Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2014 Predictions offered!

If you'd like a prediction for 2014, email me at mike.raven@gmail.com - I'm making a video tonight!

Monday, 30 December 2013

At this time of year...

...why do we do such strange things?

Eat pate - not paste out of a jar, but pate out of a pack.  Because pate is posher.  And what is the difference between pate and paste?


Pate has lumps in - sorry, texture, I mean to say "it's textured".

Textured with little chunks of fat that gross you out despite the many other things you've already engorged on over the Christmas period.

But you still eat it.

Eat too much chocolate - for eleven months of the year, there isn't such a thing as too much chocolate.  I could happily devour one of those large bars of Cadburys in a single sitting without batting an eyelid.  But at Christmas?  Suddenly some kind of "chocolate limit" kicks in, and despite the piles of tasty-looking Roses and Quality Street sitting there, all I really want is a cracker.

Weird Digestive Crackers - speaking of crackers, what is the deal with those strange digestive-type crackers that you get in boxes of crackers?  They're like a digestive biscuit, and kind of sweet which really messes up the taste explosion of the cheese piled upon it.

Weird digestive cracker AND lumpy pate?!?

Ring people at midnight - this doesn't happen so much now that I'm getting older, but we ring people at midnight on New Years Eve, to wish them "Happy New Year".  This is often made more difficult by the fact that one, or both, parties may be at some kind of social event (be it a party at home, a night club, or a bowling alley) so hearing someone on the phone isn't easy at the best of times.  And because so many people are ringing or texting "Happy New Year" all at the same time, the phone networks crash.

Ringing people at midnight is odd, isn't it?  If anyone rang me at any other time of year at midnight, I'd assume someone had died or was in hospital, or at the very least had got the wrong number and really wanted a pizza delivering asap.

Eat Danish Butter Cookies - I don't actually mind eating them that much, but I wouldn't buy a tin myself.  Except at Christmas, when one (if not two) tins of butter cookies appear in the house as if by magic.

Gold Chocolate Coins - At any other time in the year I could see myself struggling to remove a minute piece of chocolate from a foil casing, because I eat stuff that's bad for me.  But when do we get them?  At Christmas.  When the house is already full of chocolate and other sweeties.

Mmm. Sweeties.

You can always tell that you're out of all other chocolate when you start on the gold coins, and when you do resort to the chocolate coins you'll start with the biggest ones, the ones that look like a big two euro coin, because you get more chocolate for the effort spent penetrating the foil.  But all too soon you end up with just a stack of small, old five pence sized chocolate coins left, and the misery that settles around you as you work your way through these builds up to replace the depression thrown off at the beginning of the holidays.

While I'm blogging, I have a new video uploaded to my YouTube channel - my son loves counting and spelling songs, so I made a counting video, and used a xylophone to provide the tunes.

And Rocked. Out.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Google+ Auto-Awesomed my 2013!

The thing I love about Google is how it does cool stuff, and half the time it just quietly does something brilliant without shouting about it.

I already love how it automatically backs up my photos to Google+, and then sometimes does a thing called "Auto-Awesome" on them.  I've already talked about Auto-Awesome on a previous blog post, but basically it takes your photos and does cool stuff with them, like making a collage, or an animation.  Apparently something it's been doing over Christmas is taking photos with snow in, and animating the snow.

Anyhow, what they've done is take key photos from my Google+ albums that were taking in 2013, slapped a bit of music onto them, and made a video.  It's quite cool (and interesting what photos they've picked - pulled pork sandwich from Rebels Smokehouse being one!) and I'm quite pleased on the whole the photos that have been picked out.

You can see the video Google+ made in its original high-quality here, or click on the video below for a low-quality version.

Has anyone else had one of these videos made, and if so what did you think of your video?  Was there a key memory missed out?  And what was the strangest photo included!  Pop a reply in the comments if you feel the need.

Thursday, 26 December 2013


I've got Christmas cake. Right in my kitchen. It is now Boxing Day and I still haven't eaten any of it.


Merry Christmas!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Your Internet Connection is Unstable

Now, I'm a geek, and I'm the sort of person that loves to spend an afternoon with a relatives PC cleaning it up, defragging it, running anti-virus and installing spyware catchers, installing Windows patches, all that gubbins.  I know - I'm sad that way (even I think twice though when, after reinstalling Windows 7, having to install 120+ patches that Microsoft tells me are critical updates)

So this weekend when my Samsung Galaxy S3 told me that it had an update to install, I didn't hesitate.  I believe that it has now updated its software to Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), and so far I've only really noticed one change.

It now criticises the quality of my internet connection.

