Sunday, 24 May 2015

History is a curious thing

Photo by RachelBostwick, licensed under CC0 Public Domain

Let me start this post off with a health warning (in defense of myself) - I don't mind to be disrespectful in this post, and I'm aware that some of what I say could be construed as such.  If anything, this post is a sign of my own ignorance!

History is not one of my strong subjects.  When I was a kid, my favourite subject in the world (or not, as it happens) was astronomy, and I followed that up with chemistry, and then geography as a third interest (maps were awesome, with their interesting little symbols and things).  History was something that I was aware existed, but never something I studied, I always thought of history as "boring".

Now, we all like something new, don't we?  Why do product manufacturers make new items to sell? Sticking on them a declaration that the new thing is "new and improved" as if otherwise they might have actually made it worse but tried to sell it anyway?

And in the Internet age, I think this desire is stronger than ever. I have currently published a total of 397 posts, and having looked at my latest Google Analytics data, in the last month the vast majority of people visiting my blog have looked at posts created in the last month.  Where they've been nice enough to re

ad a post and then stay to read another post, the next post (and even the post after that) have generally all been in the last month.  Now, if I look at the history of views since the blog started off, the most popular post apparently is one I wrote just before Christmas 2013 about my phone coming up with the really annoying message "Your internet connection is unstable" (my phone still does this, by the way, and it's still annoying - what does it expect me to do about it, tell my router to pull itself together?) but it sure isn't attracting much in the way of attention now, because it's old.

Now here's the bit which might annoy people.

I don't know a thing about the 1700s.

As I write this (and I'll do some research after I write this paragraph to give weight to this post - but this paragraph is written purely from what I can think of) I honestly do now know a thing about anything that happened in the eighteenth century.  Maybe one thing - something in America. I think (and think is the operative word) that the founding fathers of the USA wrote and signed their Declaration of Independence towards the end of this century.  About 1780 perhaps?  And I can infer that as a result the American Civil War kicked off about now. Did the American Civil War take place at the same time as America freeing itself from British rule?  I'm assuming so.

(Now I'll find out just how ignorant I am...) - okay, the Declaration of Independence was actually signed in 1776, so I wasn't too far out with that.  However, the war was actually the American Revolutionary War and it started before the Declaration was signed, and the American Civil War didn't take place until 1861.

So, although I wasn't totally wrong, there's some really significant stuff that I got totally wrong.  And taking the eighteenth century again, there must have been hundreds of thousands of major and minor events that took place in those hundred years.  Having a quick look at Wikipedia, there was the French revolution, Britain conquered India, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ended, the Industrial Revolution began. Wikipedia lists a number of around 385 notable people that lived in that century, politicians, poets, crooks, musicians, artists, military geniuses, philosophers... well, I recognised 32 of the names. And of those 32, I probably couldn't tell you more than a sentence about any of them.

The world population in 1750 was around 750-800 million people. Imagine all of the interesting things those people experienced - the bizarreness that is everyday life, what they used to do for entertainment, what they liked to drink, their favourite recipes... however hard humanity has tried to catalogue and gather information, the amount we have lost over the millennia is countless.  Senet was a game played by ancient Egyptians,but the actual rules for the game... what are they? What information was lost in the Library of Alexandria in its (possibly multiple) fires?

Even more recent stuff - let's take Wil Wheaton.  I love Wil Wheaton, I think he's ace (as I wrote about here and here).  He taught me through his posts that it's okay to be a geek, and I remember several nights where I just spent hours reading some of his blog posts.

But, I have still only read some of them. He's been blogging for fourteen years, and I've maybe read a quarter of the posts, maybe not even that much. And I can't remember everything he wrote, nowhere near that amount.  There will certainly be people around that have read every post he's written, and one day I may be able to include myself in that list, but I can't think that it's in the thousands of people, perhaps not even in the hundreds.  And he's well worth reading.

I don't really have an ending to this blog post, it's been a bit meandering and ranty without having a real point to it.  I guess I'm just commenting on how we are forever making "new" stuff, but how much of the old stuff, which could be just as good - if not better - than the new stuff, are we losing?

