Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Book Fangirling Award

I wasn't going to blog tonight, but it's the eve of my thirty third birthday, so why not - let's make this happen!


So, I got nominated by my blogging friend Tim of Life, Explained for the "Book Fangirling Blog Award".  This is very nice, because I like to be nominated for stuff :)

Firstly, thanks to Tim for nominating me, it's much appreciated.

Secondly, I have to answer Tim's book-related questions.  Okay, here goes:


1. I have reread several books, just because I love them. Do you do that, if so which book have your read the most?

Yes I do, I tend to reread the same books even though there are loads of others that I want to read - it's something about how, if I just want to relax with a book, a book that I've already read is "easier" to read than a brand new one, which I tend to save for holidays.  I really don't know which book I've read the most, but it's quite possibly "The Man on Platform 5" by Robert Llewellyn, because it's a great novel.



2. Is there a time you think Fiction, no Non-Fiction? Sometimes I have to read something real.
Yes I agree with you there, for example if I'm on a train, probably going to/from a work meeting, if I'm not actually working (it might be that I haven't got my laptop with me, or I have but there just isn't room for me to work on it - I was coming back from London late on Monday, and even though I was at a table, the other 3 people around the table had loaded the table up with their stuff and there really wasn't room for me to get the laptop out) I prefer to read something like a newspaper, or a work-related magazine, because that's the mood I'm in, while if I've got half an hour on a weekend to read, it'll be a fiction book.



3. I love certain authors for the way they write, they way they can craft a sentence, a good sentence is wonderful. Do you have any books that you feel are just beautifully written, works of art?

Hmm... yes, I think the authors that I would attribute this to are Dan Abnett and Bill Bryson, both are, whilst very different, excellent writers who can come out with a fantastic turn of phrase.  For Dan Abnett, Know No Fear springs to mind, its probably the one Horus Heresy book that I've reread the most.  For Bill Bryson I struggle to think of a single book, but "I'm A Stranger Here Myself" was the first one I read and which hooked me into buying the rest of his books.


4.  When I was young I bought a used book at a second hand store called "The Beast Regiment." it was great, and I haven't been able to find a copy since then. Do you have any ideas for me?

It's hard for me to say without knowing what "The Beast Regiment" was like, but for an enjoyable book I'd suggest (drawing on my last answer) "Neither Here, Nor There: Travels in Europe" by Bill Bryson.  It's a few years old now but great to read.


5. Writing is personal, reading is solitary. But sharing a great book is such a joy. Do you think books are the beauty that can save the world?

Of course!  I think books are important even in this Internet-dominated world, because to read a book is to invest your time.  You can't skim through a book in a few seconds like you can a webpage, or even a YouTube video.



Now, I'm supposed to nominate some other people, and give them a list of questions, and I'm really sorry, but I'm not going to, because quite a few of the people that spring to mind have just had this nomination already.  Although I'm tempted to nominate Jeremy Crow anyway just to see what he does this time (see last time he got nominated here!)

Thanks for reading! :)

Monday, 27 July 2015

The launch of "The Worlds Funniest Status Updates In The World - Ever!"

Pic courtesy of Geralt at pixabay.com via a CC 0 Public Domain License

I was on a train today, and as usual when I'm on a train I did a little bit of thinking.

It was actually sparked off by a meeting I went to a few weeks back, where we were talking about Gamification.  Gamification is the art of using gaming techniques to improve performance in business - as an example, in a computer game you may get a reward of some sort (for example an achievement, or better equipment) for completing a particular objective.  Whilst the objective may be difficult to achieve, or even boring, the player is spurred on by the game.  And gamification looks to apply this theory to work.

One of the people at the meeting mentioned about how essentially we have "gamified" our social media channels - when we put things on Facebook, or Twitter, why have we done it?  In many cases, because we want those Likes or Favourites or Retweets or whatever to show that we are popular/funny aka successful.

Of course, the difficulty that occurs all too often is that you can't think of anything interesting to put on Facebook!

So, I had an idea for a book of funny, weird, interesting etc status updates that people could read to enjoy and maybe even to give them ideas for their own status updates.

