Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Meal Planning

I was asked to finish off the weekly meal plan the other day - I tried...





Monday, 29 June 2015

Guest Post - Black It Was!

Today's guest post from my dad regales us of the time he cooked something.  To be fair he does a lot of cooking, and barely on a weekly basis does something ignite.


I burn stuff too - like this chopping board.


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


BLACK IT WAS!

A ‘black’ black mind you, indeed picture a ‘black’ black if you will, jet black a-smothered in soot and hidden deep in the bowels of a mine in the middle of a dark moonless, starless night, with the lights out, blackout curtains fitted as standard, doors locked and bolted as viewed by a blind person wearing sunglasses.

The frying pan t’was that sort of black – and the lid of the frying pan was of similar ilk!

I was alerted to the erm ‘issue at hand’ by the smoke and stench of burningness in the kitchen.

Being of sound mind and realising that impending doom was all but upon me in the shape of my wife Christine, I asked her to open the front door to let some air in and closed the kitchen door with me inside and scurried the flaming frying pan outside using a thick towel for insulation.

Note to knee-jerk smart arses everywhere – none of whom are present - I am quite certain, No, the correct thing to do was NOT call the fire brigade, or place a wet towel over the pan of fire.

There was barely 2 gm of oil in the pan – NOT 12 gallons of furiously combusting oil threatening to burn the house down!

Outside the birds sang and early morning sounds wafted gently around, and the over-warm frying pan complete with decorative flames was deposited on my log pile, which I hasten to add had been furiously rained on only the previous day, and was therefore most unlikely to also burst into flames and burn the rest of the estate to the ground.

Hot on my heels of course was Chrissy, hastening to erm, watch furiously over a situation already well under control and exacerbate any undeveloped hysteria, running up and down and associated frenzy.

Yes, the house needed fresh air to chase the smell away, otherwise things were alright.

Oh yes, the pan needed a good cleaning afterwards.

WARNING!

HAVE YOU JUST HAD A COOKED BREAKFAST?

BEWARE, THE KITCHEN COULD BE ON FIRE!

This message is brought to you by ‘Note to Self, Health and Safety Initiative inc.’

Erm, okay, I forgot to turn the hot plate off, it’s easily done.



Feel free to check out my parents mail order business selling all kinds of weird and wonderful magical goodies at www.facebook.com/RavenMagical

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Guest Post - Taking a web series from idea to launch

Today we have a guest post from Trainer Jodie, a YouTuber and Twitch streamer that I've followed with interest for sometime, TJ's own streams are great fun to watch, so I'm looking forward to the launch of his new Twitch channel as part of the All For Geek Alliance.  On the All For Geek Alliance Twitch Channel (twitch.tv/allforgeekalliance) Jodie is launching a new web show, Corellian Cantina, in the near future - stalk him on Twitter  at https://twitter.com/TrainerJodie for updates!



Taking a web series from idea to launch


           The creative process is an interesting one.  Everyone seems to have their own way to create the things they create.  However, there are some broad guidelines in creating that help to ensure the thing you are creating will be the best reflection of your talent as possible.  So, Today I'd like to talk about the process my co-conspirators and I used to create the newest series on The All For Geek Alliance: The Corellian Cantina.

Step 1: Begin at the Beginning

            The first thing I do when I start developing an idea is ask 2 questions: “Why am I doing this?” and “Why does anyone else want to watch it?”  This makes it possible for me to refine the idea into a series of goals, and helps me to gauge how to improve it as the show continues.

            For the Corellian Cantina, the answer to “Why am I doing this?” was already answered before I became involved.  Elias and Saturnaut wanted to have a show where they entertain people by playing a game they love playing: Star Wars The Old Republic.  After deciding this, they contacted Blair and myself so we could have a full party.  This purpose gave us the ability to define the purpose of the show and lay down some specifics.
1.    We are playing a game we love, so one of the most important aspects of this show will be we all need to be having fun. If this stops for whatever reason, we need to change what we're doing so it's still fun.
2.    We will be streaming it for an audience, and the audience needs to be enjoying it as well.  Streaming it through Twitch would give us an almost real-time link to our audience, making it significantly easier to gauge their enjoyment and make corrections as needed.