Twice now it has flashed up a notification, stating "Your internet connection is unstable".  I'm not entirely sure what this does, apparently if its unstable you can set your phone to switch to mobile internet, but as I've nearly used my monthly internet allowance I'd rather it just not connect to the internet.  I did note that the second time it warned me about my unstable internet I had just walked out of the house - if it was really a smartphone it would have checked its integrated GPS and worked out that my wi-fi wasn't unstable, rather it was that the phone was moving away from the router (yes, it was towards a takeaway if you must know)

I mean, I know I've had problems with my internet in the past, but is this a new feature?  Smartphones with opinions?

What if they continue in this manner?  Can you imagine the notifications?

I'm sleepy. Turn me off so I can install some updates.

I'm hungry and need recharging.  Plug me in.

Or even...

I'm aroused. Take a firm hold of that micro-USB cable and PLUG. ME. IN.

I'm scared.

Merry Christmas by the way!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Welcome to Winter!

Well, today is the first day of winter, apparently (or is it the mid-point?  Google says the first day but I'm unconvinced), and more generally known as the Winter Solstice, bringing with it the longest night.  For some reason I've not noticed winter creeping up so much this year - we haven't had that many frosts, car windscreens haven't needed to be de-iced, no sign of snow at all (although I wouldn't be surprised if some shows up January/February time) but nevertheless it is that time of year.  The time of year can get people down - I know when I go to work it's dark, I come home and it's dark too, sometimes I'll go for a walk at lunch just to see the sun - wrapped up well of course!  Plus there's the stress of buying presents and things for Christmas, getting them sent off in time (this is an apology to anyone to received their Christmas card/present late from me because I've missed the last posting date!)

Anyhow, I've attempted to get an early start on my New Years resolutions by registering at a gym this week, and then actually going!  I've registered at Xercise4Less in Hull, which is astoundingly cheap compared to some exercise places, and still has all the equipment that you'd want in a gym.  I would note that I celebrated registered at the gym by immediately purchasing and eating chocolate cake from Vintage Cafe, but since then I have been to the gym twice so hopefully it's being burned off.

I must admit to being shocked at how out of shape I am, but as I think about it I haven't regularly gone to a gym for about five years, and gave up football about a year ago so I really shouldn't be surprised if my fitness level has dropped slightly!  Strangely I am actually tolerating enjoying exercising so fingers crossed to doing more of it!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Tenacious D were awesome!

Went to my first proper music gig last night (not counting seeing Snake Davis at Selby Town Hall a year or two back - which to be fair Snake Davis was really good, and Selby Town Hall is a massively underrated venue that punches well above its weight), when I saw Tenacious D at the O2 Academy in Leeds.

Tenacious D in classic "duelling guitars" pose.

The gig started off with Sasquatch playing a number of songs, starting off with a cover of "Black Betty".  Sasquatch was really entertaining and kept showing up throughout the second half of the show, joining in with the D.  Special mention has to be made of the roadie, Johnny Spikes (or should we say John Spiker, bassist for the D) - I loved watching how he kept on track of everything going on, positioning microphones, tuning guitars, receiving Kyle's recorder, always just being in the right place at the right time.

But the main detail has to be about the D - I was worried that the show wouldn't live up to my expectations (not really knowing what to expect) but that wasn't a problem - Jables and Kage were even better live!

In other news, today I signed up to a gym - and celebrated by eating cake.  That's how I roll.

And I've tried to video a PG Tips Monkey riding a vibrating pig, but it keeps falling off.  My video will be live in a bit, at http://youtu.be/Skh-NVrmYR4

According to my other half the pig needs to say "ride me like a pony"

Friday, 13 December 2013

The Final Victory! (OpenXcom)

And so, my battles against the alien masterminds attempting to conquer the Earth came to a head the other night.

Teams of scientists worked day and night to design a craft capable of sending my best men to Cydonia on Planet Mars, to deal with the enemy.  In the meantime I was sending my troops out to keep the aliens down, until the unthinkable happened...

And Colonel Simon died.

If you've not kept up with my past posts, Simon has been somewhat reluctant to "lead from the front", shall we say.  He's always been found behind some decent cover, or failing that at least another Xcom trooper.

We were storming a crashed alien saucer, and despite the fact that two other troopers went in before him, it was Simon that the alien survivors noticed, unloading several heavy plasma shots into him.  The uberstrong (and expensive) levitating armour didn't do its job and he was killed immediately.

After this, I basically ignored any further alien ships, and just concentrated on building the Avenger craft to get us to Mars.
The nations of the Earth weren't overly happy with our new strategy of "Let the Earth burn just don't let them kill any more of our troops"

One exception, however, was when the aliens decided to attack my main base.  Due to the design of the base, Dustyweaver, my commander-in-chief, was left in the south-east quadrant of the base, alone with a pack of aliens, and with some very useful walls blocking him from the rest of the base - and the rest of my troops.