I'm going to work on writing some up, but there's also an opportunity for you to get involved - maybe you have an idea for a status update to go in the book!

If you would like to submit an update to go in the book, head over to http://thoggy.blogspot.co.uk/p/the-worlds-funniest-social-updates-in.html and fill in the form.  Please read the terms & conditions.  If you're not happy with the Ts & Cs, don't submit anything!  But what I'd like to do is for everyone that gets a status update in the final book (or whatever it is - maybe an eBook, maybe it'll just be a blog post if I can't make enough of them) is put their name in the book, and a link to their blog/website/Twitter.

I'm sure as the days go on the idea will get refined/improved/binned so also feel free to comment or get in touch with your thoughts and ideas!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, 24 July 2015

A night watching the shopping channels




The other day, as an experiment (honest), I ventured onto the shopping channels. What I love about the shopping channels is how excited the presenters are about their stuff. Take one of the jewellery programmes, for example - the guy was selling various bits of turquoise jewellery, and he was saying how he'd been to Windsor (home of the Queen, don't you know) and he hadn't seen one bit of turquoise jewellery in the shops. At the time he was waving around a hand adorned with a ring equipped with half a dozen oval lumps of turquoise so big that the neighbouring fingers couldn't get anywhere near their bejewelled companion.  I mean, turquoise is okay, but it's not quite a diamond is it?

Then there was the amazing shampoo which 97% of people said was shinier than other shampoos. I've always struggled with shininess of hair - apparently shiny hair is different to greasy hair, but I'm yet to really work out what the difference is.

Another jewellery channel promised that only real gemstones was used, no glass or plastic - it does include agate, which, although nice looking, isn't necessarily the most expensive of stones.

Then there was a makeup show. Some guy was dusting a willing volunteer with his magical substance (ahem, accidental double entendre there), saying "There's some redness on her skin, some discolouration..."

Oh no!  Not discolouration!!  Surely she should just be put to death for the crime of discoloured skin!

For further tools to improve your appearance, how about a box you strap to your tummy to freeze that fat right off your body?  Or you can remove that unsightly body hair with infrared pulses (a fancy term for burning it off - I wonder if when you use it you end up smelling like burnt hair?)

And also there was a mattress which someone said "evenly distributes all your weight on your knee, your hip, your shoulder" which, to be honest, aren't the parts of my body which I ever thought of as being particularly good for managing large amounts of weight, but it's certainly got a unique selling point.

And of course, no trip through the shopping channels would be complete without blenders, and no less than 3 different blenders were shown, all promising to create amazingly tasty drinks with nothing more than fruit, vegetables, and perhaps a little water.  Funny though, they all happened not to mention the cleaning of the blender after making the drink.

All in all, a fascinating evening.  I can't wait to see what's on the channels tomorrow.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

10 Things You Learn When On A Cruise Ship



I'm going to conclude my series of blogs about my honeymoon cruise with some things I learned about cruising:

1 - If you go to the bar, it confuses the bar staff.

They expect to wait on you, which isn't what I'm used to - several times I went to the bar for a drink, only for the bar staff to ignore me, and just as I'm thinking about complaining a waiter comes over to take my order and more or less tells me to go get a seat and he'll find me.

2 - My drinks orders are possibly not posh enough.

I've ordered Archers and Lemonade, and Spiced Rum with Diet Coke, and on these occasions the waiters have had me repeat myself several times, all I can assume is that people are normally ordering champagne or at the very least gin and tonic, and my drinks aren't what is generally expected of a cruisee.

3 - It's amazing how many people cruise regularly.

We were looked upon with some interest for being first time cruisers, and one morning we met someone who had cruised 22 times.

4 - Ships layouts are weird.

Sometimes the ship layout is confusing, particularly when decks are blocked off midway. Are you on Deck 6 at one end, and wanting to get to the other end? Well, you'd better go up to Deck 7, walk to the other end, and then take the stairs back down to 6.

And don't even think about trying to go down to Deck 5 and walking along, you crazy fool.

5 - The staff are extremely good

Everyone says hello or good morning or some such to you, from the cleaners on up. they appear genuinely pleased to see you, which is obviously in their training, but it does make you feel good and welcome to be there.

