Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Scariest Page on the Internet



It being Saturday night and me having the house to myself (save for a sleeping child - don't worry, it's my own, I haven't kidnapped anyone) naturally, like anyone normal, I'm blogging.  With a gin and tonic to hand, after all it is Saturday evening!

I decided to write about the scariest page on the Internet.  Now, before I reveal what it is, what do you think it is? Write it down, I'm going to ask you to stick it in the comments (so that way I know that you've read this page!)

Now, what do you think it might be?

A right-wing (or left-wing) news website?  A website that talks about medical illnesses?  Perhaps something from a terrorist organisation?

No, no, and no (although I'm sure all those things could be unpleasant), because the thing is, all of those sites you can simply choose not to visit, and then they're not scary.

But the one that I have to visit, whether I like it or not, is...


The blank page in Blogger when I'm about to write a post.

I set myself a goal to blog every other day.  For regular readers, you'll know that this never happens, but it's a goal that makes me feel guilty throughout the week when I haven't written a post, and spurs me on to write.

Tonight is a case in point.  I have the ideal opportunity to write, with no distractions (except for the rapidly disappearing gin and tonic), but what do I write about?  Tomorrow is "tell an old joke day" but that's tomorrow so I can't write about it - or at least publish the post - yet.  I haven't done anything really worth blogging about today, except go in a swimming pool and be hot due to the weather (and I've done posts on risking my life in four foot of water and surviving in a heatwave recently)

I have wiped up an amount of mouse poo, because where we live is near to some waste ground where mice live, and they periodically invade the nearby houses for shelter and food, and they have to be dealt with by whatever method the house inhabitants choose, but I don't really want to blog about that because it's:
a) about mouse poo, and;
b) whatever method of rodent control I choose to employ, it'll upset a proportion of people

So, I'm writing about not having anything to write about.

You see, as a blogger (and I naturally assume that all bloggers have exactly the same view as me, because it's a lot easier to empathise with people in a world where everyone thinks the same as me), the reasons I blog are multiple, but come down to:
1) Because I like to write
2) Because I'm lucky enough to have a pleasant audience, and I love attention
3) The faint possibility of fame, riches (I particularly like the idea of riches) and free exotic holidays
(Side note to any holiday companies reading - I would be delighted to receive any offers of free holidays, exotic or otherwise, in return for a blog post. Maybe even a video.  Essentially, I'll do anything except give you money)

But the bugger of it all is that you actually have to write stuff. Engaging, interesting content (oh yes, we all love the word "content") which is so good that people don't just enjoy reading it, they share it, and their friends share it, and before you know it you're surfing on the top of a viral phenomenon about how the entire world has read a post ruminating on why butchers at markets have sound systems to broadcast their offers across the neighbourhood.

So you write.  And write.  But if you're anything like me, you may get a little frustrated that your fascinating post about how you drew on your partners leg on Valentines Day hasn't actually quite made national news, and you start reading blog posts with titles like "FIVE EASY WAYS TO BOOST YOUR CONTENT!" and "HOW SEO MADE ME A MULTI MILLIONAIRE AND I WAS ABLE TO BUY MY SON A PONY!"

Of course, all these posts are by some smiley git in a suit...

Not this smiley git in a suit. This was a marketing pic for Hull College from far too many years in the past, I think the tie still fits me so I presume that I'm still as relatively thin as I was then...

The person in question will look like a very healthy and fit person in their late twenties, and be a social media specialist who has worked around the world for top companies in the FTSE or NASDAQ or whatever for the last twenty years, making them the household names that they are today.

Meanwhile, the post is always a top ten, or top five, or top whatever number list of actions to take to make your blog beloved the world over (and that's because people like lists, and yes I make lists sometimes too), and the post which the social media expert has written will be along the following lines:

FIVE - CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT!!!

Without the content you ain't got no readers, son.  Damn well write the best thing ever written in the whole WORLD!

FOUR - PROMOTE!

But that ain't enough, no sirree.  Get that dang thang promoted.  Everywhere.

THREE - CONNECT WITH OTHER CONTENT CREATORS!!!!!!

Oh my, haven't you done this yet?  Simply go and visit every blog, video, and podcast created in the known universe, and become that persons best friend.  And then say to all your best friends that if they don't like and share and subscribe and like and share and comment and subscribe that you'll die of chronic lack of breath.

TWO - USE THIS APP / WEBSITE THAT I'M AFFILIATED WITH!!!

Now use this app or website that I am affiliated with, because it'll do something absolutely magical to your content, and even though everyone was already reading/watching it on their computers, this will actually make your content burst into real life and drama student will spontaneously act out your content in the street.

ONE - READ MY E-BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For my AMAZING secrets of how to get that last person on Earth who, for some godforsaken reason, hasn't seen your content, to see your content and declare you leader of the human race.


