Thursday, November 12, 2009

FarmVille... don't pay real money for "beta" games...

Its a week since I've been able to access my farm on FarmVille. Zynga's support has been very unhelpful - only suggesting that I turn everything on and off again. When the problem I have is rather more universal than that.

Firstly, Jim, who has been farming alongside me can easily load his farm on my computer, using my software.

Secondly, none of my neighbours are able to access my farm either. Jim is fed up with the way FarmVille sends him off to "help" on my farm but won't load it. None of my other neighbours have been able to get in either. The nearest anyone has got was this:

She left a note on the empty space that used to be my farm but when she returned the note had gone too.

What most people see is this:

Some of them have complained that it then hangs and they have to leave farmville and come back in again, others haven't had that problem.

What I see is this:

There are other people in the same situation. And we have something in common.

We had all thoroughly overstuffed our dairies.

There a was a bug that made it possible to put in more than the notional limit of 20. I thought it hilarious to put in lots of alien cows as well as a full compliment of the normal ones:

Jim had been more restrained, he'd only put in one or two more and the day that I was unable to load my farm his slightly over-filled dairy was showing just the 20 it ought to have, not the 21 or 22 he'd had the evening before.

Zynga had clearly "fixed the dairy bug" but in doing so had made some people's farms unloadable. Mine included.

One of the replies I got was:
"Please be informed that we do not ban any players for gaming bugs. All the issues you specified may just happen because of the loading problems so kindly follow the steps below"

And then they proceeded to tell me, yet again, to disconnect from farmville completely, log out of facebook, clear my browser's cache, quit the browser, restart the computer, etc.

They also suggested downloading the latest flash player - I looked I already had the most up-to-date version - but for the sake of completeness I did it any way.

At no point had it occurred to me, before they said this, that I might be banned... as a programmer I'm aware that fixing bugs often has side-effects that are in effect new bugs... I still think its more a technical issue than a political one.

But there was one strange thing.

One of the other people with an over-full dairy had put a post up much like this one on the Zynga forums. I'd replied and said I had the same problem. Several others did too. I was watching the thread so when I got an email saying there was an update I went looking for it. The whole thread had been removed. This does not seem like a technical issue, but more like a political one... I've been unable to find any official reference to this being a "known problem".

I'm now regretting that I spent real money on this game - it is possible to play it for free - but if you want any of the pretty things, like the flying saucer at the top, you pay using farm vouchers - you only get a few of these slowly through game play. I was happy, at the time, to pay real money to Zynga as I know how expensive such games are to develop. Now I'm less so because I cannot play with my toys even though I paid for them.

I have asked for any of these:

1. My farm as it was, presumably with dairies reduced down to 20 cows each, and playable.
2. A new, empty farm, credited with the FVs I'd purchased.
3. My money back.

They have not replied to this.

Here is one last shot of my farm as it was for Halloween:

Update: Zynga finally fixed it. My farm was dead but I am able to play again. However the support did not contact me to tell me it was fixed - one really does have to attempt to get in to find out...

Monday, November 09, 2009

Cleaning up...

Faceted St Andrews

On Saturday, Ellen, blogged about cleaning by including a clip from Withnail and I.

At the time it made me realise that we really could do with a purge ourselves - we've not got to the wonderfully graphic stage illustrated there but really we would do with cleaner carpets. But the vacuum is on the blink and in any case we need something stronger...

Did you ever have a school teacher who'd respond to your protests about the quality of your art equipment with

"A poor workman always blames his tools"

well today I had what seemed like a moment of enlightenment, I realised that the answer was because

"A good workman would never have consented to use those tools in the first place"

And so, following on from that I went virtual shopping for carpet cleaners...

And its with such fantastic leaps of logic that I turned feeling guilty about the carpets into the need to buy a new usable carpet cleaner... or two...

Incidentally what really struck me about the clip was how young Richard E Grant was then... so I've just looked it up on IMDb and found it was released in 1987... I suspect we all looked a bit younger then

Sunday, November 08, 2009


If you read my previous post you might be expecting me to completely break down and post about FarmVille - but instead I bring you FishVille!

