Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Christmas Tag


I saw this tag blog on Styleaked (great blog Charlotte) and thought it was a great idea so while it's still the Christmas period I decided to have a go.

1. What is your favourite Christmas film?

I'd have to say Scrooge with Alastair Sim - it's something of a tradition that sometime at Christmas I watch this film (I think this year is the first I can remember when I haven't seen it), Alastair Sim does a great job at being Scrooge.  The one with Patrick Stewart is very good too but I have to say that I've not seen this one bettered.

2. Have you ever had a white Christmas?

Not as far as I can remember although it's probably happened, I do remember one winter in the 1980s (1986/7 maybe) when we had loads of snow and it hung around for ages but I've no idea if it was Christmas or not.  Snow seems to come more in January/February nowadays (climate change I guess...)

3. Where do you usually spend your holiday?

Christmas morning is spent seeing family, and then back home for the afternoon for dinner (and a beer!)

4. What is your favourite Christmas song?

The one that comes to mind is "Driving Home for Christmas" by Chris Rea.  I remember in particular listening to that one Christmas Eve, driving along Clive Sullivan Way back home after work.

5. Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?

No!  I'm quite a stickler for presents being opened on Christmas Day, not before.

6. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?

Um - Rudolph, Blitzen, Flitzen, Lightning, Bing, Zipper, Dancer, Prancer?

No, I can't.

7. What holiday traditions are you looking forward to most this year?

Just having some time to watch TV, read books, play games and stuff.  It's always nice to have some downtime.

8. Is your tree real or fake?

Fake!

9. Be honest. Do you prefer giving or receiving gifts?

I don't think that I could enjoy receiving gifts at Christmas if I hadn't been generous giving them also, so I can't really choose.  Sorry!

10. What would be your dream place to visit in the festive season?

That's tough - I always want to be close to home with my family, but there are places that I'd like to visit.  The German Christmas Markets have always sounded appealing, and I'd be really interested once to see what Christmas is like in Australia, when it's really hot and sunny instead of freezing cold!

11. Do you make New Years Resolutions and do you stick to them?

Not as a rule (although I have this year - see my video!) and the reason that I don't normally is because I don't stick to them.  I seem to recall reading somewhere that you're less likely to actually do something if you write it down, or tell people that you're going to do it, because in your mind these actions kind of feel like you've started doing the thing, and so can put it off.  I'd rather secretly achieve the thing that I want to do, and then announce it as a fait accompli.

That was good fun!  Anyone reading this is free to have a go at the Christmas tag, if you do let me know in the comments that you've done it and where!

Before I go - as I say, I have a new video about my new years resolution (spoiler - it's not to learn how to swim.  Or cycle.), feel free to check it out!  If I don't blog tomorrow happy new year!



Monday, 28 December 2015

Happy holidays!

Hello!

Well wherever you are in the world, I hope you had a good Christmas / holiday period.  It's been fairly quiet at mine with lots of unhealthy food, movies, and the odd nap.  I am working my way through Bill Bryson's latest book (The Road to Little Dribbling) and I have to say that I'm really enjoying it, I'm going to be sad when I finish it and I won't have any more of his travel books to read for the first time.  I think Bryson's appeal is in that he is so easy to relate to - I can quite imagine having similar challenges and misadventures if I had the opportunity to travel to new places under my own steam without my wife's steer or the enforced sensibilities of travelling with a family.  (That gives me an idea for a future blog, actually)

I'm very pleased to have done a little bit of DIY to my Sennheiser PC 350 headset that I won several years ago (for the story - and video - click here) - the ear cushions, over the years, have become flatter and flatter until they don't really resemble padding any more and rather just appear to be two plastic ovals with a bit of black fabric hanging off them.


I was expecting them to require superglue or at the very least a screwdriver with an unusual head (to make it more difficult) so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they snap out of place and then the replacements snap into place, and voila, the headset now has lovely thick cushions to envelop my ears during those long gaming sessions.


Today I think it's going to be a slightly busier day as I really need to get some washing done (with the aid of my evil tumble dryer - do anticipate a future blog post on this subject) and perhaps even think about vacuuming.

How has your Christmas been?  Are you still off or back at work?  Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Cake!

I don't enter a huge amount of competitions but one that I noticed that raised my curiosity was one for winning a cake that you received in the mail.  This seemed like a somewhat bizarre idea, yet the BakerDays Letterbox Cakes look great, are customisable, and (apparently) can survive the Royal Mail.  So when I saw the blog about them on Chapters of Kat I didn't hesitate to enter the competition.

And I won!  This was ideal as one of the things that my son had asked was at Christmas "Can we have cake?" and he doesn't mean a traditional Christmas cake, he just wants a slice of vanilla sponge (chocolate would also be acceptable, I suspect).

The cake was duly ordered and within a few days I was washing up at home when a box came through the letterbox and toppled onto the laminate floor, upside side, with a heavy thud.

That'll be the cake ruined, I thought to myself, but I'm pleased to say that it wasn't the case - the cake came in a metal tin just its size, along with a Christmas cracker and a couple of sheets of information about the company.

Obviously the cake hasn't been sampled yet but with any luck it'll be a great surprise Christmas present!

A very anonymous box...

Aha!

Cake customised as requested!

For more info about these cakes go to http://www.bakerdays.com/

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Now then, Cortana!

I was informed today that Cortana, the Windows 10 personal assistant, is available for me to use.  The grey search box that I use to find various programs and things on my PC now says "I'm Cortana. Ask me anything."

Now, many Windows 10 users will have to trying out Cortana for months now, but I've just received access to it, I think because I'm in the UK and we have a different language set to the US (no problem there, I have been and continue to be surprised by the differences between British English and American English).  I'm vaguely aware of Cortana being something that you can ask questions of, ask it to do things, all kinds of usefulness, a bit like Siri on the iPhone, I assume.




