Saturday 21 December 2019

Christmas Party

Now we're into the Christmas holidays! Lots of excited children here.

Last weekend it was our church Christmas party, with food, games and dancing. All the girls joined in the with ceilidh dancing: this is a very tiring exercise... Esther is a really good dancer now (musical bumps) but really excelled herself with pass the parcel. The older girls really enjoyed the games and being around friends (and have been doing the dances at school so they even know some of the steps). We had a great time!

For brief moments they play really nicely together too

Miriam has custody of Pepper, the class parrot for the weekend, so he came to the party as well.

Lydia was just having a really good time!

The children also got a visit from a certain chubby Christmas celebrity dressed in red.

Esther's present was a drawing board.
This is a dolphin!

Lydia's present was a pair of snow globes to decorate - here is one.

Naomi got a grown up cup with a pattern to colour in...

I'm really impressed with the design she's put on it!

Miriam also got snow globes, but with these you get clay to mould into shapes. These bake in the oven and then you fill them with water and glitter...

Here are some of the parts ready for immersion (actually, we tried once and they came unstuck, so they have some glitter on already here)

The finished article

The finished article (2) - isn't the snow man brilliant? It's Olaf.

Saturday 14 December 2019


Forgive me for a little geekery!

This year I have finally said farewell to Bertha, a workhorse of a computer which was, for a long time, running away in our loft.

This machine was an original Pentium, so would date back to about 1993-1994. It was given to Jay for free in about 2002, and once we had something better for her, I took it on as a bit of a project. It was named Bertha after one of the earliest TV series I remember, and I upgraded the machine to a 150MHz CPU and 48MB of memory (up from 75MHz and 16MB), for a grand total on eBay of about £5 including postage. The only really expensive part was a half-terabyte hard drive so store all my stuff (the original drive in the machine having a capacity of about 1/2000 that).

It ran Debian Linux OS, and was all administered over the network. It did a lot of work in that time:
  • file server (including backups of all my data from my other machines and websites)
  • bittorrent client
  • music and video streaming
  • subversion server
  • secure VPN
  • test web server
  • email server
...and probably some other things too that I've forgotten! Yes, it really did run all those things - the only time its age really showed was when browsing the folders on the music server, and it took a few seconds to generate the pages. Here is the POST screen to prove its aged technology!

It was running constantly from about 2006 to 2013, when we moved to Stirling. After that its use became a bit intermittent as it was hard to find a spot to run it in our rented house here. Early this year I thought it would be worth firing up again for a return to service. Alas, its age had finally caught up with it: the battery in the BIOS (yes, actually built in to the chip package) was totally dead and irreplaceable. It gave me this screen:
(it says 1995, that's because I upgraded the firmware on the motherboard to the most recent version)

On closer inspection, the troublemaker was the chip with "ODIN" on it below...
I took the chip package apart to get at the battery but despite some hunting it proved too difficult to find a replacement. So, after all this time, Bertha is no more!

I have managed to dig out another machine - as recent as 2003 - to take Bertha's place. It's got a 2GHz CPU (so crudely speaking over 10x faster, in practice a good bit more) and 4GB RAM (so 100x more). Though with much of my stuff moving onto the cloud it probably won't be anywhere near as useful as Bertha was. Sad times!

More Christmas goings-on

More excitement in the household!

Last weekend we went to a Christingle service, and the girls all decorated their oranges....

Yesterday we also had a visit from a brightly dressed chap giving out sweets and dancing to some very loud music...


Particularly as the girls are getting a bit bigger, we are able to play some proper family games with them now. They often asked to stay up late at the weekend so we can do one thing or another - last weekend it was Bananagrams; they also have a child-friendly version of Scrabble and Monopoly, and Uno. Generally a nice way to spend some time together!

Wallace Monument

Despite being here more than 6 years, I've not been up the Wallace Monument (it's quite expensive usually!), but a couple of weeks ago they were doing a free admissions day, and Miriam was due a treat, so the two of us went up to take a look. Miriam was very good on the narrow and very busy stairs. We went straight to the top for a look, and after a couple of minutes Miriam was done with "the view" so we went to the lower levels where there are now a few child-friendly activities. A bit different to usual and she had a great time - so much so that Naomi asked to go to Stirling Castle for her treat the following week - and Miriam now wants to go to the Castle too!

Our house will be just about visible in the distance to the left here.

One of the activities was to design a shield on a table, that then got projected onto this life-size one.

Miriam wanted a photo next to the floodlights!

We had a quick stop in the giftshop on the way out and Miriam got a very brightly coloured lollipop!

Monday 9 December 2019

Jay away

Jay was away with her friend Helen a couple of weeks ago, so it was just the four girls and Daddy for the weekend. Mostly we stayed at the house - we went on a bit of a trip to take Naomi for her cello lesson and we went to church - but otherwise we just had a lot of fun indoors. Lego building, watching films, that kind of thing. Miriam and Lydia wrote most of their thankyou letters for their birthday presents. I also introduced Naomi to a computer game that Jay and I have been playing - Two Point Hospital - which is about building a hospital where the illnesses are all crazy things (like light-headedness - where the patient has a lightbulb for a head that needs an unscrewing machine to cure it). We also had some spring onion soup for lunch, almost completely made of spring onions from our garden!

Thank you letter production line

There might only be five of us but dinner still needed a lot of sausages...

Home grown spring onions

Sunday 8 December 2019


We've driven past The Kelpies plenty of times but we have never got around to doing a proper visit. So we went to see them a few weeks back - guided tour and everything. They manage to get a half-hour tour out of what are really just two big metal horses! It is actually a good day out though and the park they are in is a nice setting too. We even got free sandwiches at the end - our tour guide had earmarked us as a "large family" so when the shop was closing and they would have thrown out their stick they gave it to us instead. Hurray!

oh - another good bit - they have a load of Lego in the visitor centre.

The inside of each Kelpie is rather impressive.

A shoe left by one of the two horses uses as models for the sculptures (Duke and Baron)