After writing that post, Jim got our connection to the web back up so I could publish it - unfortunately I was then unable to get into my farm and haven't been able to since - I'd thought it hilarious when I'd got 27 green alien cows into a dairy that was only meant to be able to take a maximum of 20 cows in total.

From browsing the web it appears that they have fixed the bug that allowed this to happen but that those of us who had seriously overdone the stuffing have not been able to load our farms since. Whilst searching for more help on the issue than was coming from the makers of the game (Zynga) I discovered that they had just launched a new game on facebook - FishVille.

So rather than sulk too much longer I thought I'd play with fishes instead. And it is very relaxing - just like watching a fish tank - well almost.

I didn't take any really early screen shots - but here is one when I'd got to level 3 and my first neighbour had joined me:

The idea is to buy fish eggs and feed the hatchlings enough that they reach maturity when they can be sold - in fact they can be sold as soon as they stop being babies - but for some fish that in itself takes a day - for others it takes as little as 3 minutes. - you get more for them if you keep them growing and sell them as full grown adults - provided you can keep them alive!

They let you know when they are hungry like this:

But they start clamouring for food like this well before they actually need feeding... I did notice one neighbour had a fish with a red bubble asking for food - presumably it was really hungry. If you don't feed them in time they die and you have to clear up the dead fish.

Neighbours I hear you ask?

Well that's a concept from FarmVille and being fairly closely modelled on FarmVille, FishVille also has neighbours. People who are your friends on facebook and playing the same game can become your neighbours.

You can visit each others tanks which is fun in itself also your neighbours (or rather neighbors as its an American-written game) can send you gifts to decorate your tank:

What you are able to send increases as you go up levels.

The variety of fish eggs you are able to buy also increases with levels:

My goal yesterday was to get to level 8 so I could buy the clown fish. I managed that (just) and got up to saleable clownfish overnight:
The image at the top of this posting was how my tank looked when I started to write. Now after writing all of this the fish have grown:

Oh oh... no matter how intriguing I've made this sound I must also tell you that the screen is now saying:

Update: I was suspicious from the wording of the above notice that the issue might be political rather than technical and it appears that facebook has pulled the plug on the fish tanks because of advertising violations. At least that's what they are saying at techcrunch.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Poor neglected blog!

Summer / Autumn

So... I'm going to attempt at least one posting a week for a while - see if I can rekindle the blogging habit / rabbit / hobbit (choices from my spell checker - you decide).

I'm not sure how long it is since I've blogged - the internet is currently down (thanks to an "upgrade" that Jim installed a couple of days ago.... it requires him to have woken up before I can actually post this). Certainly not since (or not much) since I started to play FarmVille on facebook - I couldn't see the point of facebook a year ago and now I'm spending far too much time on it playing this sim-type farming game - and if you are not playing FarmVille you won't want to add me on facebook... I'll try not to mention it again in this post...

Ammonite pendent

Summer here was not very summery... lots of rain and only a few days of heat. I don't like the heat but I'm not that keen on rain either! We mostly spent summer in Bristol and enjoyed it despite the weather. The main casualty of the weather was my photography - hardly anything to show for it.

Westonbirt festival of wood

We went to Westonbirt Arboretum's Festival of Wood in August.

Active carving

Jim's mother and her friend Ted were on a coach tour that meant they were in Cheltenham for the day. We popped up there and took them for an airing on Cleeve Hill. They were glad to get away from yet another day of potential shopping!

Cleeve Hill

Autumn has been much better for weather, except the week we took on holiday - we seemed to pick the wettest week for that! But again it was fun and as we were on holiday I took photos anyway.

For my birthday (though not actually on it) we went to see the Autumn colour at Wesonbirt.