I will say that I came with a certain amount of scepticism as my past experience of speech recognition generally ends up with me yelling at the computer "DEAR - MISTER - SMITH.   NO, DELETE SCYTHE, I DON'T WANT TO WRITE SCYTHE. OH GOD, DELETE "I DON'T WANT TO WRITE SCYTHE OH GOD". SMITH. DELETE SMURF. WHY WOULD I WRITE A LETTER TO MISTER SMURF? STOP IT! CANCEL STOP ARGH" and so forth.  That said, I have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of speech recognition on my phone, and so held out greater hopes for Cortana.

It didn't go too well when, attempting to configure my headset, Windows informed me that the microphone on my headset wasn't good enough and although I could still try configuring it, hinted that really I've just not been buying good enough gear to speak to the high and mighty Cortana.

After that hiccup, however, I actually found Cortana quite good fun.


Here's some of the things I asked Cortana, and her responses.

"Hey Cortana, what do you look like?" - a seamless string of binary numbers.

"Hey Cortana, tell me a joke." - What has one horn and gives milk? A milk truck.

"Hey Cortana, do you like me?" - I do.

"Hey Cortana, will you marry me?" - I'm not one to throw a spanner in the works but as an AI I can't do that yet.

"Hey Cortana, do you like cheese?" - It really ties a pizza together.

"Hey Cortana, how are you?" I am tip top today.  How are you?

"Hey Cortana, do you believe in Santa?" - I do. I'll be keeping an eye out for him.


You can also play rock paper scissors with Cortana, she'll sing for you, and do "impressions" which for me was a Buzz Lightyear impression so bad it made me laugh. So far Cortana's pretty good fun.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Mice

I don't like mice.

Actually, that's not true.  I'm perfectly happy with mice, depending on the situation.  In a field?  Fine.  I'd fully expect to see a mouse in a field, or peeping around a tree in a forest.  Basically, in a natural environment, I expect to see small furry things. I am down with that.

And, I'm also okay with mice as pets.  You have a cute pet mouse in a cage or some such thing?  No problem at all, sonny Jim!  I bet that they're quite cute things to stroke and pet and stuff,

What I'm not okay with is the wild variety of mice, inside my house.

Mice are a common issue where we live, we're close enough to a railway line and a good chunk of grass (this would be a "footgolf" course aka a mashup of football and golf, quite good fun actually) for mice to thrive, and periodically they venture into the houses nearby, for food, shelter, and to terrify humans.

And I really don't like them.  It's ridiculous - there is pretty much nothing that a mouse can do to me.  I certainly don't want them in the house (spreading bugs and stuff), but all it takes is for me to hear one of them scratching around, or - even worse - see one dash across from one side of the room to the other, for me to jump around shouting at them, as though the sheer power of shouting will make every mouse in a five mile radius say "Hey, you know what?  That field was a far better place to live than the dry, warm building full of food. Let's go!"


In other news, I've won a cake (more details likely to follow in a future blog), and I've made a video giving 5 tips for guys (entirely applicable to females also) ahead of Christmas.  It's getting close now and if you haven't done the things in the video yet then I'd recommend cracking on.


Thursday, 10 December 2015

Google News

Sometimes I struggle for something to blog about.  Sometimes (like the last few weeks) I've been busy/not had the motivation/been lazy/just been playing Assassins Creed too much to blog.

And sometimes life makes it really really easy to write.


Google News is a news aggregator, that pulls together various news reports and puts them in one place for easy reading.  And I use it all the time, at least once a day I'll be on there seeing what's happening in the world.

I'm just interested in what are the "top stories" at the moment.

Number one - delays on the UK Government decision to build an expansion to an airport - well, I wholly understand that being a top news story, my understanding is that the UK is apparently very restricted on the number of air journeys it can handle (at least around London) and needs more capacity - but of course that causes a great deal of environmental damage, costs a lot of money, causes disruption and so on, so it's something a lot of people have strong opinions on.

Number two is an article about the ethics of banning Donald Trump from your country.  As I write this on the UK Government Petitions website there is a petition, signed by very nearly half a million people (and I wouldn't be surprised if by the time I post this the petitioned had passed that mark), to ban Donald Trump from entering the UK.  So yes, it's certainly current news.

Number three is a live blog revealing the primary school league tables for East Lancashire.  Apparently Turton Belmont Primary School are named as the top school in Blackburn with Darwen.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm sure if you live in East Lancashire and you've got pre-school children this news may well be important, but I'm just the slightest bit surprised that it ranked above the war in Syria, the refugee crisis (no sign of it in top news), or the UN climate change conference in Paris (which didn't appear anywhere in my news list, even though it's moving into the last day of talks, a new draft proposal came out two hours ago which apparently is getting less disagreement, and it is hoped that an agreement will  be reached tomorrow)

I guess while Google News makes it easy to get updates, it isn't quite the sole source of news information we should all rely upon just yet.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Stuff

I haven't blogged for a few days (in fact more than a few days), mainly because I've been busy playing Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag

Now, I'm aware that it's not a new game, but I've only recently got it and it's really good.  If you haven't encountered the Assassins Creed games before, basically you get to play some sort of sneaky chap that runs around, stabbing people.  There's a lot of intricacies, like the ability of your fellow to climb virtually anything (except rocks - he's rubbish at rocks.  I mean, give him a brick wall with a tiny ledge or a broken twig and he can clamber up that just fine, but a load of rocks blows his mind), in fact he's addicted to climbing and leaping off things - accidentally run too close to a wall and you'll find him leaping up and over it like a gymnast.

There's a back story where there's some sort of way of going back in time via DNA, and you're actually a geek in the present using a machine to record stuff that happened in the past, but the stuff in the present (at least so far) is pretty boring, as in the present you're a guy in an office with a tablet, and in the past you're a pirate with a pirate ship, guns, swords, bombs, and poison darts (my favourite being berserk darts - shoot someone with one of these and they'll run around killing anyone else nearby, before keeling over dead themselves)

There are some bits which are "convenient", shall we say.  For example, guards seem to be amazingly laid back about their friends, only metres away, being dragged into bushes gurgling.  If I was one of those guards I'd be thinking "Where's Terry?  Steve?  Bob? Andrea?  They all went off to look at that bush because they thought they heard something, and then they made a choking noise and stumbled into the bush.  Perhaps it might be worth shooting the hell out of the undergrowth before the same thing happens to me!" but of course that's just me.

