters with Windows machines have not been happy ones. Never-ending updates, relentless malware attacks…

    What was the alternative?

    Since 2014, I have been using Google Apps – now suggestively renamed GSuite. It allows me to use Google’s e-mail, calendar and other apps under my own domains.

    I had vaguely heard about something called a Chromebook.

    These are typically pretty low specification machines that run a web browser, specifically, the Chrome browser. The processor is old, the memory is tiny. There’s nothing to them. They are cheap though. And fast.

    The principle is that you keep everything in the cloud. All of your files. All of your e-mail. All of your programs.

    Useless. How could that possibly work? I do far more than online stuff.

    Actually…No. I don’t. Or, rather I do very little that cannot be done with a chromebook.

    What do I actually do with my device?

    All the top procrastination tools are online – Social media, online shopping, email.

    Spreadsheets? GSuite has Google Sheets that can view and edit Excel. Likewise for Word and Powerpoint. There is even a work offline mode should the broadband go down or if I’m on the road. Microsoft programs are all available as web apps.

    This post is being written on WordPress – a web app.

    So – I bought a Chromebook. I’m writing on it now. Naturally, being me, I bought one that is premium. This is an HP, with a metal body, a gorgeous high definition screen, B&O speakers. Frankly, it looks a lot like a Macbook. Currently there are 8 tabs open. The machine is like lightning.

    The laptop boots up in seconds. There are no programs taking an age to start up. Virus protection is done server-side by Google. As there are no programs, there are no updates. I like it.

    Oh…and you can have two for the price of a Macbook. Three or four for the price of a high spec Macbook Pro.

    I’m told that I will struggle to mix my next single or edit my 4k video release on this machine. Not things that I do.

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    Are there limitations?

    Maybe.

    First. Everything is stored on GDrive, in the cloud. Navigating around that does not come naturally to me – but I I suspect a little research and I will discover a quicker way.

    Second. I write (not enough) on Scrivener. Scrivener is great on a Mac, OK on a Windows machine, doesn’t work on a Chromebook. I will need to write elsewhere. Thus far, Google Docs looks favourite. It has only a tiny fraction of the functionality of Scrivener – but it has the bit that I need. 99% of Scrivener is wasted on me.

    My Iphone has been retired too. I have a phone made by Google, called a Pixel. I tried an android phone before – and regretted it. This one however is great, and just works. A bit like Apple used to.

    My hardware is built for Google apps. I’m using Google apps. Unsurprisingly, it’s seamless.

    I suspect the real cost of this is that Google has everything. I have no doubt that it hoovers up all this data. Privacy? What’s that?

    But, truth be told, I suspect that the privacy ship sailed a long time ago.

     

  • Bye, Apple

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    I wrote here about my penchant for gadgets and my frustration with the big IT names.

    In an effort to simplify my tech life, I had worked myself down from four devices (Imac, MacBook, Ipad and Iphone) to two. (MacBook and Iphone.) I even have a ‘dumb’ phone – for when being unconnected is a blessing.

    What was becoming apparent was that my beloved Apple was losing its way. I do appreciate that it remains an absolutely massive company with huge sales and profits. However – I am going to stick to my guns here – over the next few years it is on a relentlessly downward trajectory.

    Apple made amazing beautiful innovative stuff that just worked. Was pricing premium? Yes – but the kit was gorgeous and desirable. Ipod, Iphone, Macbook Air – wonderful, cutting edge tech.

    Then Apple started doing strange things.

    The watch. “You can get a text on your wrist!” Hmm…the whole world is talking about how to make tech more useful but less obtrusive, about the power of not allowing tech to dictate your life. So Apple make a device that can vibrate on your wrist every time a friend posts a picture of their breakfast on social media.

    Iphone. “Like the last Iphone. But better.” Oh. Great.

    “Look! This new Iphone won’t work with your headphones. You need to buy wireless ones.” Gee. Thanks.

    Ipad. “Look! Like the last one. And look, a little one! Wait! A huge one. With a stylus.” Didn’t someone say something about a stylus being the sign that the wheels were coming off?

    I was pinning my hopes on the new Macbook and latterly the Macbook Pro. The Macbook is really light, has a great screen and is an attractive piece of equipment. It only has one port. To make it really thin, the key board is different. Look. Its OK. It’s a nice piece of kit. But it’s not special.

    Finally, after years of waiting, the new MacBook Pro was released. The good news is that your old headphones will work with this.

    Yep. Apple’s flagship mobile phone announces the death of the wired headphones. Launched a month later, Apple’s flagship laptop announce the renaissance of the wired headphones.

    What else is on the new MacBook Pro? Well – a spectacular price tag for a start.

    There is a funky thing called an OLED bar. Which is essentially a strip of touch screen at the top of the keyboard.