            The answer to, “Why does anyone want to watch it” helped us define the format.  Why would someone want to watch our stream vs anyone else on twitch?  What makes us unique, something people can't find somewhere else?  After throwing around a few ideas, we realized there was an aspect of MMO's that we hadn't seen streamed before: Playing on a Role Playing Server.  On these servers, everyone pretends they are their characters instead of just playing a game.  We realized that if we role played our characters during the stream, we would have a very unique show that we hadn't seen before, and it would be a ton of fun. 

            However, we also are fanboys and we will probably have fanboys in our audience, so we would want part of the show where we could geek out about the Star Wars universe.  To do that, we decided that the opening of the show would include latest star wars news and little features we would make about aspects of the universe we really enjoy.  Now that we had a basic idea of what we wanted to do, we could start full pre-production.

Step 2: Define and Refine

            After getting your idea to a pitch, it's time to define and refine.  Start assigning responsibilities, who does what.  Start figuring out specifics, like how long, where people will find it, what technology will you use to broadcast it.

            For the Corellian Cantina, We started setting up meetings and getting down to the nitty gritty.  How long did we want the show to last?  Would we upload previous episodes somewhere and if so, where?  How long would each segment last, and who would be in charge of each part?  After throwing out a bunch of ideas, we refined everything down to the following format:

1.    Each show would start with one of us hosting the show and bringing up any news that came up that week.  The host would rotate between the four of us and our two guest hosts. This segment would last about 20-30 minutes
2.    After getting through news, if we had some extra time, we would air a feature one of us prepared about something we like about the Star Wars Universe, like lightsaber combat forms or what flying the Kessel run in 12 parsecs actually means.
3.    Then, we would start the gameplay portion and the host would lead the story, with the rest of us playing our characters during the stream.  This portion would last around an 45 minutes to an hour.  We would create the entire story ourselves, without relying on the premade story included in the game.
4.    In order to keep to time, we would plan before going live what parts of the area in the game we were going to play, and end the show whenever we get to the end of that section.

            All of this will help us to have a good first episode, which is generally accepted as the most important episode you make.  This is what people will base their opinion of the show on.  But, there is one more important aspect of production that most people forget that makes sure episode 1 is as good as it can be... TEST SHOOTING!

Step 3: Test Shoot, or Go forth and Screw Up

            This is probably the most important part of pre-production, mostly because if you missed anything in the first two steps, you'll find out right here.  This lets you see what, if any, technology issues you're likely to run up against.  It will get you comfortable doing what you're supposed to be doing, and the most important part is it gives you a chance to screw up.  Failing teaches us so much more than succeeding, your goal during a test shoot should be to crew up phenomenally over and over again, so you can learn from each one.

            There are 2 types of test shoots, a Tech run and a dress rehearsal.  A tech run is just that.  You make sure all the technical aspects are workings.  That's everything from your streaming or recording programs, the game itself, and making sure all the people involved understand how to do their part.  This is not fun.  Ever.  It's a lot of starting and stopping.  It's a lot of doing the same thing over and over again, trying to get it right.  As frustrating as it can be, a good tech run with a lot of screw ups makes for a very smooth first episode.

            For the Corellian Cantina, our tech run was a lot of failure, over and over again.  The software didn't work.  The game had some issues loading.  Getting us all to the same planet took some time.  And we had never done something like this, so we had to figure out how to use the game itself to tell the story we wanted.  It was a bit frustrating, but it went exactly the way we wanted and we learned a TON!!!  after it was done, we scheduled the next step: The dress rehearsal.

            A dress rehearsal is a final run through to make sure everything fits together.  In general, you want to treat it as if you're actually streaming/recording.  Those little details that you didn't think about will show up, like when to take a breath, how hard on your voice that funny accent is going to be when you use it for over 30 minutes, etc. and everyone will get a feel for how everything is supposed to work.  This is the time to push through to get to the end, see what doing a full episode feels like.

            As of writing this, we haven't had our final dress rehearsal for the Corellian Cantina.  But, that step will finally cement everything we will need to do the final part of this whole process...