There's a lot of commanding your ship too, and that's good fun - you get to attack and board other ships, building up your own fleet.

As an aside, I should say that all of the screenshots I took didn't come out well - I must have had my settings wrong, as they're all quite pixelated.  Just trust the captions.

Here I am, tipping someone overboard after stabbing them a lot.  This always feels really cool.
Building a fleet sounds like fun, it does result in being able to send your ships off on quests to get more loot, but it also has a terminally dull sub game where you make to make ship routes safe by attacking the routes again and again in an endless cycle of repair ships - attack the route - repair your ships - attack the route again which gets boring pretty quickly.  Most annoying of all is that the routes get dangerous again far too quickly. 

Here I am, in the sub game, with three of my ships kicking the hell out of a little gunboat.
That aside, it's a fun game with a really open feel to it.  If you fancy sailing around for a bit, that's fine.  If you find an island that looks a bit interesting, there's nothing stopping you from dropping anchor, and jumping off the side to go check it out.  I must admit that I'm not a huge fan of stealth - I much prefer to run at an enemy from behind and skewer him - but it is essential at some points.

And at the end of the day, you can sail off into the sunset.
For me though, the ability to do cool looking stuff quite easily is nice.  I remember when I was really early on in the game - it's essentially an area to "practice being stealthy" by walking through bushes, and whistling at guards until they would come and investigate (resulting in me dragging them into the bushes for an unhappy end), until all the guards were dealt with and there was just some sort of boss bad guy with a pair of bodyguards immediately in front of him.  I decided to stuff being stealthy and run at him full pelt, expecting to get into some sort of big sword fight.  Instead, my character pushed the bodyguards out of the way and impaled the boss without any sort of resistance.  It brings back memories of Path of Neo, where you could do some amazingly impressive moves by frantically hitting all of the control keys as quickly as possible.

In summary it's a big game, lots of opportunities to explore, with a good storyline.  It's well worth a play,

Finally, on Tuesday it's pretend to be a time traveller day, so I'm wheeling out my video from last year where a man from the past tries to find food.

And yes, I did really eat shower gel in it.


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Guest Post - New Boots

Today's guest post from my dad talks about his discoveries whilst purchasing footgear.

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


Thanks to LJ- for the image



NEW BOOTS!

It was as documents go, small, restrained, brief even, not a 36 page instruction manual embracing 999 thousand words and in all honesty I really can't complain, such was its brevity.

A bare two A4 sides of instructions, an utterly trivial 1,562 words explaining the instructions, regulation, care, maintenance and use of 'A PAIR OF BOOTS!'

Now I hate to blow my own trumpet but I really thought that I had mastered 'How to wear a pair of boots' long, long ago, I seem to think them go on your feet?

Ah not so easy, it is assumed in this day and age that anyone buying a pair of boots may possess minus 'infinity intelligence', and all you would ever need to know about boots, and a lot more besides, would have to be spelt out to you, in great detail. What follows is but a taster.

To be honest, 'they' did assume that you knew how to put boots on your feet, so what else did you need to know? Well for a start, you MUST NOT clean the boots with Caustic Soda! (who in their right mind would ever ..... ?)

Indeed, when the boots are dirty, they insist that you must clean them (without Caustic!), allow them to dry naturally - forced drying is forbidden and you must store them in a cool, dry area when not in use, and most certainly not expose them to impacts exceeding 200 Joules or compression greater than 15,000 Newtons.

Perhaps unlike the average passerby in the street I do happen to understand a smattering of scientific type weird shit (aka jargon) having worked in a laboratory for twenty years, but precisely what in everyday terms a compression of 15,000 Newtons relates to is quite beyond me.

A falling brick? And from what height?

Oh no, I'm confusing Compression and Impact, bother!

Other fascinating information tells me that the upper leather and rubber sole are guaranteed for 10 years!

And that the 'manufacture' of the boots themselves is guaranteed for 3 years!?

(Deep breath) The safety footwear (boots) comply with the EC Directive of personal Protective Equipment (Directive 89/686/EEC) and meets the EU standard EN ISO 20345:2011. It features Metatarsal protection - no, I'm not making this up - Resistance to fuel oil and Resistance to inimical environments! (What?)

So if you find yourself in an Inimical environment, you had better know where your Protective Equipment (Directive 89/686/EEC)/EU standard EN ISO 20345:2011. boots are!

Oh and you have to wear a sock - one sock per boot! I kid thee not .... the boots aren't guaranteed if you don't wear socks!


Head over to www.facebook.com/RavenMagical for my parents mail order business offering all kinds of new age and weird and wonderful magical goodies!  But, unfortunately, not boots.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Christmas Adverts

Christmas is upon us, for the Christmas adverts are out.

Yes, John Lewis has released a new advert (this time featuring an older gentleman on the moon, who receives a telescope so he can see everyone else having a great time without him), which Aldi has very funnily spoofed, Sainbury's has made a lovely one with a cat that destroys the kitchen, and the Cadbury's one is strangely awesome too.

But there's one advert that holds a special place in my mind.

And that's the Coca Cola truck.



Coca Cola happily ignore the rest of the market, who run around recording a bigger and better advert every year.  All I can think is that the Christmas advert is the last item on the marketing teams agenda and they never get round to it.  The meeting must go something like this...

Meeting Chairperson: Okay, onto Item 8...
Marketing Head: Can we rush this along?  I've got a teleconference in ten minutes.
Senior Marketer: Yes, I really need to go and work up some projections for our next campaign.
Meeting Chairperson: Um, okay, well Item 8 is the Christmas advert...
Marketing Head: Is that the time? Look I'm sorry guys, I've got to go.  Just run the Christmas truck advert again, it's fine.
[Everyone files out murmuring agreement, leaving the chairperson with their head in their hands]

Whatever the reason, we all know the Coca Cola one, the one where Santa (on the back of a Coca Cola lorry) raises a coke bottle to a small boy - a friend of mine was complaining about seeing it the other day because it wasn't December yet, and I knew immediately which advert he was referring to.  Maybe Coca Cola has got it right, reuse (with the odd refresh) the advert year after year and we'll remember it.

