First Attempt at Photo Retouching

My Granny found a load of old photos – including the one below, of my Grandad’s sister, my uncle and two aunties. It was small, quite damaged, somehow burnt and crumpled to shit. She wanted a bigger print and my mother volunteered me to do it, because of course she did! Maybe she knew I wouldn’t just print it as is and would try make some attempt to fix it. If so, she was right, it would annoy me otherwise. However, I know dick all about photo editing software (bar making CD artwork once, and the occasional Simpsons shit post). Anyway, she Whatsapp-ed me the above image and I had to wing it from there.

First thing I did, on my phone, was crop it. The sky was white so wasn’t losing anything important. I tried the Photoshop Express mobile app to see if I could get through this in a couple of minutes. The short answer was no. So I emailed it to myself and thought I’d try it on a PC.

The first software I tried to use Jasc PaintShop Pro but couldn’t find the clone brush and after a bit of googling found out apparently there wasn’t one (and since then I’ve found out apparently there is). Luckily, the guy behind me in work is quite handy with GIMP and was able to point me in the right direction.

I was making it up as I went along, but after a few hours of using GIMPs Clone Brush (apparently called Sample in Photoshop) I managed to get something decent. I got some prints ordered and my Granny seemed pleased. I stopped there as I knew I could lose many more hours trying to get it “perfect” but I was quite chuffed with my first attempt. After I tweeted an old school friend explained to me what the opacity was for. This will probably be useful as it’s inevitable the next time an old photograph is found it will come my way.

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New Year Resolutions are bullshit, here are mine…

Nothing too mad… some easy SMART goals so come December I can look back on the year and be a smug bastard!

#1 Maintain over 70 in my Degree
Year 1 I got an average of 84, Year 2 was 80. By this time next year I’ll have my Year 3 marks and hopefully I average over 70. (Bit of a cop out, I’ve already got my unconfirmed semester 1 module mark. I got 79 in my C++ module, so already a quarter of the way there!)

#2 Discover More Music! 
Whaaaaa! That’s not a SMART criteria! Well thankfully, the past two years Spotify sent me a ‘end of year report’ with my listening habits (See below). 

 

So with an arbitrary weighting added to it by the end of the 2018 I hope to hit:

  • 19,483 minutes
  • 1668 artists
  • 2977 songs

The artists and unique songs being the important part. So in theory if they increase it means I’m listening to something I’ve not listened to before. Probably.

#3 Hit 15 stone 
Probably the most difficult, but definitely achievable. It’s losing Two and a bit stone in 12 months. I’m currently moderately active with the usual dips and peaks but my diet can be shocking. So in theory if I get the nutrition right the weight loss should be wee buns (I’d love a bun right now!).  Apparently 14st5lb is the upper weight for the ideal BMI for my height… but fuck BMI.. 15 is a nice round number!

There we go.. three arbitrary targets for the 2018!

EDIT: #3b – beat these.

Related to #3 – if I beat my Fitbit totals from 2017 then #3 should be easier. Co-Dependent if you will. If I hit my “targets” everyday then the following should be achievable:

  • 2,920,000 steps
  • 4015 floors
  • 2555 km
  • 1,314,000kcal

2017’s Ten Christmas Dinners of Christmas

Usual rules apply:

  • A Christmas dinner
  • Between 1st-25th December
  • No repeats

This year also seen my Christmas dinner Twitter Debut

#1 – 1st December – RGB

Christmas do’ with old work friends in a familiar place. Someone couldn’t make it and I had their roast beef too, I’d to go home early because I was full of food!

#2 – 4th December – Murphy Browns

Another regular appearance. The plate was extra big so the portion looked small, but it was plentiful

#3 – 6th December – Work Canteen

I had to throw this one into me as I had to get to uni after!

#4 – 10 December – Bridge House (Wetherspoons) This was a bit of a sad day in general. Leona was meeting work friends and I had to go to town to buy clothes (work being done in the house meant no washing machine, therefore no clean clothes), so afterwards I walked across town to ‘Spoons to get a re-introduced Christmas dinner. Despite it looking a bit sad (Peas?! No mash but a baked potato?! Also a friend said the turkey looked like dog food!) it tasted alright!