Maybe history is worth taking a look at after all.

Do you like history? Or not?  Say hi in the comments!  And you could take a look at some of my older posts, like this one about Google Nose and some fun I had in CS: Source

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Integral Pen Drives are TOUGH

I found a pen drive earlier.


Thanks to Jeremy for the spam post on my blog yesterday, I particularly liked the Good Old Fashioned American Spam!

In other news, my latest video, VEGGIEBANG, is live.  It hasn't quite set the world afire as MEATYBANG did, but I hold out hope.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

And Now a Message from Crow the SpamWow Guy

Good Morning all you people out there in Bloggerville, this is Crow the SpamWow guy, and I am here to sell you something you don’t want, for a price that you can’t afford, and not only will you thank me for it you will make me famous and buy the next piece of junk I sell you too!

Over on this side of the pond, we have this guy named Vince, who shows up in infomercials every now and then selling crap. He’s actually one of the most famous purveyor of garbage since P.T. Barnum. We even use the very title “Vince the ShamWow Guy” to describe anyone who is a charismatic liar. I fashion myself a charismatic stretcher of the truth, but I don’t compare to Vince, my hero, when it comes to selling ice cubes to an Eskimo.

On that note we have a problem called spam which ties into the whole ShamWow mentality of the world in general. Well some people see it as a problem I see it as a hilarious little aside from ordinary life. If you were to ask a Hawaiian what spam is, they would tell you it is a delicious yet underrated meat product that just happens to come in a can. If you ask me about Hawaiians I would tell you that their poor taste in food is why we placed them on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I digress, the real reason the word spam is so popular is because it was the name that was given to unwanted e-mails by some clever dorks based on the fact that spam is an unwanted meat product.

Back to the hilarity of spam, I mean look at that can! How can you look at that can and say, wow I want to eat that? That is basically what I think of when I hear about the different types of spam that people fall for. As I look through my spam (for research purposes of course) folder, the only thing I can think is “does this crap work?” Well apparently it must or people would have given up on it long ago, wouldn’t you think?

In the interest of chasing off the few of poor Mike’s readers that have made it this far, I want to give you Crow the SpamWow Guy’s guide to becoming a connoisseur of fine spam .. In no particular order here is your menu ..

Porn Spam: I won’t get into this one too much, we all know what it is and we have all seen it. I get a little crabby that they don’t send pictures along with it anymore but the world she is a changing.
African Spam: This comes in two flavors, the first of which is the “Nigerian Prince” version. After you send the first 4 or 5 Nigerian Princes your bank account information in hopes of 5 Million dollars, you tend to give up, or so I heard anyway I am still on number 3 so I will let you know if that is true when I get there. Then you have the “Horrible Grievance Letter” version. The Asians seem to be perfecting the horrible grievance letter spam, but I do remember it being an African thing first.  As far as the horrible grievance, I just wish they would send them to me in English so I can tell if I want to get on board with whatever it is they think I should hate along with them. It must be pretty interesting to get them so passionate.
Middle Eastern Spam: I get it already Israel is behind everything from the sale of Louisiana to the United States to foot fungus. Give it a rest already.
European Spam: It’s all about that one weird trick that they know and you don’t, but that weird trick can solve everything from impotence to hair loss.
Good Old Fashion American Spam: Click like and re-share unless you hate women, puppies, your own mother, or days that end in the letter Y. Of course if you don't click like and re-share in the next 15 seconds you will come down with rabies, a cute and fuzzy bunny will die or God will punish you some other way.

Now of course, just because you know your spam, I am in no way saying that I have it all covered. There are still many people hocking an Etsy site that will post replies on your blog. There are still those that get a little too crazy with that "shared with you" feature on Google + but the jury is still out on them. Please feel free to leave your spam in the comments section below, and have whatever kind of day you wish!

I am Jeremy Crow the SpamWow Guy and I support this Spam!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Registrars

(Warning: I slightly touch on some macabre things in this post.  If you don't like reading about mortality, perhaps it might be worth skipping today's post)

We had to pop in to see a registrar today.