Anyone for a Pepsi?

Saturday, 28 November 2015

A Shameless Plug For My Card Store



Hello!

I've been working on some "honest" greetings cards over the last few months, and while they're still only really at prototype stage, I thought with the Christmas holidays coming soon (plus I'm rebelling against Electronic Greeting Card Day - November 29th) that it might be worth mentioning them.

What I mean by honest greetings cards is that I normally find greetings cards to be a bit over the top.  They inevitably have paragraphs of text about how wonderful the person in question is, and how you wish the very best for them.  Now, this is all fine for, say, your family, other half, or close friends, in many cases you end up getting cards for people that perhaps you're not quite so bothered about, that perhaps the wording inside the card should be along the lines of...

"Happy Birthday - I don't have anything against you having a good day, but on the whole my life will probably be unaffected even if you have a bit of a rubbish one."

Well, there's now a series of cards you can purchase for just those people (or perhaps for closer friends that you think will get the joke!).  Check out the store at http://www.zazzle.com/thogstuff and I'd love to know what you think, good, bad, indifferent comments are all welcome.  I should say that one or two cards are caught by the content filter, so if you want to see all of them turn the content filter off.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Food Thermos = Nose Warmer



This is a food thermos.  My wife got it because it keeps large quantities of food warm (like soup - I'm sure it'd keep a pie warm but getting it out might be a little tricky), but I've discovered that it's also great for a coffee on a cold night, because you can fit your nose inside it to keep warm.


Also, because it's so huge, you can fill it up with coffee at the start of the evening (maybe a liqueur one - have to consult the liqueur coffee decision tree) and it'll keep you going until bedtime.  At which point you can't sleep because you've chugged a pint and a half of coffee.

By the way, I made a video about queue jumping.  Is it always wrong?  Watch and decide.


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Is healthy food as accessible as unhealthy food?

Yesterday I went to Food Matters Live 2015, a huge conference at the Excel centre in London about food, health, and nutrition.


Now, I have to say that it was absolutely fantastic, even for someone like me who doesn't work in the food industry, and certainly can't be classed as a health fanatic of any sort, it was really interesting to discover loads of new products, but also I really enjoyed sitting in on the very first panel discussion, which was discussing the obesity crisis in the UK and how to tackle it.

In the discussion there was a lot of talk about education, and especially for children, to educate them in healthy choices, and I do think that it is an important point, but one thing that I didn't hear about was the accessibility of healthy foods.

Taking myself as an example, I am lazy when I can get away with being lazy.  I make no excuses for this, I consider it a sign of efficiency if I can get something done quick and with less effort.  Now, every day when I walk in the front door at home after being at work, there will be at least one, if not more than one, takeaway menus on the floor.  These are invariably for pizzas, kebabs, fish & chips, or occasionally something like a Chinese or Italian (which I accept will have some healthier choices).  But while there may be healthier choices on the menu (and certainly on the normal pizza menu there isn't), these aren't really highlighted in any way - no calorie listings, no fat content shown, just pictures of lovely fried meat and cheese on top of bread.  There's nothing like the traffic light signs which show up on foods bought in supermarkets.

Furthermore, I have access to a number of "apps" on my phone.  Taking my laziness a step further, I can quite easily choose to sit on the sofa, and by prodding at my phone for a few seconds I can then settle down to a repeat of Friends, content in the knowledge that I have ordered and paid for a delicious yet unhealthy food to be delivered to my front door (which is just a few steps away).  Again, certainly on the app that I normally use, there isn't any nutritional value information available (or if there is I've missed it).  And the places that typically would offer healthier food, like delicatessens or health food shops, aren't on the apps.  You can't order a healthy yet tasty meal from your local delicatessen to be delivered, but you can order a kebab and chips from any number of places.  And for me, the effort and time that goes into chopping and preparing a salad makes it a less attractive option.

Do not get me wrong - it's entirely my fault that I am not an ideal weight, I'm not blaming anyone but myself.  But what I am saying is that healthy food is not always as easily accessible as unhealthy food, at least in the food delivery sector.  I don't have an answer for this either, I'm merely highlighting an issue.

Now, I'm going to go and work my way through the samples I got at the conference (video coming soon) - yum!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Top 5 preparations to survive Friday the 13th


Picture courtesy of KlausHausmann via pixabay.com on a CC0 Public Domain license.

It's Friday the 13th, which we all understand to be a dangerously unlucky day. (I'm hoping it's not, I'm hoping that it'll be very lucky as the EuroMillions jackpot stands at something like £91 million, which would buy a few beers)

According to Wikipedia (yes, I do my research) something like 20 million Americans stay at home on Friday the 13th, rather than risk go out and have something happen to them.  Statistically there is actually some evidence that Friday the 13th tends to be a safer day, because people are more careful generally, and many stay at home.

Nevertheless, today's the day and you may need to try to survive it.  What should you do?

5) Bring an axe.

Of course, you need an axe.  Anyone who has watched a zombie thriller knows that should a zombie apocalypse take place (and there's just as much chance of it occurring on Friday the 13th as any other day) an axe with a long handle is essential for taking out zombies before they nip you.

4) Team up.

And you'll need someone to buddy up with, someone that can watch your back, especially if you need to do something particularly dangerous like walk under a ladder or fill your car up with petrol.  I recommend someone with useful skills, for example a paramedic or fireman, or at the very least someone who can't move as fast as you so in the situation where you're attacked by a bear, you can outrun them and they get eaten first.

3) Find a good hiding location.

You don't know what is going to happen to you today, but it's wise to try to avoid danger.  The bed is a good place to start - it's comfy, suitable for sleeping in (to regain nervous energy), and you can hide under it in case of an earthquake.