#5 – 13th December, uEat (Ulster University, Jordanstown)

One of my simple joys is, before my classes on Wednesday, getting a chicken goujon wrap, though for one day a year I forego said wrap and get a Christmas Dinner!

#6 – 14th December, McHughes

Current work Christmas dinner

#7 – 19th December, Sainsburys, Holywood

Four years in a row with my work buddy Marty. Note the cauliflower

#8 – 21st December, Horatio Todd’s

Becoming another tradition where I meet some friends for lunch. I think the place thought were were a ‘do because they gave us crackers and sweets. Went for the three courses like a starvo!

#9 – 23rd December, My House

Six years in my house and six years I have a pre-Christmas Dinner with Leona. This one nearly didn’t happen though. The cooker was only hooked to the electric on Tuesday. Turkey was only bought on the Friday. Builders still in the house on the Saturday afternoon. The dining table was only reassembled an hour before the meal was done (by me, as I was cooking the dinner.. and wrapping presents!!!). A stressful few months coming to an end with a nice relaxing Christmas dinner (after the extra stress of cooking it!)

#10 – 25th December, My Folks House

The picture doesn’t do it much justice, but it was nice. Only three types of potato (mash in place of champ!) but for the first time in a Fearon Christmas dinner we had chipolatas!

Cutting the cord…

After many, many years we’ve finally cancelled our TV subscription.

We’d been considering for a while but anytime we phoned they’d sweeten us with some deal or other (“upgrade to TIVO”/”Free movies for a month!”/”ooh! HD Channels” etc etc). The final decision was made because we have work in the house happening, leaving us without a living room for six weeks, so we thought we may as well cancel it!

Sadly, due to mistiming things, that also leaves us without broadband for the next while, delaying the original plan of relying On Demand services like iPlayer, Netflix etc. Plus the TV was moved upstairs while the work is going on, so we couldn’t hardwire into the aerial for Freeview! Thankfully I managed to borrow a portable aerial and it does the job nicely, I can even pick up RTÉ HD with it – so, despite being really busy lately, we can still catch The Bakeoff or whatever.

Still.. the TIVO box had it’s advantages, namely recording something and fast forwarding through the adverts. Also not relying on watching stuff live was also good.

Though a problem I had was recording stuff, not watching it, repeating the process until the box fills up (for example I recorded The Bridge on the River Kwai a couple of Christmases ago… never watched it. Same for Seven Samurai, Ben Hur etc etc). Or I’d waste time watching endless repeats of Friends on a Saturday or just watching shite! There is so much stuff I want to see, or things I need to do, but get distracted by… I dunno… Cake Boss! Fuck that!
So, I’m finally free now!

Sadly my media adventures in cord cutting has stalled due to lack of broadband. We’ve to wait another month until the line gets installed! And although we’ve been busy with house and life stuff, I’d still like to be able to see the new Stranger Things!

Ah well…

[GIFs Created using Frinkiac]

Plans, updates etc etc etc

A stream of babbling consciousness on a Wednesday afternoon…
I’ve been neglecting this lately. Mainly because I can’t be bothered I’ve been quite busy [1], but have had things I meant to post [2] but obviously didn’t get around to [see 1].

Even if I’m not doing much with this, the twenty quid  (or whatever it is) a year for the domain won’t kill me so I may as well hold on to it but use it for something useful.

I’ve been toying with the idea of turning this into some sort of professional portfolio type thing.. Obviously I don’t have much professional portfolio type stuff to stick on it but it might be useful for, I dunno, documenting things I do/learn in uni etc. Plus in the past random blog posts have helped me along with assignments and whatnot (e.g. This one was a life saver a few months ago when I was tying to learn Javascript on the fly (oh! i should write about that!)) so having more of those posts out there… isn’t a bad thing? Right? Anyway, I think I’ll have some assignments coming up where I’ll have to write learning logs or something and in two years I’ll have to do a final project, so it’s probably a sensible idea to get some experience of writing technical stuff now, when it doesn’t matter, rather than freaking out about when I have to do it.
Another thought is it would be useful to catalogue all the random crap I’ve done and skills or experience I’ve acquired over the years (a CV should only be two pages – it doesn’t have room for the CD cover I designed on the fly in Photoshop, or the band website I created, for example).
But I’d rather not just hit delete and start again, some of what’s here is okay, and keeping the world updated on my Christmas dinner intake is important, so redesigning the whole thing but continuing with a wee blog as a subsection, and hosting it somewhere else, will be the idea. It’ll be a while though [see 1 again]. . But I’ll get around to completing this… eventually… (that’s the end of my steam of consciousness) 