6 - Money? What Money?

One odd thing is that when you buy anything, you don't use money, instead you have a card which is charged at the end of the journey.  I don't have any problem with this, but they also want a signature for every purchase also, which seems over the top - I just want to say "it's my card, just charge the thing and have done with it!" but I guess it's to deal with people trying to say that they didn't actually buy things on the ship.

7 - The lifts are BUSY.

Certainly on the ship we went on, because the decks used by cruisees go from 4 to 18, it's too far for people to comfortably take the stairs (for example - might you be thinking about going from the bar to the buffet? That's ten floors!) and so the lifts get a good hammering.

8 - You are on a ship!

The first few days I somehow convinced myself that we were in some sort of fancy hotel that magically relocated itself from day to day.

Then, about 3 days in, we encountered our first rough seas, and they weren't pleasant.  Not a big deal - seasickness tablets took the edge off - but be aware of it.

9 - Expect to spend.

Even though you've forked out big style for the cruise, expect them to try to get you to spend more, on such things as acupuncture, health and wellbeing treatments, craft sessions, photos (for example, for a copy of a photo we had taken with the captain we spent the best part of 20 quid), duty free... the list goes on. so do expect to spend on board, or plan accordingly.  That said, for the week I think we spent about £300 on the ship, which isn't a huge amount for a weeks holiday.

10 - Have respect for the crew!

The crew, especially the captain, have to juggle the demands of mastering a huge ship along with dealing with all of the annoying passengers. I must imagine that sometimes the crew must think that it would be a lot easier to get around without all of us complaining bunch on board!

So, all in all cruising is great. it isn't the cheapest holiday in the world,. but it's really great.

Have I missed something out from the 10 that you think should be mentioned? Say in the comments!

If you want to see what I brought back from my honeymoon, check out my MANEATING video where I test Norwegian chocolate bars!



Also, I've just posted a blog over on the Life Whacko about mortality and stuff.  If you're in the mood for a bit of deep thinking (deep for me anyway) go check it out.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Honeymoon - Part 2

(If you missed part 1 of my honeymoon blog, here it is)

Tues day last week visited Skjolden, a village in Norway's longest fjord, Sognefjorden.  We saw a glacier!

A bloody massive chunk of ice next to a lake near Skjolden.

Skjolden was nice although quite a small place - it was interesting to see the mooring process here, as opposed to Stavanger, where they (I assume - I was asleep when it happened) sailed up to the dock, in Skjolden a boat went to the quayside with a rope, which two lads heaved onto a metal lumpy thing (the thing that you tie boats to - it probably has a technical term) with the aid of a tractor.  At one point one of them nearly fell in, which was quite exciting.

On the Wednesday we visited Geiranger, probably the best known of the fjords and extremely pretty, although quite a touristy place.  I did get a photo of two Norwegian policemen:


And I dropped off travelling book 9 in the ticket office in Geiranger, I'm hoping by now that someone has picked it up and taken it away!

Geiranger was very beautiful, but there (apparently) is a limit to the amount of water you can watch fall down mountains.  We took an excursion up Mount Dalsnibba up some very tight and twisty roads (great fun because our coach driver knew exactly what we was doing, and a lot of tourists in hire cars coming the other way didn't), which culminated in staring into mist (it would have been a great view so I understand if the mist hadn't been there).


The last stop in Norway was Bergen, Norway's second city, and again a very beautiful place. We travelled up the Fløibanen, a funicular (cable railway) which goes up the mountain of Fløyen and is great - we were lucky to get a trip on it quite early in the day, it's a big tourist attraction and gets busy very quickly!


Bergen, taken from the top of the "funicular" (a very steep cable railway)
One thing about the cruise - at the start of the cruise we went through a safety induction, where we were told in the case of an emergency, amongst other things we have to take along with our life vest, is any medication we've brought for the trip.  How long do they expect us to survive in the Norwegian Sea bobbing around?  I don't think that I really need my sleeping pills for the 30 or so minutes I'll survive in the freezing water.