But all these preparations take a lot of effort.  What next?

2) Order takeaway.

That's right, you need food. Good nutrition to keep you going.  Don't go into the kitchen - people get burned, sliced open, slip over, and all kinds of nastiness in the kitchen.  Did you know that one of the worst sources of bacteria is your friendly looking kitchen cloth?

Get your phone out, fire up Just Eat (other apps are available) and order yourself a pizza.

And finally...

1) Get a Hot Water Bottle

That's right, a good old fashioned hot water bottle.  It keeps you warm and toasty, provides a liquid to drink in an emergency, and of course should you be set upon by a zombie, you can stuff it in its mouth and while its confused by the rubbery goodness you can make a run for it.

I hope this advice has been valuable, but remember - don't have nightmares.

What would be your course of action to survive a Friday 13th?  Drop me a comment!



Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Kneeling for the Privy Council is news, apparently

So today, whilst catching a bit of an update on what is happening around the world on the news websites, I spotted this headline.

"Jeremy Corbyn: will he or won't he kneel for Queen?"

Foolishly clicking on the link I became aware that this, apparently, required such a lengthy discussion that it was 13 pages long (however long a "page" is when we're talking about an electronic document and not a piece of paper).

In a large nutshell, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Opposition to Her Majestys' Government, was sworn in to the Queens Privy Council today, and as part of the normal ceremony includes kneeling before the Queen.  Mr Corbyn is a republican and as a result I assume doesn't really feel like kneeling before royalty.  But it's important for him to become a member of the Privy Council because it means that he gets things like security briefings which I imagine he ought to get.

Spoiler - he didn't kneel, but it obviously can't have mattered much in the end because he still became a member of the Privy Council without being beheaded or killed or anything.

I don't talk about politics and so I'm not going to give my opinion on whether he should or shouldn't kneel - I don't really think it's up to me, it's a matter really for Mr Corbyn.

I just think that news coverage of Kneelgate is a little over the top really - does it matter that much if he kneels or not?  He obviously hasn't blown up the Privy Council or attempted to assassinate the Queen yet.

Instead, here's a picture of a green pint of beer.

It hasn't even got a good head on it.  Now THAT is something to get angry over.

Cheers!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Downton Abbey The Finale (nearly) - WARNING SPOILERS...

Last night the grand finale of Downton Abbey (except for the Christmas special) came and went.  I've been a long-time fan of Downton Abbey from series one, and it's a shame that it has to come - nearly - to an end.  My Sunday evening Downton with a coffee and snacks is always a delight, and to think of it being no more is slightly saddening.

I must admit that this last episode - and the one before - left me a little ambivalent, as although I enjoyed them, they both left a little in the way of storylines to be closed (which of course they need to be left open to give something to resolve in the Christmas special!).  Nevertheless, it was still very good.

I do recommend, for those wanting a little bit more Downton to check out Downton Wars on YouTube (by Rob James-Collier aka Thomas Barrow or the "Evil Butler") and if you like do consider making a contribution to Chilterns MS Centre.

Needless to say (although I will say it) if Lady Edith does not find happiness in the Christmas special I shall track down Julian Fellowes and frown at him disapprovingly.

Like this...

And this...

And this...

And perhaps most scarily...
This.


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The New Menace, Well, Not Really New, The Next Menace

Well, not really a menace. More of an inconvenience, but that doesn't really sound very menacing, thus, the title. I have been studying history quite a bit lately. A pod cast about history will get you through a punishing bout of self abuse at the gym as well as anything.

It has always amazed me the amount of invaders Great Britain has suffered through, and eventually repulsed. It is an island nation, after all. But time and time again, people would get on their boats cruise across miles of water and try to take over. Eventually the indomitable British spirit would erode their ability and desire to stay.

I have decided it has been to long, so I am establishing a beach head right here in the Blog Of Thog. From here I plan to branch out a bit, maybe Wales, or Northumberton. From there it will be the Isle of Wight, Scotland, and eventually London.

As is obvious this is a very hectic invasion, and the time table is tight, but I do have time for a few questions. Any questions? Ok, that's good. We have to run, lot's of things to capture, and occupy. By the way where can I find some French fries?

Does anybody have a train schedule? We forgot to bring our cars.

Thanks, we will stop by your neighborhood soon, please have some pints ready, this is likely to be very thirsty work.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Worrying Junk Mail


Tonight I decided to catch up on some paperwork (which means opening envelopes, and making two piles of papers - those that can be thrown away, and those that should be filed.  And then both piles stay exact where they are).  I like junk mail, because I put letters about my blog in the freepost envelopes and send them back (these obviously include a liqueur coffee decision tree, which they can stick to the wall in the office)

But, I've noticed something slightly uncomfortable with the junk mail tonight.

Mixed in with the usual selection of credit cards, mortgage offers, free games at Mecca bingo, and so forth, I've had a catalogue selling vitamins and minerals for those older people, plus an offer for a free will from a funeral planning company.

All I can imagine is that on some database somewhere it's been identified that I'm no longer in my 20s, nowhere near my 20s, even the idea of being asked for ID in a supermarket is now laughable, and my details are well and truly deleted from the "Shots for £1" happy hour list of my local discotheque, and have been added to a list which I presume is titled "Get their money before they die"

I wonder what tomorrows post will bring?  Perhaps one of those plans that give a guaranteed payout on death?  Or one of those catalogues that sell all kind of useful tools and knick-knacks, like things to open jars easily or something to copy old records onto MP3?

What sort of junk mail do you get?  Let me know in the comments!




Thursday, 29 October 2015

Plastic Bag Trees


Original photo by Tim Parkinson, licensed on a CC BY 2.0 license
Original available from https://www.flickr.com/photos/timparkinson/2318404733

One day, one of us will talk about a "Plastic Bag Tree".  And someone younger than us (but not that young) will ask what we're talking about.

Here in England, we've had a change in the law which means that (except for many tiny loopholes) supermarkets have to charge us 5p (about 8 cents) for a carrier bag (aka plastic bag in other parts of the world).