Some Footnotes:

[1] for example: full time job, part time degree, house renovation stuff etc etc

[2] Example inlcude

 

Eighty Hours in Reykjavík

We took a long weekend in Reykjavík for Leona’s 30th birthday.

Friday
The flight was crazy early so got to the airport for 6am. Going through security we noticed that the flight was delayed for over two hours. Alas the only thing to do was get some breakfast then have some beer! We got some vouchers because of the delay and was told that the delay had been reduced to one hour, which wasn’t so bad. Tried to sleep on the flight but didn’t have much joy!

Having been warned that drink was crazy expensive in Iceland (and Reykjavík only having something like two off licences) we elected to buy some booze in duty free at arrivals (à la Oslo). Got some tasty beer (some pale ale and pilsner) and also some Eglis jólabjór which,I didn’t realise, was a  Cola-esque malt beer – popular at Christmas time. One or two was okay, but more than that was sickeningly sweet.

We found our bus to Reykjavik – I couldn’t remember our stop (the Airbnb was near Hotel Leifur Eiriksson) then my I remembered it sounds a bit like Sven Goran Eriksson so i just said Eriksson – the bus driver gave me a green transfer ticket. After about an hour we arrived at a bus station in Reykjavik and we split into mini-buses which corresponded with our transfer ticket. To cut a long story short – we were on the wrong bus, taking us to a hotel at the far end of town. The driver was kind enough to drop us off at the right place.

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Our drop off point was across the road from Hallgrímskirkja, which was about two minutes from our Airbnb. We had agreed to meet the host at a coffee shop, across the road, called Reykjavik Roasters. This was the first time I’d used Airbnb myself, therefore making it my first Airbnb awkward meeting. Thankfully Heba, the host, was quite friendly and recommended some places to eat, told us were convenience stores were etc. Also she was quite flexible with check out times!

It was lunchtime, so we ventured out to get food and explore a bit of Reykjavik before it got dark (a few hours later!). We hadn’t got far until we found a burger place called Chuck Norris Grill. The burger was nice and I had a tasty beer so all was good.

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After lunch we walked down to Sun Voyager sculpture and had a look. Then walked on the footpath along the sea and got really cold! We retreated back to Laugavegur and found a cafe called Kaffi Brennslan to warm up in and get a coffee.

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We decided to go to a shop for a few bits and pieces. I spotted another Malt beer, but it had a picture of Santa on it so decided to get it (turned out it was nicer than the Jolabjor). We had only eaten a few hours previously but felt it was a good idea to eat something before we went on the Northern Lights tour. We just got a frozen pizza to eat in the apartment.

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Seeing we had an hour to kill before the Northern Lights tour so we went to Cafe Babalu for a warm beverage. We only wanted to go there because we heard about the Star Wars toilets. The place was dead on – though there was some English lad talking to his made and kept making eye contact with me which freaked me out!

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We waited out side Hotel Leifur Eiriksson for our bus, a mini bus arrived and drove us to a car park outside Reykjavik where we got onto a bigger bus. Sadly this bigger bus was pretty much full but we found some free seats at the back. Worse still there were four wankers, from England, sitting in front of us. Within seconds I was annoyed I didn’t bring a) earphones and b) beer to get through the bus trip!

The bus trip was dark for the most part, so couldn’t really see look outside. Though we drove past a artificially lit green house.. that was really bright… and pretty cool. We also saw a grave yard were the headstones were lit up. The tour guide was trying her best to keep us amused in the dark bus by giving facts about the Northern Lights, telling Icelandic folk stories, singing Icelandic Christmas songs etc etc but the English one’s in front of us kept interrupting and being general bellends. Thankfully we got some rest bite when the bus stopped for a piss break at a restaurant/shop then we headed out to the site where we would try and see the lights.