For those perhaps not in the UK (I don't know if the term registrar is commonly used globally - the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, seems to indicate that it isn't) I'm talking about a government official who records, for us, births, deaths, and marriages.  Let me say first that the appointment went fine, the registrar was very nice, all is fine, but I did start to think - births, marriages, and deaths (or as they are also known - hatch, match, and dispatch) are all events, and events that society have declared require to be registered - all this is fine.  But how do they decide who does what?

We all know what workplaces are like - some are great, some are... not as great.  Do you get registrars who really enjoy doing funerals?  Or do senior registrars make the deputy ones do all the deaths so they can enjoy the weddings?

Or is it vice versa - marriages are (mostly) always at weekends, so do registrars try to avoid marriages because you have to work a weekend, do they prefer doing births because they can do them Monday to Friday?  What about when you have a wedding at a hotel, is that annoying because they've got to travel out somewhere, they don't know what facilities are going to be available and they're going to have to rely on hotel staff doing things for them?

Don't get me wrong, every time I've had occasion to deal with a registrar I have found them to be nothing but professional, helpful, and friendly individuals (albeit with really weird pens that are hard to write with).  But they are human, and some of them must surely make mistakes, or have biases that they possibly give in to?

Don't be silent, let me know in the comments your experiences of registrars!

In other news, Eurovision is coming up fast - as I type this one of the semi-finals is taking place, with the final contest on Saturday night.  I made this video last year as an potential entry, but for some reason they've gone with a different artist... :)


Finally, as I get closer to my wedding next month I will be depending on the pile of guest posts I've collated (thanks everyone!) to keep the blog populated.  We've got some great bloggers so look out for them, and if you would like to do a guest post yourself, let me know!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Now then

Now then!

(If you're not familiar with the term, "now then" is a traditional Lincolnshire greeting - depending on the tone it can be friendly or quite aggressive)

I've been gardening today.

I'm not a natural gardener.  When it comes to gardens I don't have anything against them per se, but they seem to take a lot more time and effort than I feel they deserve - I rarely sit out in the garden, I would probably say that 85%-90% of the time I spend in the garden I am doing one of the following:
a) Doing something to the garden
b) Putting out washing
c) Going to the garage for hammers, screwdrivers, or (best case scenario) cake making equipment
d) Shouting at my son to not throw his ball into next doors garden (a pointless exercise but I feel that it has to be done)

So to my mind it isn't worth a huge level of effort.  Nevertheless, today I was building a raised bed for flowers and plants to go in - periodically we buy a number of plants in pots, which I then let die because I forget to water them, it's a sort of death row for vegetation.  Sometimes they get a stay of execution when it rains, but I know it's going to come sooner of later.

No longer however - in the future they will be in the flower bed, and hopefully (assuming I can hold a watering schedule together long enough to get them bedded in) they will thrive there.  It was relatively energetic work for me, but I do admit to a good feeling at the end, when you can see the fruits of your labours.

And it meant that I felt able to make the below:


That is hot tuna and mostly grated cheese on toast which has had Heinz Curry Sauce spread on it.  It was good.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Do You Like Meat?

So, I made a new video last week - let me ask you,do you still eat solid meat?!?

No longer.

Meet MEATYBANG!!


Apart from managing the miss the top of my head off the video, it's not too bad, and I hope to spawn a series of spin-offs - CRUNCHYBANG for iced liquid food, VEGGIEBANG for Vegetarians, and perhaps even SECRET VEGGIEBANG which looks like VEGGIEBANG but actually has meat in it.

In other news, Alyson Shane kindly featured the Travelling Book Project on her blogtalking about how the project was crowdfunded.

I've had a great response from people with guest blog posts which I'm lining up to go out in June, thank you to everyone that has responded.  If you'd like to perhaps get a post on here, let me know!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Elections - 5 things about working in a polling station you might not know

Attribution: Alex Lee (originally posted to Flickr as Voting in Hackney) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

For those in the UK, it's nearly election day.  On Thursday 7th May 2015 we'll get the opportunity to vote and decide who should be our MPs for the next few years.

