Boann’s second birthday

It was my daughter Boann’s second birthday yesterday. We had a lot of friends and family visit. Thanks especially to my sister Tarynn and brother Michael and their families for making it all the way up from Dublin!

Boann and Jareth both had a great day, which is a big change from Jareth’s other birthday experiences! Jareth’s own second birthday was spent hiding from everyone. Boann is the exact opposite – loves to be the centre of attention.

The rain fell sporadically throughout the day, but that didn’t stop the kids from running around like mad things. After everything was done, Bronwyn spent a while sweeping grass trimmings out of the house.

That night was the first that Boann was to spend in her own room. Up until now, she slept in a bed in our room, and sometimes in our own bed.

We moved that bed into a new room and decided to try put her into the same routine that Jareth is in – every day, we put Jareth up to his room at 8pm. It doesn’t matter to us whether he goes to sleep or potters around in his bedroom for hours, as long as he stays up there!

Anyway, last night at eight, I brought them both up. I spent a few minutes with Jareth getting him ready for bed. When I went into Boann’s room, I found her on her bed already half-asleep!

It didn’t last, though. Throughout the night, Bronwyn and myself spent hours reminding her that she now sleeps in her own room. Between us, we got 6 hours sleep (11-5), with us taking turns to stay in there with her.

Hopefully things will turn out better today!

2008 plans

yes. another resolutions page. I’ll call them plans, though, as “resolutions” sounds a bit certain. in my experience, nothing is certain, even promises.

so, my plans:

  • lose a half-stone. when I married Herself, I was 12 stone. this was probably partly caused by the anti-depressants I was on at the time. since then, it took me a few months to manage to cut down to 11 stone. my ideal weight is more like 10 stone, but I’m finding it incredibly difficult to do that – I just seem to be stuck at 11. so, this year’s plan is to get down to 10.5.
  • build the new robot – I want a very small form-factor machine (gumstix or linutop). it should have caterpillar tracks, a robotic arm, and a cutting tool. my current bot is about 9’x14′. the new one should be at most 6’x6′. the software is not yet complete, but at least this will get the hardware out of the way
  • get my finances back under control. for the last few years, I’ve had negative values in almost all of my bank accounts. about time I managed to fix that. I have one account under control by basically denying myself access to it and setting up a standing order into it. the same plan should work with everything else. the plan is to on average raise the total value of each account by a set value every month. this value (none of your damned business 😉 ) should be measured on a specific day each month.
  • build a collapsible mini-ramp. I can’t make it to the local skate-park very often, so the plan is to build something that I can wheel out to the garden when I feel like some exercise. it should be big enough that I can use my bike on it as well as my skateboard.

notice that none of these are vague. it’s been shown that when a resolution is vague, it usually does not happen. an exact plan, though, gives solid goals that can be reached.

moving pains

I’ve moved house. The new house is fantastic. The old house… let’s talk about it. The reason I want to talk about it is that the old landlord is not being nice, and I am fairly angry about that.

I moved into the house in March 2006, and have been having problems with the house since then. The landlord only fixed two problems in that period.

First off, the house was simply not ventilated at all. There was a tumble-dryer in a “utility room” which had no ventilation at all. When you used the tumble dryer, you needed to leave the back door open. This was mentioned by the landlord without even so much as a sheepish look.

The cooker unit in the kitchen had the same problem. All steam, etc, went straight up and ruined the walls and ceiling.

There was a smoke detector almost directly above the cooker. I had to remove it, as it went off every time anyone cooked anything, and Bronwyn was heavily pregnant for a period last year, so couldn’t be expected to climb up on a chair to deactivate it every time she wanted to eat.

There were carpets in every room except the toilet, kitchen and utility room. This, combined with humidity caused by the lack of ventilation, meant that I was sneezing almost constantly while living there. I was on a permanent prescription for strong anti-histamines while living there.

The cupboard doors were all coming apart. The hinges were rusting (again, because of humidity). One door finally fell off completely. I mentioned that the cupboards needed work in an email to the landlord back on March 16th last year. They still had not been fixed by March this year.

Other things I mentioned in that email were that the storage heaters did not work, and that I had to replace the washing machine, as the existing one was broken. The storage heaters were never fixed, and I never received payment for the washing machine.

As mentioned last year, I accidentally burned down the two sheds that were there. I had not mentioned, though, that those sheds must have been at least thirty years old, and that I had to do a lot of work just to get the doors to open on them.

The fire also caused damage to some windows and an oil tank (which had been thankfully empty).

The oil tank was replaced, and I dutifully raised my rent by 50 per month in order to pay for it. The windows were never fixed, even though the landlord had said she would be sending someone around to look at it.

There were originally a few wooden chairs in the house as well. They were all a bit loose at the joints when we moved in. I thought nothing of it at the time. Over the course of the year, though, all but two of them fell apart completely. The looseness had been caused by humidity causing the glue to loosen. Thankfully, a pregnant Bronwyn was not sitting on one of those chairs when it finally came apart.

The lino in the kitchen was permanently stained and always looked filthy.

Mice. Actually, they could have been small rats.

We had to ask the landlord to change the lock on the front door, as Jareth was able to open it easily and walk out into traffic. The job was not very well done.

The mantelpiece above the fireplace was loose. Luckily Jareth never noticed, or he might have accidentally pulled it down on his head.