And what happens?  You try all this stuff, and sod all happens.

But you know what?  Blogging is a great hobby, even if not one other person in the world reads what you've made.  You wanted to be a writer?  Guess what - you're a writer.  When you talk to people at parties, you can genuinely say that, and they'll look at you with admiration and warmth, because you're a writer.  Well done.

And the most important thing is the people that you meet along the way of your blogging journey.  The end of this post is a bit of a love fest, partially because I've finished my G&T (and it makes me feel better about monologuing about myself for so long), but also because these people are just a few of the genuinely really good and well worth reading bloggers that I've encountered over the years.

Life, Explained - by my good friend Tim, Life, Explained is funny, bizarre, imaginative, and sincere all at once.  Just watch out for that Dr Dawg when you stop by.

The Whacko - creation of the excellent Jeremy Crow, the Whacko suite of blogs covers everything and anything, and is consistently brilliant.

Adele Archer Writes - I always enjoy reading Adele's blogs, partially because she's in the UK like me (and we Brits are very much outnumbered!).  Heartfelt and with a standard of writing I can only dream of.

The Square Peg by S. Bradley Stoner - some lovely short stories here (at least I hope they're short stories and not true life, at least not the chilli eating one!).  He has a skill of writing conversations which are engaging and just something that I'm absolutely hopeless at!

Grandma Rose - I'm really drawn to Sheryl's blog, she seems like an old family friend which might be an odd thing to say about someone who I've never met and probably never will, but it's this sort of magic that I guess the Internet creates?  Go read her work :)

Good Little Indian - Ah, Rahul's blog, Rahul the ridiculously good blogger who uses social media the way it should be used, without automated tweets and actually engaging with people (yes, I do automated tweets and my engagement is... a development area, shall we say), he manages to take a topic such as "101 reasons to follow me on Twitter" and turn out a post which is actually well worth reading and I would hope has attracted more followers to him in the Twittersphere!

Christian Touchet - Christian does what I don't dare, and tells the truth.  Thought provoking, he speaks his mind extremely articulately. Every time I visit his blog I'm informed, and entertained - not an easy combination.

Lavender Inspiration - Nikki's lovely posts always make me smile - she dances in front of her children after all :)

Trina's Place - every day life blogs are my favourite type of blog, and Trina is great at picking at those fascinating details and bringing them to life, she manages to bring New Zealand that little bit closer.

Solsbury Hill - Mike Senczyszak is not only a great writer but also brilliant at photography, if a picture is worth a thousand words his photos are worth a million.  And he's Canadian, automatically giving him an extra five awesome points in my book.

The Gratitude Letters - I sometimes dream of writing something earth shattering, important, such a fantastic piece of writing, talking about how to live your life.  Then I realise that The Gratitude Letters are already here.  Beautiful writing that can make you a better person :)

Susan Joy Clark - Susan's blog I feel reflects my own, it's not all about a single topic, and I love how each post can be so different.

Blog of a Working Witch - I wouldn't dream (or dare) to miss off this list my mum's blog, I suspect that we both find out more about what each of us are doing through our blogs than by old fashioned talking! My parents have run their own business for fifteen years now, selling all kinds of weird and wonderful magical and new age goods by mail order (do stop by the Facebook page, it's well worth a Like, you get fun and interesting daily updates - today apparently is a good day for beer and fried fish!)

I apologise in advance to anyone that I've missed off this list, there's more bloggers than the above in my favourites and there's other great bloggers linked to on my blog, the simple fact is that I'm not as good at reading and keeping up with blogs as I should be, I spend far too much time drinking G&T's um, helping homeless children, yes that sounds good, to do anything else!

Well done for making it all the way to the end of this massive post :)

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Five steps to keep cool in a heatwave

For those not situated in the UK, it's been warm today.  In fact, it's been the hottest day this year, with temperatures up to 33 degrees celsius (91 degrees fahrenheit) with train lines buckling under the heat.

Weather is the classic refuge for discussion topics for any British person, but we've all been delighted to be able to shift from our standard statements of "Dreadful weather isn't it". "I'm fed up of this rain", and "When is summer going to get here", because summer is here, and now we're able to say "I like it warm, but not this warm", "I can't do with this heat", and "It's humid, that's the worst thing".

Now, until we at Corvus Enterprises come up with a successful version of our weather modification device (tentatively named YouWeather, patent is pending), there are a number of strategies that you can take to handle the heat.

One - apply sun cream


Make sure that you use enough sun cream.  The higher the factor the better, I personally like factor 2000 which is a bucket of lard and an umbrella.  Coat yourself liberally in it.



Two - dress appropriately

Discard those business clothes, indeed discard all clothes.  Go to work naked, except perhaps for a sun hat.  This has the added bonus of helping with that all-over tan that you've been after.

For the purposes of decency I've not included a picture.