All in all, a fantastic honeymoon and one that has kickstarted in me a desire to go on more cruises!

Schindler's Lift.  It seemed funny at the time.

A waterfall.  If you like mountains and waterfalls, Norway has lots.

That would be Geiranger village right down there.
We thought that this was the Seven Sisters, but now that I've looked at pictures of the Seven Sisters I don't know if they just weren't on form when we passed, or if we've photographed an entirely different and less impressive set of waterfalls instead.

My pudding one evening.

And the view from our balcony on the way home.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Honeymoon - Part 1 of More Than 1...

Regular readers can't help but to have noticed (hopefully) a good number of guest posts on this blog over the last 6 or so weeks - well, this has been due to me getting married last month, and since then going away on honeymoon, only returning home yesterday.

We went to Norway for a week on a cruise, which was absolutely awesome.  While I was away I did do a bit of writing (thanks to my nice new keyboard that, with a bit of jiggery pokery, plugs into my phone) so I wanted to run through some of the highlights and interesting bits.

On the way down to Southampton we stopped at a service station, and went and grabbed a Starbucks coffee.  As virtually the entire worlds population has been in a Starbucks at one point or another, I'll assume that you're aware that they sell snacks, which are named, and so for simplicity Starbucks puts up a little sign next to the snack so that people know what to order (i.e. "Can I have a Venti Mocha Frappucino and a Cinnamon Swirl please?").  One of the signs caught my attention:

Thank goodness they told me.  I am extremely bad at identifying fruit, I do admit.

Yes, they put a "banana" sign next to the bananas.  I was disappointed to see that there was no "coffee cup" sign next to the stack of coffee cups, and indeed I had to use entirely my own judgement as to what was a chair and what was a table.

The ship we sailed on was the P&O Cruise Ship Azura, which is one of  P&O's bigger ships and has tons of facilities.

View from the ship, somewhere near Southampton.

The first full day was a day at sea as we headed for Norway, we started off with a lovely breakfast delivered to our cabin, and then we ventured out to experience a number of the many talks and events taking place on board.  Basically at any time during the day there is at least three or four different events of some sort going on for you to take part in (if you want).

While my wife went to learn how to work a digital camera, I went to a session on Acupuncture.  I've had acupuncture once, quite a few years ago when I was in a hotel on the outskirts of Dublin and decided to drink my way into the city centre.  I don't know if you're familiar with Dublin, but there are quite a few pubs in Dublin, and by the time I got into the centre I had experienced quite a few of them, making an experiment in Chinese medicine seem like a good idea.  At any rate, the session onboard was interesting and gave some good insights into Chinese medicine as a whole.

After that we met up and went to a raffle in the gym, (which we didn't win) but got to hear about all of the treatments available onboard. the treatments do sound great although I think you need to be prepared to spend money if you do want them.

After the raffle we stayed in the gym for a talk on toxins and detoxifying your body.  Now, I must admit that I had to take this one with a pinch of salt - at one point they started talking about the "bus of success", where the word BUS is a three letter acronym for something healthy - apparently "B" stands for "belief" and not a swear word as first came to mind.  The talk covered the importance of cleansing your liver as the organ responsible for filtering impurities (yes, good, fully agree with that), and mentioned an interesting point about how that you wouldn't eat sun cream, yet by spreading it on the skin it is then absorbed through the skin and basically ends up in your bloodstream as if you had eaten it (not that you should take this as a reason not to use sun block).  I did note however that one of the approaches recommended to handle the detoxification of your body was to book various spa treatments that happened to be available onboard.

That said, I did end up having one treatment myself, namely a hair cut, and they did do a good job.

On the second day of the cruise we visited Stavanger, one of Norway's cities.  It was wet and a bit cold and awesome - we got a CitySightseeing hop-on hop-off bus that took us round the city (and came with free wifi - after an entire 36 or so hours without an internet connection, my phone froze in delight as all of its many apps swallowed updates and data) which told us a lot about the city and about Norway in general.
Stavanger.  Well, a bit of it anyway.

Trolls are very popular in Norway.  So are moose, but I don't have a photo of one of them.