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We walked up to a viewing point (not realising it’s beside a giant crater!). There was not much aurora action going on for a while but the guide was trying to be optimistic. Then she pointed to the sky and said there was a wee bit. It wasn’t strong enough to see with the naked eye so I tried to take photos with a long exposure. However, like an idiot I forgot that I would need a tripod, or something similar. I tried to improvise by using fence posts/Leona’s head. The camera was able to pick up some colour in the sky but it wasn’t enough so the guide said that if we emailed the tour company we could get another tour free! We were served some hot chocolate and got on the bus back to Reykjavik.

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I fell asleep on the bus but an hour or so into the trip back the tour guide woke us up saying she should see the aurora from the bus. The bus parked at a stop off the road. I was able to get a decent shot of the lights from the bus with on a few second exposure. Some of us got off the bus to take photos. Still without a tripod, I just tried to hold the camera really still but it was so cold I was shaking a lot! Still managed to get some shots.

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As I was no longer asleep I had to enjoy the musings of the moron’s in the next row. To be fair, only three of them were dickheads, one managed to sleep through the whole tour!

We got back to Reykjavik in the wee hours and was glad to get to sleep!

Saturday
We grabbed a quick breakfast, from a bakery Heba recommended, called Braud & Co. We got some pastries, pan au chocolat/croissants and the like, with some coffee and ate it in the flat.

Our pickup was at a different hotel, but was about the same distance away as the night before. Again, a minibus picked us up. This time we were taken to the bus station to get on the bigger bus to the Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon was great! I walked outside in my trunks and it was very, very cold. I quickly scuttled into the water and it was nice and warm! Leona then joined me and we bobbed over to the bar and I had a tasty cold beer, in the warm water. What’s not to like?

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… maybe the facemasks? We bobbed over to the place with the facemask cream and obviously I got it in my eyes… more than once! We bobbed about in the water for about 90 minutes and enjoyed a few more beers. We even talked to some nice English people (who were going to Belfast on New Years Eve) and some nice Americans.

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After all that bobbing about, we got changed, and went to the cafe where I had some more tasty beer and some sushi. We then checked out the gift shop and jumped on the bus back to Reykjavik. We stopped off at Kaffibrenn, again, to have a wee beverage before going back to the flat to drop our stuff and get ready for dinner!

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We tried to find somewhere but most places were busy – we eventually stopped in a bar called Boston – they did wings, fired chicken and nachos etc therefore as good a place as any to eat. We stayed there for a few drinks. I quite liked the place.

Sunday
We had breakfast in Reykjavik Roasters, which was across the street from our Airbnb, and had coffee and some pastries. It was a nice wee coffee shop. We were sat beside the turntable and was asked by staff to change the side of the record. I didn’t dare as my big stupid hands would probably have caused the needle to scratch the record.

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Looking something more to eat, we went for a walk and ended up in Kaffi Brennan again  where we split a waffle with bacon! Then we made our way back to Hotel Leifur Eiriksson for our bus pick up. We spun around town picking up other people but thankfully we didn’t have to swap buses. Our bus picked us up at 12 and it got dark at around 4, therefore this was the “express tour”.

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After a bit of driving we got to Þingvellir – where you can see the gap between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Also it holds the site of the first Icelandic parliament. Sadly we only got to spend 25 minutes there (because of the express tour). Then we were back on the bus again!

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We drove a bit more until we got to the Geyser – which was very impressive! We got a bit more time here so watched the geyser for a while. Then we headed down to the cafe/shop place and grabbed a hot chocolate for the road.

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Our last stop was the Gullfoss waterfall. It was also quite impressive! Annoyingly there were morons disrespecting the small chain and climbing over for a photo – some idiot nearly dropped their camera over the cliff. We climbed a lot of steps to get another view of the falls. We then had a look in the gift shop before heading on.

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It was dusk when we left the falls, and our last stop on the tour was Kerið. I didn’t realise until then, that was where we were on the Aurora Borealis tour. I also didn’t realise how close the crater was on the Friday night! It was quite dark at this point but I could just about make out the crater!