Three - don't go anywhere


In fact, why are you going to work at all?  Ring work and explain that you're suffering with a mild case of sun stroke - say that you got the sun cream mixed up with moisturising cream, and when you went out in the sun the heat boiled the water in the cream, and you were, in effect, poached.  And spend the rest of the day looking after your own health.



Four - keep in touch


It is very important that you advise people of your current condition by posting regularly on Facebook and Twitter about how hot and uncomfortable you are.  This not only lets people know that you're okay, but also stops them from complaining on social media about how hot and uncomfortable they are, because you got there first.



Five - drink plenty of liquids

This is of course the most important, many people extol the benefits of water, and water is indeed a fine thing - I personally recommend the tonic version, mixed with a little gin.


And of course if you are off work there are many establishments that offer chilled refreshments which are very good for you.

Cheers!

I hope that this short and easy to understand guide will help you get through the existing weather without too much difficulty, and before you know it we'll be complaining about the cold and the rain again.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Summer 2016 call for guest bloggers!

We set up a swimming pool in the back garden - very nice, although I'm not too sure about the warning logos...

The one on the left appears to be "Look at people in water with big left arms" whilst the one on the right is "Don't walk away from people praying"?!?
Anyway, that's not what I wanted to write about today - I'm after a few guest blog posts to fill the gaps during an upcoming summer holiday, so if you might be interested, feel free to get in touch :)

In other news, we made a couple of videos today, one of me testing my wife on phrases from the Urban Dictionary, and one where she gets her own back, testing me on cross stitch trivia.  Please feel free to check both out!





Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Risking My Life


I have a love-hate relationship with water.  I love it, in that without water I'd die of dehydration, and hate it in that I've never learned to swim.

I've always vaguely thought that I ought to learn how to swim, but to be honest it's never been a priority.  However, recently I've encountered swimming pools, on more than one occasion. (And by that I mean two occasions)

The first was as part of a spa day that I and my wife enjoyed as an anniversary present.  After a surprisingly pleasant facial, and an absolutely agonising back massage - next time I'm going to get a pedicure instead - we hit the pool, and I spent an hour slowly walking up and down the pool, occasionally attempting to hold on to the side and lift my body into a floating position.

The second time was last Sunday at a birthday party held for one of my son's school friends - I was quite impressed of the choice of a swimming pool rather than a soft play centre (I have long standing issues with soft play centres, as can be read in past posts here and here), and being a childrens pool it was reasonably shallow, and foolishly I thought that I could use the pool as an opportunity to practice my swimming skills.

After slipping and falling over, getting wholeheartedly submerged, and thinking for a moment "I'm actually going to drown in three feet of water, " I somehow successfully found my footing and rose to my feet, water gushing out of my nose and ears as my lungs attempted to reestablish the normal pattern of breathing air.

My wife, to be quite honest, looked wholly unimpressed by the way that I had managed to save my own life, and if I hadn't known better was possibly even tempted to point out that the water was so low that there was every chance that I could have just drank it.  I argued that I had been let down by the floating noodle that I was clutching on to for dear life, it's supposed to be something that kids can grab hold of and float with, and yet it seems totally unable to support my well-built figure.

Sadly my son absolutely loves being in swimming pools and so I'm returning to the same pool in a couple of weeks.  Not to worry though, there's a shop that rents out scuba gear so I'll be prepared for the depths.  Plus I've been reading Tim's advice on avoiding shark attacks.

Finally, my wife's YouTube channel has received some positive attention - she's started up a flosstube channel (cross stitching), and is apparently reasonably good at it, looking at her views and subscribers - go check it out :)

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Unashamedly promoting my wife's YouTube


So, my wife has started doing YouTube videos, about cross stitch (colloquially known as "flosstube" - I thought it was some sort of deviant activity but apparently not)

Anyhow, in the first 8 hours her first vlog has been live, its pulled more views than all of my 198 videos combined did in the last 2 weeks, more likes than my channel got in the last month, and more subscribers than I've gained in the last 2 years.  I'm reluctantly forced to conclude that she's worth watching.

So, I made a video about how great she is, so people will have to go through my channel to get to hers :)


However, if you just want to dive straight into twenty minutes of flosstube goodness, here's her video :)


Saturday, 9 July 2016

Illumibowl - The Motion Operated Toilet Night Light!

Please note that I received a Illumibowl free of charge in return for this review. However, opinions are my own.

So, I was checking out opportunities to review cool stuff, when I saw this picture of a happy guy who was happy because he was partnering with a motion operated toilet night light.

I wanted some of that action.

Illumibowl kindly obliged by sending me a sample of the world's first toilet night light!

Here it is!


The Illumibowl is a simple but really effective gadget.  Basically you pop some batteries in, stick it to your toilet, and whenever you walk into the room (and it's dark) the Illumibowl will burst into life, perfectly illuminating your toilet.  It's really straightforward to use, and works really well - I've not had any trouble with it not working, or not detecting me walking in the room, or going off during the day - it just does its job perfectly.