Step 4: The Premiere Episode

            Finally, after weeks, months, or maybe even years of work, it's time to reveal your work to the world.  This will be exciting and terrifying, exhilarating and draining, all at the same time.  Enjoy it, you've worked your ass off!  See how your audience reacts to the show, but don't think the work is over. 

            Once you add an audience, everything changes.  Humans tend to do that.  Look at how the audience reacts to you, and how you react to the audience.  Whether the audience is live or commenting after the fact, they will give you valuable feedback.  And don't be afraid to change things.  Remember your 2 questions, “Why am I doing this?” and “Why does anyone else want to watch it?”  If you find out aspects of the show no longer fit into your answers to those questions, change them!  Let the show continue to grow and evolve just like the people make it.

            I hope you are all as excited about the Corellian Cantina as we are.  We've put a lot of work into it and can't wait for you all to see it.  And I also hope that, by seeing how  I create something, you can become better at creating whatever it is that you create.  Be sure to check out the Corellian Cantina when it goes live later this summer on the All For Geek Alliance twitch channel :


            And feel free to subscribe to the All For Geek Alliance YouTube channel, to catch all the previous episodes once we go live:


            I can't wait to see you there!  And may the Force be with us all!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

And Now A Word From the Crow


I think we are all spending too much time with our DVRs and our On Demand to truly enjoy the finer things on television. The ridiculous commercials that need to be mocked early and often seem to go unnoticed in today’s day and age, and it scares me a little. To be honest with you it is the most important thing my father and I discuss when I go over and see him, and we can really chew them up. I mean you need to picture this in your mind; the new Oscar Mayer commercial for “Angus Beef Selects” comes on. It talks about what “other” hot dogs have in them, and this concerned mom with her spoiled little child sitting at the table as she puts that “All Angus” hot dog in front of him, and the first thing that comes out of my mouth is, “Because even black angus cows have lips and assholes!” My father lost his teeth on that one.

Of course regardless of which insurance company you use for your car, Geico commercials are a “stop the fast forward and watch” event. If you don’t then you really are missing out on water cooler humor, and that could get you shunned at work. At the same time there are some moral parameters to watching Geico commercials too. For example, Eddie Money is on his, God knows how many it has been now, “Fresh Out of Rehab” tour, and it is cruising through my state right now. They were talking about it on the radio, and how (probably paid to say this) they can’t wait to go see the Money Man over at the Hampton Casino. Every person that was standing in that line for that show, in the pouring rain, after hearing how they had to see him, obviously missed the Geico commercial. That one was painful every time it came on and I had to see the toothless old, lisping crack whore that Eddie Money became. Totally painful.

I know there are at least a million people who watch the Super Bowl, just to get their eyes on the newest and greatest commercials, despite the fact that they have sucked ass for the last decade or so. I still say the best ever Super Bowl as was the one with the voices of everyone from “Cheers” as pigeons, chasing down the Nissan to the soundtrack of “Top Gun” so that they could crap on it after it came out of the carwash. Seriously, if you have never seen it you have to look it up. That was of course back when Nissan was doing really good. You would think that they would get the hint, but unfortunately they never got the memo. Now when a car company comes out with a mildly interesting commercial everyone has to sit around and debate whether they were serious or not when “The Green Police” is playing in the background. Oh their serious folks and that’s why the commercial didn’t last that long.


Yeah the real reason people started wanting to skip commercials had nothing to do with not wanting to watch commercials if you ask me. It had to do with the realm of people that take themselves way too seriously. You see a Microsoft commercial and you just want to pluck your eyes out. You see an Apple commercial and you just can’t believe that things have to be dumbed down that much. Google really started closing the gap, just by making much better commercials for Android. If you don’t believe me I am watching some of the biggest idiots I personally know go out and get the new S6 and abandoning their iPhones. If you make a commercial to be entertainment then people will flock to it, and if you make it to be “artistic” like I think Microsoft does (but I don’t know it’s all crappy) or “simplistic” like Apple does (that’s got to be their thing I dunno) then it has all the pleasure of a trip to the Dentist’s office. 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Award Nomination Answers



So, Adele Archer nominated me for some kind of award, maybe for being a beautiful blogger...


Or perhaps a Sisterhood of the World Blogger's Award...



