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Halloween isn't such a big deal in France. McDonald's has tried to introduce it a few times, but it is only a marginal thing. I was in town on Halloween having a chip-fix in a kebab bar. Every so often a small group of children (ranging from tiny to teenage) would come in, in varying states of attire. I don't know about you, but when I went out for trick-or-treat, going into shops would have been unthinkable. However, the guy there had sweets in a bowl so I guess it was expected. Everybody got one sweet, which multiplied by the number of shops ought to be enough. An outfit I liked was a teenager wearing a lab coat with a doll hanging out of the stomach and a liberal application of ketchup. Yay for taking the gory approach. Another I liked was a young girl dressed as a witch, she looked like something from The Worst Witch and was adorable.
It wasn't all good, however. I thought the low point was a bunch of boys that came in and stated "halloween! give us sweets!" (yes, in English!). But no, there was worse to come. A girl entered wearing some orange muck applied to her face with the same level of tact as if she'd fallen face first into orange mud. Her costume was a bin bag with holes cut in it for the arms and head. She was chaperoned by her mother, who walked straight in, dug her hand into the sweets bowl and took a handful. She then looked in her bag, then in the bowl, and took a second handful. That done, she then asked us for sweets, with an accusational tone to her voice, like there was something wrong with us for not being prepared to shower her in Ferrero Rocher. Sometimes I am glad I don't know the French for things like "bugger off you skanky scrounging gypo!", because that is exactly what she was.
After that, kebab guy put the sweets bowl behind the counter.

I don't exactly know the origins of trick-or-treat relating to the day when spirits and ghosts are supposed to run amok; but if it is only latched on to by the opportunistic turds, I don't see it lasting too long...


A new workspace

For since forever, a corner of my room near the window has been piled up with boxes and other assorted rubbish. For the last few winters, when I have not been able to sit in the living room, I've piled all the stuff on my bed. Trust me, writing my MIDI module involved a Pi, an eeePC, a full-size keyboard, and dozens of wires and bits. On my bed, on top of me. Not even remotely practical, really.

My challenge was to go through all that rubbish and get an empty corner. I had put it off since Spring but I reached the point where desire overcame laziness. And I discovered an Acorn Electron, two 5¼" disc drives, and a 150Mb SCSI tape streamer. I finally binned the VideoCrypt decoder (what the hell had I been hanging on to that for?), plus a bunch of old magazines, and... a lot of stuff.

With a corner to play in, I erected a €12 metal shelf (actually, I bought two so I can fit in more shelves and I have two spare I can bolt in later if I need to). That was easy, like giant Meccano. Then a desk made of chipboard. Not a great desk, but the Super U was selling them for €10 last year so I bought two. And this summer I picked up a desk chair for €14. Another flat pack job. It isn't a great chair (pretty crappy cushions) but it beats sitting on my bed! So for a little under €50 all in, I had this last night:

My desk last night
The widescreen display connects to the eeePC to give me a 1440×900 desktop (via VGA). The square display connects to the RaspberryPi (or Beagle xM) to give me a 1280×1024 display (Pi; 800×600 for the Beagle). The red indicator on the shelf is the CJE Power control module on the Pi.

By then, it was late, so I let myself get sidetracked. A big display is great for animé!

21 inches of anime!

Today, today was for sorting out the shelf. On top, the place to show the collection of Asian teapots (and such) that I've collected from various vide greniers:

My Asian teapot collection

The next two shelves are this:

The rest of the shelves
Briefly, top left is my collection of Harihu Suzumiya light novels. Some DVDs in the middle, and Japanese language/travel books on the right. On the lower shelf on the left are cooking/random books, plus a Japanese magazine. On the right, the Pi/Beagle plus various other bits and pieces.
The next shelf down hasn't really been populated yet. The left speaker is there, plus a USB harddisc and a USB CD/DVD writer. The shelf below that is where I stash the mouse and keyboard when I'm not using the RISC OS machines; although there is now nothing to stop me putting the eeePC on the shelf and using the mouse/keyboard with that.

You might remember a lightning strike killed my Livebox and took the Livephone out with it. I bought the Livephone at a vide grenier and liked it; it lived with us for eleven months.
However... The Livephone itself was not destroyed (unlike the radio-phone) because it did not directly connect to the Livebox when it was hit. Instead, its little radio widget was clobbered. By clobbered I mean things inside let out their magic smoke.
At a vide grenier about a month ago, I saw a dual-pack of Livephones for €10 so I bought that in a heartbeat, not for those Livephones, but more to attempt to get the older one working again. It was a bit tricky as holding the WiFi button on a Livebox 2 does not really authorise the Livephone, it turns WiFi on and off. Still, I kept pressing the "pair" menu option on the Livephone and poking the WiFi button on the Livebox, and I guess at one point everything synced up nicely as I was able to get a dialtone from the older Livephone; and the base station now know of three handsets (its original two plus the new one).

That was how it stayed until today, for today I thought it would be nice to have a phone if I need. So I dusted off one of the other Livephones and found some AAA rechargeables to put in it. Fait accompli. However, in keeping with my thoughts about phones in general, it is set to operate in silent mode.

My phone

Just so you know - a Livephone is a DECT terminal that works with VoIP to provide a sound quality akin to a standard digital recording and not the extremely restricted frequencies commonly associated with telephony. This, of course, assumes that the person at the other end is using a compatible handset. Well... I can dream...


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