The Illumibowl saves you having to either:
a) find your way in the dark to the toilet, falling over a dog/book/step/small child (I have that sort of house)
b) get blinded by putting the main light on at 2am in the morning

I have to say that I was a little sceptical about the Illumibowl, but when I tried it I was really impressed by how well it works - and, let's be honest, it's an awesome gadget to have!  Imagine having one of these and having people round to your house one evening - don't mention it, just wait for someone to return from powdering their nose, saying "Did you know that your toilet lights up..."

It's quite hard to blog effectively about Illumibowl, because you end up with pictures like this:


Which doesn't make it that impressive, which is disappointing because the Illumibowl works really well!  So, you might want to watch my video of the Illumibowl for a better demo...


To get hold of your own Illumibowl, you can buy them from Amazon here.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Chore Concentration


The graph above demonstrates my ability to concentrate on chores.  Basically, when I start, I'm on it 100%, firing on all cylinders, taking that task down.

But as time goes on, I start to get distracted.

Some chores are worse than others.  Putting clothes away, or washing up, for example, aren't too bad - I'll play something funny to listen to as I work, and I'm fine (at least until the show ends).  But take a job like tidying a room where a bookcase is.  It's a massive challenge for me to pick a book up, and put it on the bookcase without reading it for half an hour!  Especially if my wife is in a different room, and I can hear her coming so when I know she's about to burst in on me I can pretend that I'm dusting the book or something!

I'd like to say that my lack of concentration is due to my mobile phone, but I think I just like to distract myself :)

You see, I have an ethos of "continuous improvement" when it comes to doing chores.  What this means is that as long as the place is better when I stop than when I started, I'm generally happy.  If I've only ironed half the clothes, well it's better than when they all needed ironing.

I'd love to hear from you what your approach is - are you good at getting everything done?  Or is it a bit of a struggle?  Drop me a line in the comments :)

Enjoyed this?  Want more bloggy goodness but in a form that takes less reading?  Try my YouTube channel - you can even subscribe to it!  Also, on the right hand side of this page there's various links to subscribe to this blog, via a news reader, or by email, or even through something called Google Friend Connect (which I've never quite understood) - if you like what I do, feel free to hit some of these buttons to subscribe :)

Friday, 1 July 2016

Magic happens today!



(not applicable to anyone that doesn't get paid at the end/start of the month!)


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Little Party Parcels Unboxing!

Please note that I received a box of sample kids party bags and party bag items from littlepartyparcels.co.uk free of charge in return for producing this blog post and the linked-to vlog.  However, opinions are my own.

At the weekend I got an unexpected parcel in the post, which is always nice - it turned out to be that it was from Little Party Parcels, a UK company that sells party bags, goodies for party bags, and pre-filled party bags, with a wide variety of items and bags to choose from.

A tiny selection of the items we were sent - my son has taken ownership of most of them, and keeps coming back to help himself to a new toy out of the box!

The selection that they offer is absolutely huge and suits pretty much any budget - my wife was particularly taken with a double layer pencil case which was 90p, while I had great fun with a 35p superhero mask, and bag fillers start from just 4p!

I have to say that I genuinely think that what they offer is absolutely excellent - if you're having a kids party then party bags are just another thing that you have to sort out, and you can either spend time and a fair chunk of money going round shops trying to get a decent selection of goodies, or go to littlepartyparcels.co.uk and get it all sorted there quickly and inexpensively.  And the pre-filled party bags are even better :)

They don't just do kids parties, they also have a whole section of the website devoted to weddings and entertainments for kids there, which of course is always tricky - as wonderful as weddings are, little ones often get a bit bored!

My son picking through the parcel for his next toy!

Furthermore, Little Party Parcels are offering a special discount for blog readers - in the cart / view basket area of the website, if you enter the code BLOGTHOG10 in the coupon code field you'll get 10% discount on the shopping cart total!

I took the opportunity to ask Jennifer from Little Party Parcels why she started the business, and she said "I was a really boring accountant beforehand, worked long hours, thought that was what you were supposed to do. Had my daughter and knew I could never do the hours or the job again, fell in love with her and fell out of love with my job and accountancy. I did a few local small accounts for a little while but my heart wasn't in it and then after wasting money again buying packs of party goodies in all different quantities thought I would give it a go at only selling what you need (I am very careful with money and hate wasting it). It will never earn a fortune but I do get to the school gate on time most days. I have a couple of friends who are mothers and a grandma (plus my mother if I am really, really desperate), we all pull together and we somehow manage to send out most orders on the working day they arrive or the next working day."

Finally, I strongly recommend checking out our unboxing video - we had an awesome time playing with all the toys!!





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