Autumn Colour

Our week up in the Yorkshire Dales was a prelude to a surprise 70th birthday party for one of Jim's aunts. She was indeed very surprised but also delighted that so many people turned up for her. We then spent a couple of days with Jim's mother before making our way back home... and to more FarmVille! (??? words before I gave way... ;-)

Prawn Cocktail!

Whilst in the Dales we visited some caves - ones with a guided tour, there was a lot of stooping but no crawling through water ;-) - there were lots of fantastic stalagmites / stalemates (my spell checker again!) amd stalagtites (no guesses for that one...) - hard to photograph but wonderful to see. The guide even extinguished the lights briefly for us all to see the caves by candlelight as the Victorians would have seen them when exploring them. And then he blew out the candle so we had utter darkness too.

In a cave

Jim had discovered the existence of a small turf labyrinth only 20 minutes from his mother's house - despite the nearness it wasn't a place she or he had been before - so we explored it whilst visiting her.


One of the advantages of taking a dog on a long journey is its an excuse to look for interesting places to stop where one can let her out to have a bit of a run. We'd stopped at this place before but not discovered the topiary before!


See all the photos from the mosaic in this flickr slideshow:

Friday, September 04, 2009

Ilustration Friday - Magnify

What would it look like if you could magnify people's thoughts?

A rather late entry to Illustration Friday for last Friday.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Book of the Beasts

The Book of the Beasts

This is the cover of a book I've just made, inspired by Mary Ann Moss's Stiched & Stencilled class. The class got me going though I went a way off from the suggestions - all part of the fun!

I was intending to buy some canvas to make the cover, as suggested, but I hadn't got around to getting any and suddenly I NEEDED a cover so I used this purple foam stuff that I had around - previously I'd been using it for making colourful nonshiny backgrounds for photographing object on - I also used a couple of pieces of yellow foam inside the book.

All the Celtic Knot type stencils came from a set I bought recently from a local art shop. The horse comes from a children's stencil set from the local toy shop.

The wolfish animal is one I cut. In the book there is also a toad stencil that I rediscovered - I'd cut it around 8 years ago.

I've sewn in or glued pieces of jigsaw in places. Some of them I attached before stencilling and others I used as masks then sewed them into other parts of the book later.

I've also used a star cutter to make stencils and masks. The stars and the stencil have been added to the book too.

I couldn't resist also using and then incorporating a chemistry set stencil.

I didn't actually get around to using my sewing machine as I decided hand sewing suited this book best.

You may be able to see inside the book here:

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Book List

Just to let you know I am still alive... I found an easy post to make:

I reposted this entry after reading it on Mixed Media Martyr's blog

The BBC says most people will only read 6 of these 100 Books.

Instructions:Cut and Copy the list into your notes... then...

1) Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read. (remove other persons X's)
2) Tally your total at the bottom.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen X
2 The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien X
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling X
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell X
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman X
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller X
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien X
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger X
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot X
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald X
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams X
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll X
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame X
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy X
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens X
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis X
34 Emma - Jane Austen X
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen X
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis X
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres X
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden X
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne X
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell X
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins X
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood X
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding X
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert X
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen X
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon X
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding X
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens X
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett X
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson X
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro X
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle X
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery X
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams X
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Total 39 I think... there are some that I might have read but can't really remember reading e.g. Far From the Madding Crowd and Wuthering HEights - I think they were both texts at school but I've forgotten them so completely that I haven't counted them. Mind you some of the ones I know I've read I'm a bit hazy on too...

And it looks to me as though reading the complete works of Shakespeare gives you both 14 and 98.... unfortunately the ones I have read aren't on there...

The balloon in the sky was spotted over Bristol this morning...

Hope you are all enjoying yourselves.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yin-Yang, Light and the Moon

Yin-Yang + Turquoise Light

I seem to have difficulty keeping my blog up-to-date in the summer... you can see from my archives that it is a repeating cycle... yet in the winter its much easier. So this may, or may not, be a post that will have to stand alone for a while... At least I've a few photos (mine and others) to decorate it with.

