Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Free(View) At Last!

Well, after months of dithering around, we finally went out and bought a Topfield TF5800PVR so we could get Freeview and get rid of our VCR and the pile of VHS tapes cluttering up the living room. I was waiting to to see what Humax would come up with in their new pvr-9200T and to see if Topfield were going to release a network compatible model but they haven't and the Humax doesn't match up so a TF5800PVR it had to be.

Topfield TF5800PVR
The "Toppy" is a brilliant bit of television kit. It comes with two FreeView tuners, which means that you can watch one channel, while recording another. In fact you can watch one and record two others at the same time with it. It's also got a 160Gb hard drive, which translates to about 80 hours of recordings and that's equivalent to about 20 240 minute VHS tapes and that's a lot of tape. There's a 250Gb model available but I really couldn't see us filling it but I suppose if you were a TV series addict, you might. On top of all that, you can enhance the functionality of the box by installing Topfield Application Programs (TAPs).

Now if only FreeView was actually any good :-(

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Koh-i-Noor, North Street, Glasgow

We got lured all the way up to some pokey little pub in the Charing Cross area for someones leaving do on Friday night. However, finding that there were no seats available, we ended up sitting at the bar and having a few drinks or three before saying goodbye and heading off for some food.

The Koh-i-Noor is one of Glasgow's oldest Indian restaurants, having opened back in 1964 in Gibson Street. Nowadays it's a stone's throw from the Mitchell Library and Charing Cross and, as we hadn't been in this one, we thought we'd give it a shot.

Inside is pretty big and there's lots of painted screens, murals, coloured glass and lacquered chairs as well as a central fountain, around which is arrayed the evening's buffet selection. Buffets are great so we opted for that right away. There were loads of starters - about four kinds of pakoras, chicken chaat, chana, aloo, onion rings, popadoms, etc. and you could easily just stuff yourself with that lot alone.

There was also a decent range of main courses, with a good few vegetarian ones too, ranging from mild kormas to fiery curries. Having stuffed myself with lots of starters as indicated earlier, I had some kashmiri lamb and chicken tikka masala with a side of boiled rice and nan bread and then went back and had some lamb korma. The meats were tender and well cooked but the tikka masala sauce was a bit bland for me - maybe that's a side effect of fast food buffet cuisine.

The sweets were good - chocolate cake, strawberry sponge, ice creams, fruit salad and gulab jamin so a little wedge of cake, some ice cream and a couple of gulab jamin suitably drizzled with syrup and cream saw me well full.

The staff were friendly and attentive and, aside from the somewhat bland masala sauce, the food was pretty good on the whole. The only downside to the evening was the arrival of a party of about 40 or 50, some of whom were pretty loud and merry. Thank goodness we got in before them though as the buffet just wouldn't have been an option - it was like a cloud of locusts descending and the waiters could hardly manage to keep the dishes filled before they were empty and the horde were howling for more. There's something to be said for small restaurants!

Cuisine: Indian
My Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

CD-WOW Books!

I've just had an e-mail from CD-WOW! telling me that they're now selling books. Now that's excellent news as they're already a very well respected supplier of CDs, DVDs, Video Games and lots of other stuff.

First impressions of the service aren't great as most of the titles displayed on the main books page are hardbacks and there's no way to browse by genre. Still, it's a new line for them and it's bound to improve.

If they stick to the same formula of stocking mostly best-sellers and new releases as they do with CDs and DVDs, etc., then they're bound to pick up lots of business, especially with free shipping.

Several other entertainment media suppliers such as, DVD.CO.UK and the have gone down this road already and are always worth checking if you're looking for a book. Of course are always worth checking too but bear in mind that they charge carriage on orders under £15.

You might also find online book price comparison sites worth using as well.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Path Clearing In Linn Park

When an e-mail came round the office a few weeks ago asking for volunteers to go and help with some conservation work, both Lorna and I thought it might be something we'd like to do (and it meant a day away from the office).

Anyway, we eventually learned that we'd be going to Linn Park, Glasgow's second largest public park, to help with some of the ongoing conservation work there - clearing paths, planting trees, that kind of stuff. It's miles from our usual haunts and I'd never even heard of it before now. I grew up on the north west side and Lorna's not even from Glasgow.

The White Cart, Linn Park

The weather had been reasonable all week but when we looked out this morning - it was raining! So, all wrapped up in waterproofs and with a flask of hot soup packed, we headed off, hoping that the weather would clear up.

13 of us turned up at the park where the professionals from the ranger service and BTCV soon got us organized into clearing all the undergrowth and overgrowth blocking out the view of the waterfall on the White Cart and overcrowding the path leading down to the viewpoint. We also had to dig a trench down the side of some steps and across the path and then lay some pipe in it to divert rainwater from eroding the path.

We also got some good health and safety advice on handling, carrying and using loppers, bow saws, spades and mattocks. All of these tools are pretty sharp or pointy and I don't imagine they wanted anyone being injured - kind of puts a dampener on the day of that happens.

Come lunchtime, it was still raining heavily so some hot soup and a sarny in what looked like a converted cargo container (but at least it was dry) and we were back out again and managed to get all the tasks done before posing the obligatory group photo and then heading back into the office and a welcome change of clothes.

The End Of A Very Wet Day

All in all and not counting the awful weather, I think we all enjoyed the experience. It certainly makes you appreciate just how much hard work goes into to keeping our parks accessible. Nature never sits still and I don't imagine it'll be that long before the Rhododendrons, Japanese Knotweed and general undergrowth are all clawing their way back again but it was worth the effort to clear it all away for a while.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Shadowmarch - by Tad Williams

Shadowmarch is the first installment in yet another epic fanstasy trilogy from Tad Williams, the man who gave us the excellent Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and Otherland tales.
An ancient war between humanity and the Qul-na-Qar saw the faerie people exiled to the Twilight Lands in the north, separated from the world of men by their protective veil of the Shadowline, a magical barrier through which no man may pass and return sane. Southmarch Castle has been the last bastion of defence for hundreds of years, guarding the lands from those beyond the Shadowline.

But now, with King Olin held hostage in the south, the rule of Southmarch is left in the hands of his children and it isn't long before those envious of the crown seek to take control for themselves. Meanwhile, far to the south in the land of Xand, the Autarch is also looking to extend his empire and his eye also falls on the lands of the North.

While the prospect of peace looks bleak for the people of the North, things take a turn for the worse. The Qul-na-Qar, the Twilight People, have chosen this time to begin a campaign of revenge against those who wronged them so long ago. . .and the Shadowline has begun creeping South.

Initially conceived as an idea for a fantasy movie and then a TV series but when both of these fell through, Shadowmarch was launched as an online series way back in 2001. But poor subscription take up meant it didn't get past its first year and the project moved into print with this as the first volume.

Williams has another huge hit on his hands with this one. It's a great mix of political manoeuverings of the noble families, the dark plans of a despotic emperor in the South and the mystical faerie peoples as they begin to wage their final war on mankind. There are basically three threads to this volume and, while they don't all come together here, they certainly develop well and are definitely heading in the right direction but with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing what's going to happen next or what the characters are planning.

Shadowmarch contains a rich world of diverse races with their differing cultures, histories and mythologies and Williams has begun weaving them all together into what should turn out to be a classic series.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, War
ISBN: 1-84149-443-7
My Rating: 9/10