Either way, I'm humbled and gratified to Adele to seeing fit to select me to answer her questions.  The rules of the nomination are as follows:

Rule #1 – Thank the person who nominated you. 
Rule #2 – Add the award logo to your blog (steal either logo as you see fit). 
Rule #3 – Answer the questions asked by your nominator. 
Rule #4 – Nominate three other bloggers. 
Rule #5 – Ask 10 different questions of your own.

For my nominations I would nominate Tim Clark of Life, Explained, Jeremy Crow of... well... lots of blogs which have the word "Whacko" in their title, and I'm also going to nominate Gemma Taylor of Attempting To Be A Domestic Goddess, who's been reading my blogs for far too long and still continues to do so :)

And here are Adele's questions, and my answers.

1. If you could only eat crisps or chocolate for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Crisps.  I love chocolate but it gets too sickly after awhile, whilst crisps don't and they come in different flavours.

2. Which superhero power would you choose (flying is prohibited)?

Time travel.  And screw all of that "no visiting your own timeline", I'd be showing up all the time to tell myself what to do.

3. Who was your most embarrassing celebrity crush?

Hm... the Spice Girls? Or Billie Piper, or Sophie Ellis-Bextor?  (Can't believe that I don't have my signed photo of Sophie Ellis-Bextor any more!) Take your pick!

4. Would you prefer to die of extreme cold or extreme heat (you can’t say neither)? 

Can I type neither? Technically I've not spoken it out loud!

If not, extreme cold I think - I understand that your metabolism just slows down and you fall asleep and don't wake up.  Sounds a lot more pleasant than dehydrating to death.

5. Starter or dessert (you can’t have both)?

Dessert!!!

6. Which ‘Friends’ character most closely resembles you (sorry if this sounds cheesy but this is a real psychological evaluation and will speak volumes about you. Probably)?

Chandler - I try to be funny and I work in an office.  Although I do like to try to be clever like Ross.

7. When you were a child, what was your first choice of profession?

Astronaut!

8. What epitaph would you like inscribed on your tombstone?

Come too close and this stone is going to fall right on your foot.

(and the stone would be booby trapped.  Note to future generations: make the funeral itself as cheap as possible and spend the money on a party)

9. What was the WORST book you ever read (if it’s mine, I’ll kill you)?

I honestly don't know - if a book is that bad, I'd stop reading it.  Sorry!

10. What is your least favourite word (mine is ‘moist’, just for an example)?

Celery.

-----

My questions for Tim, Jeremy, and Gemma are:
1. What is your favourite time of year?
2. What is your favourite place in the world?
3. What is your best memory?
4. What are you wearing?
5. When do you like to blog?
6. What (if you have one) is your middle name - and do you like it?
7. What's your least favourite animal?
8. What REALLY annoys you?
9. Favourite hot drink?
10. Tell me one interesting fact about you that people might not know.

Thanks!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Learning Norwegian

Hei!

Image courtesy of Kurious via a CC0 Public Domain license

I had an interesting conversation a couple of weekends with a group of friends about languages, two of the people there (both non-British) were talking in depth about different languages and their particular idiosyncrasies, and I noted that I am just rubbish at any languages apart from English (and even English isn't my strongest subject!)

This isn't an unusual thing about people from the UK, we're apparently one of the countries in the EU most likely not to speak a foreign language - 61% of us don't speak a second language at all (and if you had said it was 70% or even 80% I would have believed you) and only 14% of UK residents speak a second language well enough to hold a conversation in it.

I suspect that this is down to the prevalence of English - it's one of the most common second languages learned in other countries, and I just don't think that we have the urge to learn other languages because there are good odds that when we do speak to people from another country that they'll be able to understand us.  (For the avoidance of doubt - I don't necessarily think that this is a good thing)

Anyway, ahead of my honeymoon next month when we're cruising around the Norwegian Fjords (not long to go - I can't wait!), I'm attempting to learn a small amount of Norwegian - I do feel that it's important to try to learn at least a few words, at the very least I'd like to be able to say hello and ask people if they can speak English before launching into, what is for them, a foreign language.

