Wednesday, 20 August 2014

I have dreams of an empty desk

I have dreams of an empty desk.

I've never been a particularly tidy person, and when I have to tidy, it's generally with the minimum of effort.  I remember when I was a kid tidying my room, which involved putting all of the mess on the bedroom windowsill, and closing the curtains.  This cunning plan survived scrutiny for about three seconds, after which point my parents said "Why have you got the curtains closed?", opened the curtains, and my ruse was discovered.

But my desk at home currently is a mess.  I'm right in the middle of making travelling books for the Travelling Book Project - about half of the books are now complete and are in bags to be taken to my parents who have volunteered to package and send the books out (thanks Dad!), while there is eleven remaining books which have been started but are yet to be completed.  As things are going I'm hoping to get the rest of the books finished by this time next week, so I can look at getting them sent out then.  For anyone that is expecting a book, I should warn you that they are being sent out by whatever is the cheapest delivery method available, so if you're not based in the UK it will be a matter of weeks before your book gets to you.

At any rate, in the meantime my desk is decorated with a pile of incomplete books, lots of cut out pictures to stick in the books, bookmarks, some "make your own snow" material (I have no idea why), paperwork, scissors, sellotape, and a stack of old collectable cigarette cards.

Speaking of bookmarks, thank you to the Not So Book Club Book Club for the cool bookmark which will be going in one of the remaining travelling books!




Sunday, 17 August 2014

I feel like as though I'm Sonic the Hedgehog.

I feel like as though I'm Sonic the Hedgehog.

Now, what do I mean?

I'm obviously not a blue spiky hedgehog.

I'm coming for you Robotnik.  Slowly.

Am I able to jump on monsters heads and blow them up?

No.  Although I'm tempted to do something involving jumping on the guys that keep rooting through my bins on an evening to see if I've thrown out anything interesting.

Have I been collecting gold rings?  Or racing down hills in super fast red sneakers?

No, and they're called trainers.

No, what I've been doing - is walking upstairs.

Now to clarify, we've just had most of the carpets washed in the house, including the stair carpet, so they're just about all wet.

Ideally, you don't walk on a wet carpet, you let it dry first, but it's difficult not to use the stairs.

My usual evening routine is that once I've done my chores, the washing up is done, the little one is in bed, I'll generally go on the computer for a couple of hours before bed, which is in our computer room aka the attic.  So, you have to go up two flights of stairs (from the hallway) to get to the computer room.

Now, if you're not familiar with Sonic the Hedgehog, it's a platform game, the object of which is to jump and run from platform to platform, collecting rings and defeating bad guys.  And sometimes when you land on a platform it collapses after a split second, so you have to be swift in your movements otherwise the platform hurls you into some unpleasant situation (usually involving water, spikes, or a drop of infinite length).

Tonight, I jumped from step to step, avoiding stepping on as many as possible, lingering only long enough on a stair to gain my balance and build up sufficient potential energy in my legs to bound to the next, until the familiar computer room carpet (which is beyond the capabilities of any carpet washer) was under my feet once again.  And so did I manage to avoid getting my feet wetter than was essential.

For those worried about when I have to leave the computer room - I have slippers now.

Or I might just stay up here until the carpet has dried.

Friday, 15 August 2014

I am Locutus of Borg

Last night I took part in a sleep study.

Earlier in the summer I've had little a bit of trouble sleeping, and although I've actually been sleeping better in the last month, before then I was essentially sleeping all night, and then still being tired in a morning.  So, I saw the doctor who referred me for a sleep study.

For those unfamiliar with what this entails, I got a load of kit to wire up to myself while I slept.  Cannulla up the nose, blood pressure monitor on a finger, three hefty straps around my body, and lots and lots of wire and tape.

The superhero t-shirt was part of the kit too, honest.

Fortunately I am very good at going to sleep because it isn't the most comfortable arrangement for resting in, nevertheless the study has been completed (slightly worried because the blood pressure monitor kept dropping off my finger in the middle of the night) and I look forward to hearing the results.

Meanwhile, things continue to be busy on the Travelling Book front.  I met with Luke Arran of Hull College's Student Union yesterday, who is being amazingly supportive of the project - thanks Luke!  Fingers crossed I will have a stand at Hull College's Freshers Fair next month for the project, details to be confirmed but watch this space.  I did take the opportunity to abandon a travelling book in Hull College's library, so we'll see where it ends up!