Dusty, with poor armour, and armed with only a laser rifle and a taser, didn't have great odds of survival.  Particularly with his normal tactic of charging anything within reach.  So, while the rest of my forces battled elsewhere, he became a master of guerilla warfare, popping out of rooms and blasting anything within sight, and then vanishing again.

See the dead aliens? See the burn marks?  That would be Dusty.
 As a result, by the time three of my men had managed to blast their way through a wall to rescue him, he'd already killed everything nearby.

Time passed and finally we were ready to go to Mars!

No - not really.

To begin with, we explored the strange sandy landscape, looking in alien pyramids, looking for a route to their underground base.

Geza walks in to an aliens home and shoots them dead in cold blood.  We're no so different to them.
Anna, reasonably displeased that everyone is wearing the same thing as her, refuses to let anyone in to the disco until they've changed.
When we finally got into the base, the biggest threat seemed to be the aliens ability to mind control my troopers and force us to kill them.  If we ever actually saw one of them they died pretty quickly, but my numbers were thinning out.

Plus they had this ability to appear from nowhere and get up really close to you.  You could put up with their razor claws, their psychic powers, their plasma weaponry - but the intrusion on personal space was really the last straw.

Heading to the central core.

The alien mastermind - a brain - seemingly in some sort of theatre.  Perhaps we intruded on some alien stand-up comedy. "Hey, don't you hate it when you kill a human - and he doesn't taste that good! That's just a waste of plasma! HAHAHAHA!!"

When we finally found the alien brain in command, it didn't survive very long.  We were helped by a hole in the floor of their control room, so rather than using the lifts into the room, which were bound to be guarded, the men levitated through the hole and shot the aliens in the back, which is always my preferred tactic for any game which involves guns.  Commander Dustyweaver did manage to punch some holes in the alien brain, but didn't quite finish it off - but there was plenty of troopers to finish the job.

We won!

So, we finished OpenXcom!  Yes, I hacked the soldiers to make them faster and harder to kill, and gave myself lots of extra money.  But for me the story is what makes the game.  I find it interesting with games nowadays, I often find myself playing the level just to get to the next cutscene.

Anyway - I'm going to see Tenacious D on Monday!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Vibrating Pig Saves The Day!

Well, I won a vibrating pig last week.  There was no way that I wasn't going to make a video with it.

Enjoy!  I'm going for "so bad it's good" because there's no way that my skills and video kit are up to "so good it's good"!

Also, I thought I'd share the below photo - I'm having trouble using my PC due to the amount of cans on my desk.

Time to tidy up, I fear.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Raffle Prize

Me: Have you got any double A batteries there?
Other Half: Why would I have double A batteries.
Me: There's some by your right hand.
Other Half: Oh.  Would you like some batteries?

After this brief chat, I was furnished with batteries.

But why did I need batteries?

For a pig, of course!


But not just a pig, this is a pig that I won in a raffle.

Plus, it has special abilities - it vibrates.

I never thought when I woke up this morning today would include me saying "I've won a pink vibrating pig."

Life is interesting.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Cyber Monday is just around the corner!

To be honest - I'm slightly disappointed.

I imagined Cyber Monday to be a day to celebrate using the internet, MMOs, electronic gadgetry, and basically a good excuse for being a geek (as though I need one).

Instead it's to do with buying stuff cheap on the Internet after Thanksgiving.  Internet Day (which is more like the holiday I'd like) was on the 29th of October.

That said, if you're buying stuff for Christmas, it's probably a good opportunity to get some bargains.

Speaking of which, my parents business, Raven, has now made their catalogues available online for people.  No more do you have to rely on finding the paper copy - you can browse PDFs instead.  I should warn that the catalogues are designed for printing, so pages aren't in the right order!  But nevertheless it's the first time the catalogues have been available so it's a positive step.  Well worth checking out if you do want any unusual or unique gifts for people this Christmas, and I think they're even offering some extra freebies with orders too.

Thinking more about Cyber Monday though, I generally aim to do quite a lot of my Christmas shopping (excluding food and drink) on the Internet.  It's more convenient, cheaper, and saves having to deal with crowds.

In theory that is - then of course the Post Office ninjas don't deliver your parcel because you were out, and you have to line up to pick it up at your sorting office, which for me is at the far side of Hull and always has massive queues.

Nevertheless, if you do decide to participate in Cyber Monday, check out some tips here.