    The rest of the computing world has launched machines where the whole screen is touch – and laptops can now be hybrids – part computer, part tablet – but Apple has a strip. Right.

    Dell, HP, Lenovo are all making laptops that are as pretty, as well-built and HIGHER spec than the Apples – for much less money. I mean a lot less money.

    IT experts have been saying this for years – but to a layman like me, Apple stuff just worked and visibly better quality than the competition. That’s simply not true anymore.

    So – I have jumped ship. I am using no Apple hardware at all.

    What am I using? The photos is a pretty strong hint – but that’s a whole new post on its own.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Ink, Ink and more Ink

     

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    I recently rediscovered the pleasure of real pens, using real ink on real paper.

    This was as a result of considering techniques for writing, and I was led into a new world of stationery by writing-buddy Amanda Fleet, who blogs about writing here and about stationery here.

    It was Amanda who introduced me to Bureau Direct.

    Now – be warned. The link above takes you to Aladdin’s stationery cupboard.

    I recently had a look for ‘lined envelopes’. One hundred and forty choices. (All of which I could find a use for.)

    Need a notebook? Four hundred and ninety eight options. (Not counting colour choices.)

    Amanda and I correspond by letter. Yes. Really. Hand-written, on paper, in an envelope, with a stamp. (Any younger readers – ask your parents.) She has lovely hand-writing, and always has several fountain pens inked up and ready to go. Her letters are always an explosion of bright ink.

    I have horrible handwriting, but am quickly catching up on the pen front. So it was time for me to start experimenting with some more coloured inks.

     

    I had ordered the J Herbin Ten Inks Set. (£26.95 after my special discount.) OK, anyone can get the discount – sign up for their newsletter; but I still prefer to believe it’s just for me.

    Inside the beautifully presented ‘coffret’ (just sounds better than box) are ten bottles of ink, each of 10ml. In order to test them out, I used a J Herbin glass pen that I had bought from Bureau Direct a few weeks ago. The paper is an Age Bag notebook, by Clairefontaine, available at, you guessed it, Bureau Direct.

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    Check out Amanda’s excellent review of the paper here. I can only imagine that when naming the range, the Clairfontaine marketing team had risked the second bottle at lunch.

    The ink is lovely to write with, even as this left-hander wrestled with the glass pen. In truth, the glass pen is not hard to master – as soon as you discover that rotating it will alter the breadth of ‘the nib’.

    Colours – entirely subjective. I like them all, but I am particularly taken by the Gris Nuage. I suspect that tomorrow, I may have a different favourite.

    The team at Bureau Direct are knowledgeable and charming. Delivery is fast and efficient.

    Just be careful. I’m now mainlining stationery…

     

  • Sunshine

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    The lights had snapped on without warning in the dormitory. I had been awake for an hour or two, serenaded by an orchestra of snoring, grunting and farting.

    The Duck had not been awake.

    “Pu**** de m****.” He greeted the artificial dawn. “You do this in France…you die.”

    We walked the first half an hour guided by Stu’s head torch. We may have passed through the Garden of Eden – I don’t know. It was dark.

    An hour down the road, after a fortifying breakfast of omelette sandwiches and milky coffee, our mood improved. Sunshine appeared. We walked together, even made conversation.

    The Duck provided a running commentary on the flora and fauna that we passed on the farm-path. Seriously. Who knew? The Duck is a short, foul-mouthed, Basque version of David Attenborough. Together with Stuart ‘Bill Oddie’ Smith, it was a twitcher’s segment on Autumn Watch.

    After the steep gradients of day one in the Pyrenees, this was much more the ticket. There may even have been a jaunty whistle or two.

    His artistic side awakened by the sunshine and wildlife, the Duck produced a massive digital SLR and started taking stunning photos.

    “Is there no end to your talents?” I asked.

    “F*** off.”

  • Keep Calm!

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    Every time I think things are calming down…

    Sterling is down, the FTSE is up, consumer confidence is up, no down, no it’s…

    “HARD BREXIT!”

    “Boo! Soft Brexit!”

    “Wait! No Brexit.”

    I do wish that everybody would take a moment and calm down.

    The UK voted to leave the European Union. To do so, it must trigger a process. It must say, “We are leaving.” There then follows a period of negotiation, on how the UK and the EU will interact.

    That’s it folks. No Armageddon. No plagues of locusts; essentially, a lot of chat.

    As the Prime Minister has indicated that she is going to trigger the process, the negotiations have, in effect, started. The ones that we get to hear about are the pointless ones – where politicians posture and spout nonsense, all the time checking polling indicators after each comment.

    Again, the nonsense is not from one side or the other – everyone is talking rubbish.

    Negotiations can be daunting things. Actually though – they are straightforward.

    Right now – there are no tariffs between the UK and the EU. Post exit, they could be left as they are, revert to World Trade Organisation defaults or be somewhere in between.