To see all the coloured lights I caught with the yin-yang light catcher (in a friend's house) see this flickr slideshow

Another photo I've taken recently is of the Paddington Bear statue at Paddington station:

In fact I took it last night... I managed to miss my train by just 2 minutes... luckily other people also seemed to have problems on the tube and I was allowed to use my ticket that was meant to be just for the 8pm train on the next one at 8.45.

Tonight, or rather, early this morning there will be a full eclipse visible from the Pacific Ocean.

Have you ever wondered what the moon looks like on its far side? Jim did and found this on wikipedia:

Isn't it cratered and craggy! So different from the view we get (also from wikipedia):

If you are lucky enough to be able to see the eclipse either partially or totally I hope the clouds stay away for you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mountain Love

Deer Jim

This is one of the pieces I made inspired by Mary Ann's Stencilry class - she'll be running another in July. And Stencilry 2 sometime in the summer too. I can't wait!

This has been such a fun class - Mary Ann exudes enthusiasm and encourages one to play - keep going, never mind you've made a mistake, it'll probably be fine... you can always paint over it... etc. My only problem was that my computer is so old I had to borrow Jim's laptop to be able to see the videos properly... guess that means I need a computer....

The above uses stencils and masks based on a couple of photos from Jim's mountain adventures in Scotland. I also ad libbed with some torn paper to make more mountains...

Jim's not been to Scotland this year but we did spend a week in Dartmoor and Teasel went up several tors - here's one that I went up too:

Teasel and Jim bagging a Tor Top

Though as I didn't actually go to the very top of the rocky bit Jim doesn't count it as properly bagged by me... I consider having got myself up as far as I did quite sufficient! Teasel clearly had the same urge as Jim to reach the absolute top.

Does the rock they are standing on look like a TORtoise to you?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wishing Away!

Wishcasting Wednesday's prompt today is: What do you wish to clear out?

Last week in my full moon dreamboard I gave the story of how we tried and failed to sell this house. I mentioned that Jim had "unearthed a whole cache of wonderful things" but didn't say where he'd found them...

When we moved back into this house we were still anticipating putting it back on the housing market so we put some things into a storage unit.

What a mistake!

Its cost us a bomb.

And depressed me.

And, it turns out, hidden quite a few of the things that I've been missing, presumed lost in the moves.

Don't ask why I didn't think to look there - I think I was blanking out on it because the prospect of clearing it seemed so enormous...

So my wish this week is:

To clear out the storage container and to find all the lost treasures hidden in there!

All non-treasures to either find new homes easily or to be disposed of at long last.

To enable this wish to come true I need to maintain my resolve and the energy and bodily strength necessary to enable me to play my part. And the same for Jim too!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Here is a two-page spread of spread hands from my altered book - Shamanic Marks - Inspiration!

Hands were one of the most obvious things to work with in this book - for these two I've included a variation of spiral and line symbol found near rock art hands. I've included both wet and dry sgraffito.

I was planning on just using the dry sgraffito and I started off with oil pastels on a piece of cartridge paper then used black poster paint (thanks for the suggestion Tinker - my "gouache" turned out to have acrylic in its formulation) over them.

I used sgraffito to chip out a hand shape which worked rather well and the spiral symbol. I then rolled the paper and the black poster paint flaked off so much that the sgraffito became much too subtle amongst the rather bright contrast of yellow, orange and black. So I cut the hand out instead and realised I could use both the positive and the negative like this.

I used wet sgraffito for the spiral symbol on the left hand page.

I've also been experimenting with blowing paint around a hand:

Red on Black

I made the black background by monoprinting from the overwet posterpaint used above.

When I came to use the mouth diffuser (atomiser/atomizer) I found it quite difficult to get it to work at all - the angle of the two components is all important - having got it working with water I moved onto dilute poster paint and found I had to blow extremely hard to get a good spray. I've done three variations and am wondering what else to do with them before they too find their way into the book. I might make a lino cut of the spiral symbol.