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We headed back to Reykjavik and went for some food. We ended up in the Lebowski Bar for a really tasty burger and an obligatory White Russian (note: I think The Big Lebowski is a shite film, but I agree with The Dude’s White Russian policy!). We then headed on to a bar around the corner, called Bar Annanas, for one and then headed back to the flat to have a few of the airport beers. At around ten o’clock I got a hankering for some chips so ran across the road to the shop/fast food place but the chef did a no show that night. I was raging and had to make do with a chocolate bar!15492541_10157720615705012_6559110646862538074_n

Monday
For breakfast we went to a cafe at the bottom of the street called Durum – I had the Breakfast Special – it was tasty! We we going to go to the Saga museum so had to plan our route. We originally thinking of getting a bus but thought it was just as handy to walk, and would see a we bit more of Reykjavik before we went home. Thankfully the rain held off until we got there!

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The Saga museum was interesting, giving a condensed history of Iceland but with waxworks! Once done with the tour you can try on viking gear and armour, even chain mail (which is heavier than I thought!). We walked into the place in/beside it  for a coffee, not realising it was a proper restaurant. It seemed quite classy! We didn’t get food but it smelt amazing!

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We, instead, went to eat in Dirty Burger & Ribswhere I had (quelle suprise) a burger and ribs. Good stuff! Afterwards we walked to Lake Tjornin to have a look then decided to go up the Hallgrimskirkja tower.

We queued to get a ticket. Got in the lift. Got to the top. It was then I realised that you probably could have just went up with out a ticket – not that it is the type of thing I do. You could see pretty much all of the city!

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We had to return to the flat to tidy up the flat/put rubbish in the bin etc, then I went to Reykjavik Roasters to get a coffee for the road, where I was served by a guy who is originally from a town 10 miles from my house. Small world etc.

I’d have loved a few more days in Reykjavik as I feel there was more to be done!

The Eleven Christmas Dinners of Christmas!

What’s the word for something for when you have a thing and do it to death?
Usual rules apply. Only posted these to Facebook. Should have done Twitter too, even though it’s a bit of a toilet these days, I could have got some good #numbers !!

#1 – 4th December – Garrick BarGarrick

Opening Gambit … In previous years my first one tended to be in Wetherspoons with an old work chum. My old work chum then got a transfer to Derry. He was going to come down too but then Wetherspoons scrapped Christmas Dinners, so nuts to that!

Not sure my old work chum would approve of my caption either…
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2 – 6th December – Acton & Sons

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Current Work’s Christmas dinner … on a Tuesday?!?!?

#3 – 7th December – uEat (University of Ulster, Jordanstown)

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I had a programming test the day after my Xmas do (I got 88%) – I came into Jordanstown early to avail of a turkey dinner. No student discount though (it was about £8!!).

#4 9th December – RGB

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Old work Christmas dinner

#5 10th December – Whose Art Café

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No mash, and gravy was like the gravy you get in a Chinese Takeaway. Poor Show.

#6 – 14th December – work

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Work Canteen – ate at my desk – Improvement on last years

#7 15th December – Sainsburys – Hollywood Exchange

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Now in it’s 3rd year, my trip to Sainsburys with Marty. Quite average.

McKay, who has reviewed these in the past, came out of retirement with a controversial:

Nope. 0/10

#8 – 17th December – My House

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One I made myself. Five years in my house, so it’s the fifth “Belfast Christmas Dinner” for me and Leona, this year we had guests too (two fussy 7 year olds). No dramas and everything went to plan (i.e. I got my timings right and the oven didn’t pack in this time).

#9 – 22nd December – Cast and Crew

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Met some friends for lunch. Was okay, but not for £12.95! Regretted not getting a burger because they looked good!

It was this one where my sister asked if sandwiches count (Nope).

#10 – 24th December – Murphy Browns

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Another staple in my Christmas dinner month! Something to do us before we hit the road 

It was here where McKay commented if I ever calculated how much my “December Hobby” costs. In short, next year I might keep a running total!

#11 – 25th December – My Ma and Da’s

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Another good year! Only three types of potato though, but at least they were the best three (roasties, champ, garlic creamed – don’t @ me)!!