    On the UK side – pretty much everyone is happy for there to be no tariffs. Where there is difference is on what other things might need to be accepted. Free movement of labour being the current hot topic.

    The EU side is a little more interesting. There is an open secret that many EU leaders fear that should the UK prosper outside of the EU, then the Union itself is under threat. They want the UK to struggle. “There must be a price.” This is a political imperative.

    For the majority of member states, free trade with the UK is profitable and contributes to economic prosperity. There is a clear economic argument for free trade to continue, unfettered.

    Were I a cynic, I might believe that some EU leaders will only offer access to the single market at a price that they know the UK won’t pay. I might believe that they are prepared to put their own political agendas before the interests of their citizens welfare and prosperity.

    The negotiations around Brexit may become about the reshaping of the EU, they may not. The UK may have unfettered access to the internal market, it may not.

    The British civil service rates itself as the best of the best. With some justification, it considers itself as the body that gets “the real work done.” The diplomats and technocrats are doubtless already working away. We should keep calm and let them get on with it.

    Let me leave you with a quote from Sir Humphrey Appleby, in “Yes Minister” 1980.

    “Diplomacy is about surviving until the next century – politics is about surviving until Friday afternoon.”

  • Back in the real world

    Weary, both from the walk, and a long wait at Bilbao, I was ready for a lie-down.

    As I emerged into the arrivals hall at Heathrow, I was met by the four ladies in the picture and their banner. The grown ups are Kate and my wife Margaret. The wee ones are Kate’s daughter Jessica and her friend Ivy.

    For Barbarians – Kate was known to us all as Bob (merci, Rowan Atkinson), and is part of the Dexter-Smith clan. The banner, it must be said, is a work of art, entirely completed by Jessica and Ivy and now a prized-possession.

    What a fantastic surprise! A huge thank you.

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    The camino.

    What can I say?

    It will come as no great shock to you that I can, in fact, say quite a lot.

    Add in the reflections on the Tight Head and the Talonneur, and it might run to a book…

    That’s the plan. I am going to put together a short e-book, which will go on sale through Amazon. All royalties from the sales will go to Our Lady’s Hospice.

    The book will not be expensive, nor will it be War and Peace. It will however be funny. Believe me when I say, that in a month of Sundays, I could not have dreamed up some of the stuff that happened. I am hoping to bully my extremely talented and busy writing-buddy Amanda Fleet into editing it for us, which will increase the quality ten-fold.

    This is where you come in.

    Can you persuade/cajole/bully/beat your friends into buying a copy?

    We really appreciate that many of you have already donated and we are grateful for your generosity.

    Naturally – I will publish some posts here. The Duck took some stunning pictures for a start, but as he says,

    “Buy the book. It’s the real stuff.”

  • Bilbao

    img_0573The Loose-head has made it to Bilbao. Faced with a 5 hour wait for the tight-head, I headed into downtown Bilbao for a mosey around. With luck, we will have a post Camino lunch here next Saturday.

    What a charming place it is.

    I have been taught by the best in dealing with Basque hostelries, so I found somewhere busy that looked great, and went to the empty place opposite ‘for the local stuff’.

    Cheeky.

    Team updates indicate that some drink was taken last night, but that swift recoveries are expected all round.

  • Duck Season

    A rare sighting last night of the Black Duck.

    In pensive mood.

    The team is assembling, with Franck, Gigi and the Duck in Bayonne/Biarritz. Today they will be joined by JC before moving up to Saint Jean Pied de Port.

    Here, its just gone 4am. I’ll be leaving here at 6, arriving in Bilbao in time for lunch. Then Stu will land and we will make our way to St Jean in time for supper.

    The weather forecast looks set fair, which is probably an indication of impending storms.

    Right – time for a shower.

    Look out Camino. Here we come.

    the-duck

  • T minus 2!

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    Good Grief.

    It’s happening. T minus 2. Too late to back out now.

    Although – not too late to make a donation.

    24 Hours from now, I will be waiting for Stuart Smith (it was ever thus) at Bilbao Airport.

    48 hours from now, I will be toiling through the Pyrenees, closing in on Roncesvalles, gasping for a beer and a lie down.

    “ANDERSON!!! I bet you are laughing your head off!”

    The bag is packed. (5.2kg if you are interested.) Hanging from the bag is the obligatory scallop shell, the symbol of the Camino. Mine was picked up on Malahide beach when I came for a practice walk earlier this year.

    Anyone called Stuart on this walk wants to thank the French for being French…

    “Ah, a walk? For Terry? Of course. We’ll be there.”

    Thanks also to everyone in Ireland and the UK that has helped get us ready; and most especially to our long-suffering wives. Every year we find new and exciting ways of exasperating them and yet they soldier on, to date, with minimal violence. Ger, Mags – you are saints.

    We’ll see you in a week or so.

    After all, what could possibly go wrong?