I also discovered why the hands are generally done with the fingers splayed - if you don't it doesn't look much like a hand...

Friday, April 10, 2009

First Day of Stencilling...

Mary Ann's (Dispatch from LA) on-line Stencil course has begun! And this is what I've done so far. I'm not sure that they are finished but the light is failing and I'm stopping for now.

This first week is working with "found" stencils - so that means not having to cut one's own yet.

I'd gathered quite a stash to play with but constrained myself to a few to begin with. Though just choosing to use the big jigsaw pieces added in rather more complexity than I'd been expecting. They are gigantic pieces from a child's floor puzzle - it was one that had pieces that had been mended and was reduced in a charity shop. It was quite easy to do when the picture was visible. This is what it looks like now:

Painted Jigsaw

I used one of the big plastic "lace" things and it picked up the jigsaw pattern rather well:

Plastic "Lace" after spraying...

Though having used it like this for both these pieces I feel its a bit too static and would move a smaller piece around instead if I was using it for a background like this again.

So far its been lots of fun!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Chocolate Full Moon Dreamboard

Careful What You Wish For... Even When You Don't Realise That You Are...

Today Jim unearthed a whole cache of wonderful things... like the A3 paper for my printer that I've looked EVERYWHERE for, well except I hadn't, obviously... and some art materials that I've been missing... and this cutting from a magazine.

Jim had cut it out because it has a tortoise on it.

When he was a child he wanted a pet but his parents weren't keen. Then a stray tortoise turned up and, even though they found its owners, Jim got to keep him.

Scroll forward to Valentine's Day 2004.

At that time the Guardian newspaper's Saturday magazine had a column called "That's My Pet!" - it featured three people, sometimes celebrities and others too, and their pets. The idea was to match up the person with their pet(s). Jim was good at guessing whose pet was whose.

In this cutting, not especially carefully saved, but saved nonetheless, were a tortoise, a cat and two dogs. But not any old dogs, though in those days neither of us would have recognised them without the useful caption:

It took a few years but I think the seed was sown without our realising it then... Here is Teasel, the Miniature Schnauzer, that's my pet now:

Wood for Brains?

And the cat? Well it was called Luna.

At the time of that column, early 2004, we were just about to move out to a rented house in Minchinhampton. Whilst we were there we got this house done up and on the market but it didn't sell... there were lots of strange things going on... for instance:
  • The only people we managed to attract through private advertising turned up on a day when there was a thick bank of fog... which almost never happens... and it most definitely detracted from the views we enjoy:

    Rainbow in the heart of Bristol!

  • The first set of estate agents proved strangely incompetent - given that they are still in business, even now during the huge downturn in the housing market, I suspect they are normally much more efficient. Things that happened included: the brochure having mislabelled photos, inaccurate descriptions, no photos of the views (our major selling point), price reductions failing to be advertised in their own window, etc.

    After three months we tried some other agents.

  • The second set of agents were better but also unlucky. Their brochure was accurate though they also failed to show the views. And during our time on with them our house, which we visited frequently, slept in occasionally, but were mostly away from, was burgled twice. Very little was taken... we'd left the house looking furnished but no TV or computers or expensive Hi-Fi. One mini-hi-fi was taken but as it was broken we didn't mind - it had simply been "dressing" the house! Not enough was taken to make an insurance claim on... and both thieves were caught.

  • Just before we moved back to Bristol there were some people who seemed really keen. On the last day we were on the market, they left us a message via the agents that they'd have loved to have put an offer in but their own house sale had just fallen through...
The burglaries were 2 moons apart... (2-3 days before new moons)...

I've been cautious about wishing again for the house in the Cotswolds that I still yearn for... but now I'm daring to once more... right now its just the seed of an idea, a dream, a reflection lapping in the mirror of my mind and my cocoa:

Join me in a full moon cocoa with a dream of a house in the Cotswolds.

For more full moon dreamings and to add your own in too visit Jamie's blog.