To this end, I've been immersing myself in a variety of YouTube videos and channels, and I've been having a great time learning the basics.  I've got a few weeks before I go away and I hope to be able to at least politely introduce myself, buy stuff, thank people and say goodbye by the time I go away (or failing that at least ask them if they speak English in their own language!)

The YouTube channels I've been watching are below, I do particularly recommend "Learn Norwegian with NorwegianClass101", their videos are very good, but they're all well worth a watch.

Learn Norwegian with NorwegianClass101 - https://www.youtube.com/user/NorwegianClass101
ThatNorwegianGuy - https://www.youtube.com/user/ThatNorwegianTv
MazzaazzK - https://www.youtube.com/user/MazzazzK
Michelle Alexandra - https://www.youtube.com/user/MichelleAlexandra1

Ha det bra!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Fathers Day

Pic courtesy of eloisa from Pixabay on a CC0 Public Domain license.
I searched for "Fathers Day" and this came up.  Beer in the snow - a must!

Today it's Fathers Day.

I was surprised to discover that it's Fathers Day both in the UK and in the US (and quite a few other countries), we tend to have different dates for days such as this, so it makes a refreshing change to be able to make a post that a reasonable amount of people will recognise, rather than thinking "Why is he blogging about this today?!?"

Nevertheless, for those from countries that it isn't Fathers Day (according to Google Analytics, that would be the 5.5% of visitors I get from Romania, Germany, and Australia - welcome), do feel free to put this blog in your bookmarks and read it on the appropriate day.

I tried searching for details about the history of Fathers Day on the net, and rapidly found various websites arguing about the origins of Fathers Day - it might date from around the start of the twentieth century, after the Monongah mining disaster, whilst other websites argue that it is actually a Pagan ritual, which may or may not have been absorbed into Christian beliefs (and seem to argue far more amongst themselves as to whether this makes it "good" or not - I don't have problems with any faith people follow, however that also means that I don't have a problem with something actually being a Pagan ritual as opposed to a Christian ceremony, and in addition I don't necessarily think that arguing over which faith a certain event originated from, probably several thousand years ago, is the best use of anyones time)

I do think that there is something to be said for considering the meaning of something today, as opposed to its origins possibly thousands of years ago - for example today the meaning of Fathers Day for me it's spending time with my family, hopefully not doing too many chores and taking some beer round to my dad.  Dad is probably well known to regular readers for his brilliant guest blog posts, one which I particularly like is an older one about his experiences at the bank.  I've been forced to deal with the banks a fair bit recently due to wedding and honeymoon stuff, one particular anecdote I have is for the holiday flagging of debit cards.

Both myself and my wife have debit cards with Santander.  No problem with Santander themselves - they've been very helpful in some ways, in others they're as good as any other bank, and their 123 account has some nice features.

So, I went in to a branch to warn them that I would be going on holiday and that my debit card would be going with me.  I was told that I would have to ring their telephone line (which I could do in-branch) and tell the call centre.

Now, just taking a minute to analyse this, because it's something that we all take for granted, why is it that the people in the branch can't handle this?  Why is it that when it comes to our debit/credit cards, we have to ring the call centre?

I've had a similar issue before with HSBC when they've identified a fraudulous transaction (which is absolutely 100% excellent work, well done HSBC), they rang me and then attempted to get me to prove that I am who I say I am - even though they rang me, not the other way around - I then went in to the local HSBC branch because I'm not comfortable speaking to this random person who rang me up and refuses to prove that they are from my bank, but all that the branch staff can do is ring the call centre themselves.

Anyway, I spoke to the person at the call centre, who interrogated me in great detail as to exactly when I would be leaving the country, where I would be going, and when I would be returning (I admit to you all that some of the timings I guessed - I'm going on a ship, and I'm not exactly sure when the ship will be sailing, never mind the moment when it will leave British waters).  At the end of the process he told me that they might flag transactions as suspicious anyway, and if they did they'd ring me to check that I was the person using the card.

Meanwhile, my other half rang them, and was told that she didn't need to let them know as we weren't going outside of Europe!

Dad, me, and the dude at Little Weighton Steam Engine Rally a couple of years back.

Anyway, if you're celebrating Fathers Day, either as a father, or doing something for your father, I hope it goes well.


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