Compared to the UK things are expensive in Norway, but salaries are comparatively higher to take account of this.  I didn't realise that Norway traditionally was quite a poor country, but in the last century they found significant oil reserves and that has generated prosperity for them.

Part 2 to follow!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Guest Post - Dogs!

While I'm away on honeymoon, today's guest post by my father talks about their two rough collies, Maeve and China.  Be warned - sensitive subjects are discussed...


Three hairy things.


--------------

PET'S CORNER. (person's of a sensitive nature should read no further!)

CLICK!
As you may, or not know, we have dogs, beautiful, fluffy, staggeringly hairy dogs, bitches which I prefer to males - as they can be less bothersome in some regards, sometimes. Rough collies. They are beautiful, gorgeous, lovely, cuddly and wonderful.

They are also vile, revolting, amazingly intelligent whilst simultaneously really astoundingly thick!

I suppose this means, they are DOGS!

Maeve for example, is a lovely creature, beautiful, intelligent and as I said above, 'as two short planks' (according to my completely accurate world view).

Possibly she is hormonal?

Maybe the cold weather has affected her sense of smell?

Whatever, she has gone through a period of eating ahem, non-edible, non-food stuffs which are regrettably associated with (probably) male dogs who share the same daily walking circuit. (ie 'droppings')

Having eaten the inedible not to mention unspeakable, she has proceeded to return home and vomit her guts up in various rooms of the house.

This has stimulated a severe urge in me to chase her through the house with various murderous implements whilst screaming "Die you stupid *$!&$!", or words to that effect.

I hasten to add, these violent brainstorms have been confined entirely to my head where they merely raise my blood pressure.

(Okay, just occasionally I may have said "Arrrgghhh!" in a loud voice.)

My wife, ever a calming influence in my life informs me that when she was young, one of the old sheep dogs in her village was known for eating coal and handkerchiefs, and the old farmer who owned it said they needed to train it to shit on the fire. She laughed and I didn't.

The dogs are aware that my saying "Arrrgghhh!" in a loud voice means that I am not at all pleased right now and Maeve, oh dear Gods, Maeve will try to eat the offending deposits in order to clean up. She then instantly feels most unwell and naturally vomits again - whilst being chased through the house as I attempt to stop her moving about.

This dietary aberration has made her very sick indeed.

The answer I have found is to keep her on a lead at all times when out walking.
She is not keen on the restriction but her health has improved remarkably since I started doing this.

I did try briefly letting her run freely again once she was better and blow me, the same problem arose again, so now she walks on the lead ever hereafter and all is well more or less.

Note. By chance I met a fellow dog walker whilst shopping at the supermarket the other day. We exchanged greetings, enquired as to each other's health and as always said "And how are the dog's?". We both related copious information concerning our canine pets and she told me that her dog never touches animal droppings, rather it eats compost given half a chance! Dogs, Why do they do it?

But I digress.

NICER THINGS (readers, you can look again now)

CLICK!

In the deepest depths of winter, which have just barely relinquished their grip upon us, we were driven to purchase a small fan heater for the games room as the night light method of heating just wasn't cutting the mustard as it were.

CLICK!

Being a modern, though basic cheapo model, fan heater it has a safety device built in so that should it fall over for whatever reason, it turns itself off.

This is welcome. And it goes

CLICK!

China, the other beautiful, fluffy, intelligent exasperating etc dog has not the slightest idea as to how to play with a ball in the garden despite much encouragement, but she has discovered how to play with a fan heater.

You nudge it and it goes "Click!"

NB You do not knock the heater over, no, no ,no!

You just nudge it, it goes "CLICK!" and you can nudge it again.
" CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK!"

This gets mummies and/or daddies attention, which is amusing to a dog!

She has also learnt how to nudge Christine's right arm whilst she is working on the computer. This also gets mummies attention of the 'annoyed but also endearing' type, causing such comments as

"Oh China, yes we do love you, you are very nice, why don't you nudge daddy instead?"

China wags happily, the operation is a complete success.


Why not check out my parents business, Raven - they offer all kinds of weird and wonderful new age and magical goodies.  Head over to www.facebook.com/RavenMagical
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