I've also received a load of bookmarks from Jody at Chilli Promotional Products, many thanks to Jody for her support and these will be going in a selection of travelling books!



If you do want to find out EVERYTHING about the project I have recorded a hideously long YouTube video all about the current state of the project, exactly what is in a travelling book, and the guidelines for taking part.  It is ridiculously long - over 20 minutes in length - so I don't expect a huge number of views, but for those who are due to receive a book (I'm hoping to start sending them out by the end of next week) it says exactly what they're due to get.


As always, head over to the project website (www.travellingbook.eu) for all the latest information, and do pop on the forum there and say hi!


Sunday, 10 August 2014

I'm writing a lot at the moment

I'm a geek.

To be precise, I'm a computer geek.

Not actually a very good one, I can fix computers but generally not very well, and I get stuck far too often to be a proper computer techie geek.  Nevertheless, I use computers a lot, and the vast majority of the time when I'm writing something, I'm typing it.  I'm one of those people that type up letters to friends and family and print it out rather than actually put pen to paper.  The rare time that I usually have to write a significant amount, for example in an exam, leaves my hand absolutely aching and begging to be put out of its misery,

Then I started the Travelling Book project.

And I now have a few books to write in.

pile of books for the travelling book project
This many.

And actually, slightly bizarrely, my hand seems to be holding up.  I'm preparing around 3 books a day - when I say preparing, I'm writing a page of guidelines inside the front cover, the title page, and the back page.  I still need to go back through the books and add in my piece about me, and then they will be ready to be distributed.  According to my spreadsheet, I have about 20 books confirmed to be sent out, hand delivered, or just left anonymously in odd places, so I hope to get these sent out by the end of August.  I am absolutely loving the project and am really looking forward to taking a huge pile of books to the Post Office for mailing around the world, as well as attempting to sneak into libraries and coffee shops and deposit a book, and get out again without being stopped.  I'm the kind of person that would never dare steal something simply because I would be so scared of being caught.  I managed to become scared just walking over one of these timber and rope bridges at the local park this morning because it rocks a bit when you walk over it.  So sneaking in and leaving a book will probably give me a similar level of excitement.

And I'll also say - Twelfth is a weird word!  Most of the numbers it makes sense, fourth, sixth, tenth, it's the word, plus "th" at the end.  Sometimes, where that doesn't quite work, a letter is taken out - nine become ninth, for example.

But twelfth?  Why isn't it twelvth?  I wrote "The Twelfth Travelling Book" in one of the books about half an hour ago (that gives you an idea how far I've got) and it really doesn't look right to me.

Now I've finished wittering about myself, go and take a look at Tim's blog, where he's talking about a psychological experiment with blocks and how people like to arrange them.  I appear to remember one at my work involving two teddy bears that kept being rearranged into questionable positions.  Tim's findings are much more wholesome, however.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Bang! And the vomit is gone!

Yes, if you couldn't tell from the title, this is a bit of a gross blog post.  You have been warned.

My son has just been having a bath (supervised by his mother), when he decided that the best thing in the world to do was to drink the bath water.

I remember doing this when I was little, I seem to think that sucking it out of the flannel was a particularly tasty way of enjoying this particular treat.  Disgusting yes, but it was twenty five (or more) years ago.

Now in my partners defense, I usually do bathing duties, but this time she was sorting him out as my back is playing up a bit and I wanted to get a start on some paperwork that needing doing.  My son has this trick where he floats in the bath, and lowers his mouth into the bath, to drink the water.  He's only done this occasionally, but I've learned to notice when he tries to do this and intervene, while I don't think my partner realised immediately what he was planning and he took full advantage of this.  You can always tell when our son is doing something that he shouldn't, and that he knows that he shouldn't, because he'll do it as quickly as possible.  He was knocking my birthday cards off the windowsill the other day, and when I told him "No" his response was to accelerate the process so that he could complete it before I stopped him.  So you can imagine, being given a split second to drink something he shouldn't, he went for it.

