Friday, 28 November 2008

It's only NOVEMBER!

The extent, and the increasing prematurity, of the Christmas hype really brings out my Scrooge-like tendencies. As if it wasn't enough to start selling Christmas decorations in October and putting the things up in town centres in November, Look North (our local TV news programme) had a live outside broadcast from Keswick this evening of a choir singing Christmas carols! I wanted to shout at the screen "It's 28th November!"

As a sufferer of SAD (Seasonally Affective Disorder) who always feels like going into hibernation from November until early March, I find the whole season quite claustrophobic. We know that Christmas is only four weeks away, so why do we have to be reminded constantly by almost all of the media? All the hype only makes it more impossible for Christmastime itself to live up to expectations. It's not without reason that there is an increase (or, at least, a perceived increase) in suicides around the turn of the year.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

New Camera

I've been thinking for a while that it's time to upgrade my three year old Canon EOS 350D camera. I still like Canon and have no reason to change make, particularly as my three lenses are all Canon fit. Like most people, I'm not rolling in money and, while the 50D was tempting, it's also very expensive. Did I really need 15 million pixels? There were other plus points like the higher resolution display and improved weatherproofing, but the resolution means its photos take up considerably more storage space (particularly if you go for the quality option and use RAW format) and that's a problem. So I plumped for the 40D instead - 10.1 megapixels and, according to most reviewers, with marginally better image quality than the 50D. This saved me more than £300, coming in at about £520 after the £60 cashback.

I bought it in Newcastle on Saturday - no price advantage from buying online this time - and was immediately impressed. The whole thing feels solid, the viewfinder is much brighter and clearer than on my 350D and the large display is also an improvement - although it soon becomes clear that it's not as "high res" as the ones on the latest models. As the weather and light weren't ideal for outdoor photography over the weekend, I've been exploring the "Live View" feature by taking mug shots. You can see one here.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Day Trip

John and I went to York yesterday for a day trip (an hour from Newcastle on the train) and confirmed my impression that it's a great place to visit in the colder months, because of the number of good museums.

The morning was spent wandering the old streets, and then we had a pizza at the rather good La Piazza restaurant in Goodramgate, in what looked like an authentic Tudor building. Looking round the town again, I was surprised to see that a number of buildings there seem to have survived from the sixteenth century: as far as I'm aware, Newcastle only has one or two (not counting churches or the Castle itself) and Gateshead has none.

In the afternoon, we went to the York Castle Museum, somewhere I hadn't been for maybe 20 years, and it was excellent - lots to see. I've only posted one photo on my Flickr pages so far, but I'll try to get my finger out and put one or two more on there.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Sarah Palin

Q: How many ears has Mr Spock?
A: Three. A left ear, a right ear and a Final Front Ear...

Q: How many ears has Davy Crockett?
A: Three. A left ear, a right ear and a Wild Front Ear...

These cheesy cracks (I won't dignify them with the title jokes) were inspired by a song that I can't get out of my head. It goes "Sa-rah - Sarah Palin. Queen of the Wild Frontier" to the tune of "Davy Crockett".

We're told we haven't seen the last of Palin, and that she'll be back. In days when the world is less and less stable, and we're all faced with annihilation in a variety of ways, this is not a comforting thought.

Surely the US electorate must be starting to realise that being religious, photogenic and a supporter of "the right to bear arms" are unbelievably feeble qualifications for people looking to run their country.

At Last!

The fact that fireworks are going off this evening seems fitting - as if to celebrate that the US electorate has finally had the good sense to vote in a President with some intelligence and who - unlike "Dubya" - isn't promoting a foreign policy based on the world view of a 10-year old child.

Following the very dubious election result in 2000 and his record of wilful ignorance and incompetence over the subsequent four years, it was astonishing to me (and, I think, many in the UK) that Dubya was clearly voted into power for a second term. Fighting terrorists who were happy to take their own lives using bombs and missiles? Yes, that was always going to work. And by invading a country with which they had no clear connection? Good thinking. The most depressing part of the saga was the enthusiasm with which Tony Blair followed the USA into the disaster of the Iraq War - making him, in his foreign policy, the biggest let-down in UK politics of my lifetime. The number of innocent lives lost in this misconceived exploit - and the complicity of the British government - was appalling.

In the 2008 election I'd like to think that US voters finally cottoned on to the fact that Bush and his party were doing their country no good, either at home or abroad. However, it could be just that they weren't confident enough about the health of McCain, a man in his 70s who had already had cancer. If he'd won the election but couldn't continue, the world would have had President Sarah Palin. Now that was a really scary idea...