I'm considering going to bed early and then getting up early to catch some of the results as they are announced - looking at the Telegraph website it appears as though most of the results come out from about 3am onwards.

I've always been interested in the elections (lots of statistics - I love numbers!), but this one is different for me, because it's the first one in a few years that I'm not working in a polling station - usually I'm one of those people sat behind a table in a polling station, dishing out ballot papers and ensuring that the poll goes smoothly.  Here's a few interesting bits about working in a polling station:

(Disclaimer: The below is purely based on my past knowledge and experiences.  It is not sanctioned by the Electoral Commission, or other authorities, as current, common or good practice)

5 - It's a long day

In each polling station, there is a minimum of a Poll Clerk and a Presiding Officer.  The Presiding Officer is generally there by 6.15am, to get ready for the election starting at 7am, and quite often the night before they'll stop by the station to make sure that the keys provided actually work.

We'll work through to 10pm, when polls close, and then do the paperwork, which takes about 20-30 minutes - quite often some of the paperwork we can start before polls close (labelling envelopes etc), but there's always still a good amount to do after 10 with packing the station away, and just making sure everything is done correctly.

After that the Presiding Officer gets to take the votes and paperwork to a counting centre (for me it was always one or other of the local leisure centres).  It's not unusual to get home after midnight if you've had a polling station some distance away from the leisure centre.

Don't feel too sorry for us, though - there is an elections team backing us up who coordinate the whole thing, have been planning it for weeks and have to do even longer hours, getting the ballot boxes, voting slips and paperwork out to the polling staff, issuing training, handling problems from several hundred polling stations as they arise, and then afterwards they'll be in the counting stations checking on everything at that end.

4 - When polls open, you can vote.

This sounds obvious, but even though we're there bright and early, sometimes it's a rush to be 100% completely ready for 7am.  We have a lot of different papers to organise and arrange, signs to put up, booths, tables, chairs etc to arrange, so the staff may get the bare minimum up by 7.00am and work on after 7.00am getting the rest ready, so please be understanding that if you do stroll in at 7.01am it might just take the polling staff a few seconds to double-check the exact procedure for issuing a ballot paper to you - the absolute last thing anyone wants to do is get something wrong!

I do recall on one occasion having a problem in that we didn't have an electricity connection at the time of polls opening (so you couldn't see a thing inside the polling station), and the first vote of the day was actually cast outside the station by the lights of the Poll Clerks' car - not wholly ideal but it worked, and to be fair to the elections team they were great in getting a chap out to sort things out as soon as possible.

3 - We can't leave.

This again is fairly obvious, and mostly isn't a problem (in a small station look out for the carrier bag of food and drink that the staff have brought in!).  That said, when doing the elections by teatime the staff are probably ready for a decent spot of dinner.  For me this generally involves a slightly odd phone call to the nearest pub or takeaway to the polling station, which goes like this:
 "Hello, Red Lion."
 "Hello there, um I've got a bit of an odd request.  Can you see the polling station just outside on the grass down the street?"
 "Er - yes, why?"
 "I'm in it.  Any chance you could deliver a burger?"

2 - It's not actually our day job.

We don't do elections every day (our day jobs may even be quite different - for me, for example, it's very rare that I get to deal directly with the general public), and so we might have to take a second now and again to confirm the right procedure for a certain issue.  However, we do get a handbook for polling station staff which covers just about anything that we need to do, and staff are encouraged to studied these beforehand so that if we do get a difficult situation we can quickly consult the book and take action.

That means that there's a good likelihood that the staff in your station were probably sat in bed the night before the election reading the handbook.

1 - We love you voters to stop by!

I'm certainly not going to suggest who you should vote for, but I will just say that it's great for the people in the polling station to have voters stop by.  Otherwise we're just some people sat in a village hall or portacabin waiting for 10pm.

I hope that this shines a little light on the other side of the polling station table, and if you are eligible to vote on Thursday I hope that you'll be saying hi to the staff at your station!
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