So they've basically vanished overnight.

Where we once had a cupboard under the sink full of plastic bags, we now have empty space.  Where I used to take a plastic bag to hold a bacon sandwich and a scone from the works canteen, I now use the slightly less modern but still effective tool otherwise known as "a hand".  Indeed, balancing shopping in a tower in one hand is now well on its way to become an Olympic sport.

The plastic bag tax should lead to a huge reduction in the use of bags, which is good for the environment, although hopefully people won't move to stealing supermarket baskets instead (which has happened in the past).

Obviously I can only really talk for myself, but I do find it interesting how people can apparently change their patterns of behaviour so easily, and it's not as though anyone thought all those billions of plastic bags being used once and then being put in the bin were good for the environment, but by and large a great number of people were happy to just get their free plastic bag, yet now they have to pay 5p for them suddenly they discover that they can manage quite readily.  I walked to work this morning with aching hands holding a large box of leftover Chinese food, two safety boots, a hard hat, and a hi-vis waistcoat, whilst also carrying a laptop bag on my shoulder, because I wasn't going to go and use a 5p carrier bag to put everything in.

Anyway, should anyone be in the need for a plastic bag, let me know - I can let you have a pre-loved one for just 4p.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Rogue Christmas Jumper



I don't really have much to blog about - my wife is away so I took the opportunity to wear a Christmas jumper.  I'm eating jelly with cake decorations sprinkled on it too.  Crazy times!

One thing though - I have just published a new video... MEAD OFF.  In which I drank mead.

Cheers!



Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Guest Post - The Aging Population

Here's a guest post from my extremely young father Graham.

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THE AGING POPULATION.

Spot the idiot ... this is worrying.
I freely admit that I have a serious aversion to old age, I hate it passionately and I haven't even got there yet, not quite. Indeed I have been hating old age since I was young; it is not something I look forward to.

In a world where, if you pay any attention to gossip in general there seems to be a world shortage of hysteria, there are any number of people who will seize any excuse to run up and down screaming because someone, somewhere, has grown their first grey hair, developed a dicky knee or most lamentably discover that they can't remember someones name.

The fact that the lost name will come to you sooner or later, given half a chance and seemingly the less you worry about it, the easier it seems that the reluctant memory will return ... is no excuse for not panicking!

Why exactly we get brownie points for hysteria I have never quite managed to work out, but it does seem popular.

"IT MUST BE ALTSHEIMERS!" someone is screaming (possibly just in my own head, but it's sort of deafening all the same). The people who try to fix this malady in the real world and want more government funding have got some kind of excuse I suppose, but anyone else? (oh and the media of course, there would be very little News if it wasn't for Hysteria - ditto, Colouring, Slanting, Twisting and Tarting up mundane events)

Anyway, I had to buy tomatoes, from the farmer's market and buy them I did. Indeed, I chose the tomatoes myself, money changed hands, I put the change in my wife's purse and I strode off manfully leaving the tomatoes on the stall ....... !?

My wife, who is still sharp of mind and in command of her faculties was shopping by remote control in the car - it was raining heavily so being sensible she directed and pointed, and I heroically ventured forth hunting various delightful consumables.

Triumphantly I returned, wet but happy in the (false) knowledge that I had bought all the goodies we wanted. A quick trip home ensued and I unpacked our treasures - cream cake, check! Meat from the butchers, check! Sausage rolls, check! Tomatoes? Where, how? I searched the car, not a sausage and no tomatoes either!

When did I suddenly become so utterly air-headed?

No, better not tell me, I'm quite upset enough as it is. My instinct was to massage my head against the nearest brick wall for being so stupid. Do I need in-depth written instructions perhaps?

INSTRUCTIONS FOR PURCHASING OF TOMATOES.

1) Find Tomatoes, (well known salad item, they look like 'tomatoes' - if you don't know what tomatoes look like, just die now!)
2) Pay for tomatoes (Tomato vendors like this sort of thing)
3) PUT TOMATOES IN SHOPPING BAG! (you should have a shopping bag with you)
4) TAKE TOMATOES HOME!

NOTE. Take Special note of instructions 3 and 4 - without these the whole operation will be compromised!

Possibly a hard-hitting poster campaign would help

"HAVE YOU GOT YOUR TOMATOES?"

I can see that shopping lists in future will be mandatory!


Feel free to check out my parents Facebook page for information about their mail order business, Raven, through which they offer all kinds of weird and wonderful magical goodies - www.facebook.com/RavenMagical

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Being Creative

Today is a good day.

The day started by clearing out a good chunk of our garage, which over the past five years has gathered all kinds of wonderful knick-knacks, which are far too lovely to throw away yet not actually nice enough to keep anywhere better than an unheated concrete floored brick box with a leaky roof.  As a reward we went to Pave for lunch (one of my favourite pubs) which was nice, this afternoon my son blew his homework out of the water spending ages on it (again, good to see), the Tesco delivery arrived with beer in it (yay!), and I've just uploaded two new videos to YouTube.  I've also scheduled a load of tweets on Hootsuite - something which I do far too rarely - and I'm obviously writing this blog too.



Being creative is tricky - it's easy to come up with something like "I don't have the inspiration" or "I can't think of anything to blog about right now" (and sometimes I honestly feel like these are true) but what it really comes down to is "I don't feel like it".

To do it right I think you have to treat it as a job - for me, it's about expecting myself to churn out 3+ blog posts and 1+ video a week, of at least a reasonable quality.  Of course, I often fail to meet this, which is purely because I'm not disciplined enough.  That said, it is a hobby (and unless my advertising revenues increase by a factor of a thousand - or more - that isn't going to change any time soon!) so I'm not going to be too hard on myself.

And I have done a video - it's a quick look at new game Prison Architect, where you manage a prison.  Interesting, fun, dark, and surprisingly emotional.


So, as I say, it's a good day today.  I might even push on and try to write an extra post or two so I've got something ready for next week.