All of this, I was fine with, mostly. I could live with it all – I had lived in many worse places than that, and was used to the idea that landlords rent out really crap places.

I started getting angry, though, when we started the move into the new house (which is bloody fantastic, by the way).

Our lease was up on the 11th of March. I called the landlord on the 11th of February to mention that we would be moving out (giving a month’s notice). She said she had meant to call me anyway, as she was planning on selling the house. It would have been nice if she actually /had/ called me, as if I had not already been looking for a new place to live, then we would have been in trouble.

To be nice, I tried to organise that we would move out a week or more before the 11th, to allow me some time to clean up the place.

The landlord called on about the 1st of March, asking if I had moved out yet. I was a bit surprised, and said no. She then asked when would I be gone. That was extremely rude. Our lease was due to finish on the 11th. She had no business asking about anything before that time. Up until the 11th of March, the tenancy of the house legally was mine, so she had no business trying to hurry me along.

Anyway – I hurried things along. We finally managed to get everything out of the house on the 5th, and I texted her to say “we’re out”, as she asked me to do…

I haven’t mentioned the deposit. I gave a deposit of 500 euro. the rent was 700 euro. we still owed 150 on the oil tank (she also filled it with oil, which I had not asked for!). By my reckoning, she owed us 233 euro back from the deposit (500-150-117 (5 days rent)).

By her reckoning, I owed her money! She was demanding payment for the sheds.

There is absolutely no bloody way I would pay for those things. #1, I had shelled out money just in order to get the doors open! #2, they were bone dry, 30 years old, and falling apart (there were actually some slats missing from the walls, which I pointed out when we moved in!). #3, the fire was an accident, so should be covered by fire insurance, which I’m sure she was legally required to have. She was probably paid for the oil tank and sheds already by her insurance company, and now she wanted me to pay for them again!

Screw that. She had screwed me already by making me live in a dumphole for a year, without fixing the problems which had been highlighted way back at the beginning of the tenancy.

And to add to all that, she complained that I had left the house in an “unliveable” state. I was at the house every bloody day last week, making sure that all was well. The only “rubbish” (as she put it) that I left, was that I left some things in the sink (hadn’t gotten around to washing and drying them), and we had left some bedclothes on some beds. I made sure there was nothing lying around on the ground, and that I had taken everything I could.

Speaking of beds – we also provided a new double bed for the house, and left behind the new washing machine we had provided as well. None of those were paid for by the landlord.

You know what – fuck her. She made her money from me. She’s not getting anything else.

ah… spring; when young men’s thoughts turn to…

robots!

So anyway, I moved house (long story short), meaning that I get to think more clearly, as the house is less cluttered, and the route to work involves crossing less roads.

This morning, I was thinking about my current project – I’m writing a recurrent connectionist network so my new robot can learn to recognise things like grass and rubbish (to cut the former, and remove the latter).

The walk was getting tiring, so I was thinking about segways as well, and wondering how easy it might be to make one.

This eventually evolved into an idea for a new transport system – you get a load of little robots (my gardening ones, for example), and get them to form a platform. Then a load more of them form another platform on top. Then, you stand on the top.

The “carpet” would move in the direction you lean. Of course, the speed wouldn’t be too impressive, but it would be better than walking.

When the lower layer encounters a rock on the road or something, it moves around it. The upper layer robots interlock with each other to allow the lower level bots to do this without having too much pressure from above.

When you reach where you are going, the robots then disperse and continue their gardening around the new area.

You could even form a baggage train using this idea – a few carpet networks would follow each other in marching-ant form.

This would be easier to do than to create a robot which does your gardening for you…

moving and speaking and stuff, oh my!

Lots of news.

Jareth, my three-year-old mute genius, who can draw houses and write whole alphabets in lower case or upper case, and can also write “daddy”, “mammy”, “jareth” and “boann” from memory (as well as the word “color”, which we will forgive him for (he’s too young to know how wrong Merkin spelling is)) – has said his first word.

Yesterday, he said the word “Two”. And it wasn’t a fluke occurance. When asked what each of a group of numbers was, he would “um-hmm” for every one of them except 2, which he would consistently speak.

Yesterday as well, we got word that the sale for our new house has gone through, so we will be out of our present one within a few weeks. It’s a massive house compared to all the previous places I’ve lived – two storeys with a converted attic, making four bedrooms, and something like five toilets (one for each work day). It’s in a perfect location as well – well off any busy road, so it will be safe to let Jareth out playing in the summer.

location
we’re in number 16 or 17 or something
layout
two and a half floors of goodness

I bought Bronwyn a laptop, as she kept complaining when I brought mine to work, as she likes to sit in her armchair and read her Grahom Coxon and knitting forums. The machine I got her is twice as fast, and has more than twice the RAM and HD space as mine, and all she uses it for is her poxy forums! I want it! I could use the power!

Her machine has Vista on it as well. I’ll leave it on it to teach her a lesson… when the viruses start infecting her machine, I want her to appreciate it when I install Linux on it 🙂

After setting up her machine, I must admit, Vista is pretty polished-looking. Although – is that all?? After five years of development, you’d expect a bit more than just some glossy window decorations. After Bronwyn had gloated about how Vista looked, compared with my machine, I installed a Beryl theme which emulated the same decorations, but in a free and secure operating system.

Vista? Hah! We shall see… *steeples fingers*