Welcome to another edition of MaW's Musings, written hastily because I overslept this morning. It's all very well, I have discovered, having an alarm clock set to wake one up at half past eight in the morning, but it's quite another thing to actually get out of bed when the thing goes off. Mine went off this morning, and I woke up immediately. After the first set of beeps, I thought "Must get out of bed". At the second, it was "Maybe I'll just wait until the alarm stops". By the fourth, I was ignoring it. I didn't wake up properly until quarter to ten. Oh joy. And what a week it has been this week. There are several things to talk about, but first I shall discuss Guy Fawkes' Night.
Gunpower, Treason and Plot
As usual, the nights leading up to November the fifth this year were filled with the sounds of fireworks. As usual, the nights leading away from November the fifth were also filled with the sounds of fireworks. What I did not expect was the amount of fireworks that went off on the night itself. To put it mildly, I was surprised. While walking to JuggleSoc, and while walking back, it sounded almost like two armies were lobbing artillery at each other just outside the city. I suppose it shouldn't surprise me, but it did - I grew up in a relatively quiet village, and last year at University I was living in Halls of Residence, which are so noisy anyway that you wouldn't hear the space shuttle land next door if you didn't have your window open - and at this time of year, who wants their window open?
The other surprise, although it came hand in hand with the sheer amount of fireworks really, was the amount of smoke in the air. Bonfire smoke - horrible stuff, and you couldn't go anywhere without smelling it. Yuck.
I just hope that in all the revelry (and there was definitely a lot of it), nobody got themselves hurt. Fireworks are dangerous, as is fire in general, and judging by the amount of campaigning for safety on TV this year, people are still getting themselves burned and otherwise seriously injured. Perhaps it would be better if fireworks were only permitted for licensed experts to use in organised displays - but then, it would be stupid to campaign for safety when using illegally obtained fireworks. There's really no solution that I can see, but it would be nice if something were done to reduce the amount of people who get hurt.
Of course, there's also the question of how many of those revellers know or care why we have bonfire night in the first place?
Also on Monday, as if the explosions in the sky and the smoke weren't enough, we discovered that our wheelie bin had gone missing. Vanished. We put it out on a Sunday evening so that the bin men can empty it on Monday morning, and usually we bring it back in on Monday afternoon when we get back from lectures. This week, coming back from lectures, the bin was nowhere to be seen - not in the back yard, not in the street as far as the eye could see.
After some initial concern, Alice's dad advised us to phone the City Council to get hold of a new one. An admirable idea (he works for one of the rubbish-related departments in Norfolk County Council) and one we were planning to act on, until Ellie found a wheelie bin in the passage. It's not our original wheelie bin, but someone put it there, so we're not complaining...
Still, I wonder if our new wheelie bin hasn't caused someone else to lose theirs - or did we swap?
Coming hot on the heels of the theft of a wheelie bin, Windows XP is really quite appropriate. Microsoft are, as usual, demanding outrageous prices for it, and despite XP being the only version of Windows I would seriously recommend (and if you know how I feel about Linux, you'll realise that that's not something I say lightly), I still don't think it's quite worth the money, especially not for the Professional version - which is a shame, because the Home edition has some highly useful bits missing.
However, if you do get Windows XP (and if you're using an unstable version of Windows ME, you'll weep with joy once you've upgraded), don't even consider getting Plus! for Windows XP. For thirty pounds sterling you get a grand total of four - yes folks, that's four - extra themes to add to the stingy three that come with XP. And did I mention that you can't design your own themes, despite the inclusion of a themeing engine in Windows XP? Please Microsoft, if you're going to implement something, do it properly! Yes, so Plus! includes some digital media tools, Media Player skins and screensavers, and it comes in a very nice box - but it's still not worth more than a tenner for the average user.
Linux (and a little more on Windows XP)
I just had to write something about Linux. Love it. I was newly impressed with KOffice 1.1 yesterday, when I used the jaw-droppingly good Kontour to create a pretty timetable to print out and put on the pinboard in my room. It's a shame I've not got my printer properly set up in Linux, but thankfully Kontour has a built-in facility to output PDF files, one of which I then loaded in Acrobat Reader under Windows XP and printed1. Gorgeous.
And Some Music...
Yes, music. Who am I going to wax lyrical about this week? Well, they're one of the best things ever to come out of Sweden2 - Abba.
Need I say more?