One last thing - Adele Archer kindly put up a guest post of mine today, which has a little test for people to see how well they can infer information about someone.  Have a go and drop a line in the comments.

Must go - it's beer time!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Windows 10 struggles

I wasn't going to blog about this.  I blogged about Windows 10 and Google Chrome the other day, and today I was going to write about something else entirely.

And then I hit a snag.

You see, today I was going to edit a little video to go on my long-suffering and neglected YouTube channel.  But to do that, I would need to actually play videos on my computer.

And, presumably after installing updates yesterday, Windows 10 now does not play videos, and has also totally lost the ability to play sound.

I expect this to be fixed fairly quickly - I hope that it is, anyway - as there doesn't appear to be any obvious solutions from a search on the net.  I do use a reasonably fancy headset, and there is a possibility that using a different one might work.  Still, it's a bit annoying, and it's rare that I use the latest version of a Windows operating system, but because of Microsoft's free upgrade offer, I decided to take the leap (which I'm now regretting).

Good news is that the latest version of Google Chrome Canary (a "bleeding-edge" version of Google Chrome) is working okay on my computer so at least I'm using a web browser that I'm comfortable with.

Oh - and go watch my new video, DRINKYBANG.  It's not quite MEATYBANG or even VEGGIEBANG, but I do get to pass out with a Russian doll.




Friday, 9 October 2015

Once Upon A Halloween

If you're not aware, The Whacko Blogs is doing their first ever annual Halloween Ball, and are looking for the best in Halloween fiction, plus a Halloween costumes.  So, I decide that it was about time to take part.

Firstly, my story!

"Unseen"

 It was a dark and stormy night.
 Wind rattled the window panes as he looked out into the darkness.
 Nothing there.
 He turned, to look at the others in the room.  Sure enough, they sat, eating and talking, totally ignoring him as usual.
 He sighed and walked through into the kitchen..
 The kitchen was full of dirty pots and pans, and was unremarkable except for the unusually large amount of sweets sat in a bowl.
 It must be Halloween, he mused, unless it's Christmas and the sweets are for gorging on whilst watching one of those dreadfully nice films.  No, he decided, can't be Christmas - no tree.
 Nothing of interest here.
 Without making the slightest disturbance, in moments he was then sat in a dark pit, surrounded by lumps of dirty coal.
 Now this is the life.  This reminds me of when I was young.  When I was... more active.
 He passed some time, reminiscing in the coal shelter,


 Later on, he went back into the house.  Two of the others were drinking and laughing. whilst the third was at the front door, inviting a small robot and a ghost to help themselves to sweets.
 That isn't a real ghost, he said to himself, I should know what a real ghost is.


 It was the middle of the night.  He sat on one of the beds in the house, next to one of the others while they slept, totally unaware of his presence.
 Time to have a little fun.
 He blew in their ear.  They muttered and shifted in their sleep.
 A few seconds went by - he blew in their other ear.  This time a sleepy hand swung up as the person neatly slapped themselves in the face.
 Laughing at them from only a few inches away, the humans eyes opened and they yelled in shock as they finally saw him - at such a close distance he couldn't be missed.
 "Dammit it Felix!  Okay, I'll feed you!"
 Felix the cat padded through to the kitchen while the human, abandoning sleep, followed them to dish out some cat food.



I hope you enjoyed this story!  And now, here's my Halloween costume.


This is what happens when you decide to take a photo after a beer.  All I can smell is cinnamon.
If you're taking part in either contest let me know in the contests!  For more, check out The Whackos Blog post!

And if you'd like to see me do the proper thing and just eat the damn shower gel...

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Windows 10 vs Google Chrome


(Please enjoy this blog post, I fell down the stairs earlier - an event surely deserving of beer and a lack of achievement - yet I still went back upstairs to the PC to write it!  However, I am knelt on the floor as sitting in a chair is a little uncomfortable.)

I'm struggling at the moment.  You see, I've got Windows 10.  By and large, I'm very happy with it - I can't particularly say that it's better than 8 (or even 7, for that matter), but it seems fine.

However, ever since I got it, Google Chrome keeps falling over, and I love Google Chrome.  I use a lot of the Google websites and services available (including, obviously, its Blogger facility), Chrome is fast, and does everything I want well.

So having to try Microsoft Edge, which seems sluggish in comparison (and isn't automatically logged in to all my Google stuff) isn't great.

Chrome seems to work as long as I don't open too many tabs at the same time, so I'm having to audit my tab usage constantly, as I am one of these people that has tens of different internet windows open all at the same time.  I've tried looking for solutions but I've not found one that works yet.  I may be forced to employ the services of Colin to help me out.

And he hasn't even got his Microsoft certification.

Anyway, must dash - Downton Abbey starts in 20 minutes!



Thursday, 1 October 2015

Wine vs paperwork


I keep trying to do paperwork but this pint of wine keeps getting in the way.

I've been away for a couple of days, and for once it hasn't really given me anything to blog about - sure, there was the accidental two hour walk in London (don't worry, it was offset with fish, chips, and beer), plus the obligatory dash across Doncaster rail station on the way home to get my connecting train before it cleared off, but otherwise it was a fairly quiet and productive couple of days.

But, I did have an idea for something.  I'm not going to talk about it now, but suffice to say that it involves social media.  And I'd love for you to help!

What do you think of social media?  How do you use it?  What websites/apps do you use?  What is good and bad?

Let me know in the comments below.  And I might do something with it! Thanks :)

Now - back to the wine!

Monday, 28 September 2015

A Guide to this Week's American Football Contest in London


Hello again folks, Jeremy Crow here to export some American values to my friend Thoggy Mike’s blog. Mondays are an awful thing to wish on a human being so I like to lighten my day by taking a bit of a world tour, dropping mental notes here and there in any location that the restraining orders have expired. In this case there hasn’t been any restraining order, I just think Mike forgets that I have access to his blog (shhh it’s a secret) but in the interest of spreading American values I want to talk a little bit about a great sport that we export to Britain once or twice a year, FOOTBALL.