I heard some coughing and noises, and then my partner called up to me "Mike, can you come give us a hand please".  I ventured downstairs to find her drying my son off while he cheerfully announced "Sick!", and the water draining out of the bath, leaving a rather nasty looking ring of... well I'm sure you can imagine.

So, I got him a drink, checked all was otherwise well, and left her taking on the bath with the aid of Cillit Bang.

I bet they haven't thought about advertising how well it deals with that sort of stain.

(I will end this blog just to say that I too have cleaned various... substances... out of the bath!  Just not this time!)

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Blogger statistics are a little excitable

I use a system called Blogger to operate my blogs.  It's owned by Google, so it integrates well with Googles advertising system, pictures, YouTube... all the various services run by Google basically, so it just makes everything a bit slicker.

One thing however I don't quite get is statistics.

You see, Blogger tells me how many people visit my website.  According to Blogger, I've had just over 140,000 visits since the blog started, and over 33,000 of them in the last month (so, very roughly, about a quarter of them)

But Google already has its own statistics piece of software, called Analytics, which will be familiar to pretty much anyone who operates a website.

According to Analytics, I've just passed 7,000 views of my blog, with 315 of them in the last month, which is about 5% of the views.  Bearing mind I started this blog almost two years ago (apparently my first blog was on the 3rd of September 2012 - maybe I need to plan something for my anniversary!), that would mean that on average I get around 300 views a month, which seems more logical.  As much as I'd love to believe Bloggers statistics, I do feel that they may be a little optimistic.

Why the huge difference?  Well I'm not entirely sure, but I think it's to do with spiders.

Wait!!! Not the scary version with eight legs, but instead these are little computer programs that basically wander around the Internet checking for updates.  Websites like Google use spiders to make sure that they're up to date and that a web page hasn't changed without their knowledge.

On Blogger, these spiders also post a hell of a lot of spam messages.  Luckily Blogger catches them and hides them away so they don't get in the way.

Nevertheless, thank you to every person who does visit my blog, it's much appreciated.

I am going to mention the Travelling Book Project (because it's my project!), as I write this there are 35 hours left to fund the project, and we've reached 46% of the target.  Not to say that this isn't great - it is, and it's paid for the website, and it's paid for 20-25 books to be sent out, I was out buying a pile of journals this morning - but there is still time to donate if you'd like to, or to mention the project to your social circles to raise awareness.  If you would like to support the project please get over to https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-travelling-book-project asap, anything is greatly appreciated.  If you've managed to evade the many many mentions I've made of the scheme in the past month, head over to the project website at http://www.travellingbook.eu/ to find out what it is.  We now have a forum on the website too so feel free to drop by and say hi.

Friday, 1 August 2014

I dislike YOLO

I dislike YOLO.

If you're not familiar with YOLO, it stands for "You Only Live Once" and means that you should make the most of your life.  Now as a concept, I do agree - I do believe that you only live once (although I have no argument with those that believe otherwise, I certainly have no proof for my beliefs) and as a result you absolutely should live your life to the fullest.

However, the use of "YOLO" I just find annoying.  It makes me think of a weird mash up of Yoyos and Rolos, and I don't see how a toy that I've never been able to master can really combine with a chocolatey toffee treat.



As a protest, I tend to use YOLO in the most inappropriate situations, for example:

  • Does anyone want a cup of tea?  YOLO!
  • Can you photocopy me this document please? YOLO!
  • I think I need the toilet. YOLO!

And I urge you to do the same.

I'll give a quick update on the Travelling Book project - the funding campaign for the scheme ends in just 3 days, so if you haven't contributed and would like to, get over to our Indiegogo page now and take part!  If you want more information then do go to the website now (which I'd very much appreciate feedback on too) and find out all about the project.  The first Travelling Book has been released into the capable hands of the morning team at BBC Radio Humberside, who kindly let me talk about the project on Thursday, and I'm going to be preparing and releasing all the other books over the next few weeks.  I'm hoping to be able to release somewhere between twenty and twenty five books in total, depending on funds available.  Thanks again to Tim Clark who continues to support the project big style, this time putting quite a serious post on his blog about humanity and how the project could help us understand each other, which it certainly could, and I would hope at least that it has some kind of positive effect.  Fingers crossed!
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