Yes I realize that everyone over on the Anglican isle has another thing that they call football, and they probably think of what we play as American Football, but I am speaking from this side of the Atlantic so it will just be called football. Ner ner. Now I’m sure there are plenty of people over there who seem to have a grasp on what the rules of football are, but I want to share the nuances of what Americans really enjoy about the game. It isn’t just rugby with pads; it is more along the lines of Spartans Vs Persians. A game that was glorified in a movie called 500. Two warring armies face off in a gorge 50 yards across, and smash into each other with as much force as possible until someone either breaks through the lines or gets broken. Now THAT’S a sport!

Well seriously folks, if you have learned anything from this off season, football over here actually has more in common with a typical soccer (yeah that’s what we call your football and I am after all writing from over here ner ner and all that) hooligan. Cheating is frowned upon but secretly admired. There are those that can handle the beating and those that can’t. There are people who transcend the game, and there are of course those that show up like they are going to a KISS concert (we call those Raiders fans, stay with me here) but most importantly there is real honest to goodness hate that goes on in the sport. I know the English fans can relate to this.


I of course am a Patriots fan, so to put this into context my second favorite team on any given Sunday is “Anyone playing the Jets” and MVP of the league should be anyone that takes out Peyton Manning, but I will settle for anyone who can get some good shots in on that bitch Phillip Rivers. We study the other teams so we know exactly how to taunt them and their fans. This week the Pittsburgh Rapists became the Pittsburgh Dog Killers for example. The Minnesota Child Abusers beat up on the San Diego Crybabies, and the Filthydelfia Eagles were my second favorite team this week. Unfortunately my third and forth favorite teams (anyone playing the Dolphins and anyone playing the Bills) played each other so I took part in another American football tradition. I rooted for injuries.

Friday, 25 September 2015

LinkedIn, would you mind if I bought them dinner first?

So, this came into my inbox the other day...


Um.. thanks LinkedIn... but I think I'll give it a miss.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Guest Post - Boys Day Out

As I'm recovering from a fairly epic pummelling otherwise known as the latest transatlantic debate, my dad guest posts today, talking about the last time was went to Pave, one of our favourite bars.  Think I might pop over later...

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My dad thinking in Pave.



BOY'S DAY OUT.

Mike, my favourite son, took me out for an afternoon's beer sampling at the last Easter weekend. What better way is there to idle away a pleasant afternoon with good company, a bite to eat, a friendly atmosphere and something wet to wash it all down with?

'PAVE' is a friendly pub in the nearby city of Hull, with good food and an extensive selection of excellent beers - it fitted the bill perfectly!

Whist visiting the gentlemen's facilities, which is occasionally required whilst sampling beer, I could not help but notice a poster advertising an 'Unplugged female singer' whose performance was said to be 'Intimate, Raw Emotional and Eclectic'. I have to admit the words caught my attention, being as I was somewhat unsure as to their meanings. Interestingly I have seen the self same terms describing other performers at Pave - Pave tends to feature Jazz musicians and vocalists, who are very good, but not necessarily intimate, raw, or indeed overly emotional!

Together we mused whilst sampling various beverages what 'Intimate, Raw Emotional and Eclectic' could mean in real terms, clearly it was something that performers at Pave specialised in. Well, I admit, we were feeling 'refreshed' at the time and random, lateral thoughts were coming easily to us. Maybe some of our suggestions were a bit silly, involving choir boys, scalded cats and electrical kitchen equipment .... but as I am currently cold stone sober, I can't possibly repeat some of them, but really, the poster blurb promised that a certain female singer would satisfy all my musical eclectic needs and I don't know how it is, perchance the foreign named killer pint of lager (my second sampling) prompted a strange state of mind, but I was quite unaware of ever having eclectic musical needs!

A stunning vision of me riding a unicycle whilst balancing a music box on the end of my nose, playing the Star Spangled Banner, appeared, and then vanished before my eyes.

Apparently anyway, the singer and her friends travel across the UK every week, possibly to avoid angry mobs of music lovers.

I blame the lager. Erm, I think I'll have a coffee next please.

PS If you suffer from 'Raw Emotional' I highly recommend either earplugs or Premium strength lager - they work wonders for me!


Saturday, 19 September 2015

The case for the UK's political system #DebateDay


Original photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Well, the big day is here at last.  It's been a rollercoaster of a ride here, there's been some interesting comments on the internet...

"Meow" - Colin the Cat, UK

And some mud slung around...

"You have been taking a lot of liberties with cats lately" - Mr T Clark, USA

And even some outright craziness...

"I prefer the government of Belize" - Mr J Crow, USA

But enough is enough now, and today we shall put forward our cases as to why our political system is better.

The case for the UK


Well, our system was here first.  The UK has not been conquered or occupied for over a thousand years, and over that time we have been able to develop our system, from the Magna Carta (signed 800 years ago this year) giving power to the lords of the country, to the extension of power to commoners, to the current Westminster system (called this because it's from Westminster in the UK) which is replicated around the world, including in such outposts as the USA.

The UK does not have a president, instead opting for a system where even our Prime Minster can be held to account by Parliament.  This gives confidence in that the rule of the head of government must be just, or face removal from office.  In the US however, the President is separated from the Senate, so they only address the Senate once a year, and they can find themselves in the difficult position of the Senate having a majority of members allied to a different party than the President, hamstringing the President.

And of course, the UK is a constitutional monarchy, and executive rule is held by Her Majesty the Queen.  Monarchs are increasingly rare in today's world, and I can understand the argument for republics - but consider this.  The UK is one of the few (if not the only) countries that became a republic, and then invited the King back to allow the return of the country to a monarchy.  That means that our monarchs are clearly the best.

This briefly adds up to the UK's political system being superior than the US.

But don't let this be enough reason for you - this video is where all the action is, with the full discussion -  watch it below:


And now - go see Tim's blog (and video) for the case for the US that he is putting forward today.  And when you're done, make sure to leave us a comment on what side you're on!
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