In other news, apparently YouTube have enabled me for live streaming!  So on my channel I can now live stream from my webcam, onto the Internet.  God knows what I would stream, but it's nice of them to allow me.  Suggestions welcomed.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Wrestling with the Sky box

I've been having fun with the Sky box tonight.  Okay, it's a Sky+HD box, I'll be accurate.  Nevertheless, I've been mucking about with it.

Two things - one, we got in the post a wireless adaptor to let it connect to our broadband to provide "On Demand" services.  I don't actually know what these On Demand services are, but that's never stopped me playing with technology before.  That was sorted quite easily, plugged in, typed in my network password and its up and running.

I should say that we have recently resolved our ongoing broadband issues by going with the local broadband provider, Karoo, and getting a half-decent router - in our case the Asus DSL-N55U.  We did tinker with a Netgear, but had problems right from the off, so got a refund on it and plumped for the Asus, which has been absolutely fine since installation.  I was slightly concerned to begin with that I was having trouble connecting to it wirelessly via my smartphone, then realised that I hadn't screwed the aerials onto the router!  It's all fine now.

The second thing I've been trying to do is to somehow watch the new local TV channel, Estuary TV.  This is one of a number of local TV channels being licensed by Ofcom, with Estuary TV launched just last Tuesday. They're based in Grimsby and are viewable on Freeview and Virgin Media in the nearby area, but because we're in Hull we can't get Virgin Media - so we're on Sky.  And because we're on Sky, we can't watch this channel.  Very annoying!  I've tried to see if I can watch it online somehow but there doesn't seem to be any option.  Guess I'll have to go round to my parents and watch it on theirs.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Fighting the good fight (XCOM part 3)

I'm continuing in my spare time to play OpenXcom, the turn-based strategy game where I defend the Earth against alien invasion.

I've discovered how to build a flying saucer, which is interesting but ultimately of bugger all use, because my next - and final - step is to build a craft capable of flying a couple of dozen hardcore troopers over to Mars to kick alien butt.  And I can't fit them in a dinky little saucer.

In the mean time, the aliens decided to terrorise Russia.  Not to worry, my troops went to intervene!

As I searched the city for survivors (hearing a lot of humans die out of sight), I spotted a Chryssalid.  These black scary things can turn your troopers - and human civilians - into alien puppets, and need taking out.

Cue the blaster bomb.

All this used to be fields.  Then it was a road and a bit of a park.  Now it's just a patch of burned earth.

The blaster bomb is a seriously nasty guided missile, which is the only thing that can punch through the walls of an alien spaceship.  It has a large blast radius and I really can't think of anything surviving the detonation of one of these nearby. It's probably not the best thing to use in a civilian location.

We did win, and didn't lose any of our own people, but this was the mission result screen:
Hmm. Well two civilians survived anyway.

So, out of ten civilians, we let the aliens kill or eat seven of them, we blew one up with a blaster bomb, and just two of them made it out alive.  Kind of reminded me of the Team America film.

It's not surprising that China has withdrawn from the project - they probably think it's safer if we don't "defend" them.

In another mission, Colonel Simon, the lover of cover, actually got fired upon!  We're now encountering a new type of alien called a Muton, who are basically green and hard as nails, forcing us to upgrade our weaponry to have a chance of killing them, and even with heavy plasma guns they still take a lot of shots before dying - which means they often get chance to fire back.  We've lost a few people to their guns and it's a little worrying.  The sooner we get to Mars to finish them off the better.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Further XCOM Adventures

I've been continuing my fight against the alien threat, trying to save the planet.  So far I've taken down two alien bases, captured one of their commanders, and am now frantically trying to research some sort of craft that can take my troopers out to the aliens home.

True, they were the elite of the elite, the best warriors Earth had to offer. But the squad still took the opportunity to unwind by knocking on the alien's door and hiding.

In the meantime, the Commander of my forces, Dustyweaver, is wounded for two months after taking far too many plasma bolts, whilst his second in command, Simon, is very healthy, mainly due to his habit of taking cover, standing behind things like walls, trees, and other people.

In other news, I've released my next episode of MANEATING early, as it's just too funny to hold on till Wednesday.  This time I decided to review a packet of Walkers Quavers.  And because I'm that kind of guy, I got my son to help me.

It didn't go quite as planned...

On the plus side he's funnier than I am anyway :)

Friday, 22 November 2013

Simon is a coward

I've been playing a open source version of an somewhat ancient game, XCOM: UFO Defense.  For those that haven't played it, the original XCOM is a classic PC game.  You are given command of an elite force with the mission to protect the earth from aliens.  You set up a base of operations, and shoot down UFOs as you spot them, sending in a crack force to finish off any of those grey-skinned freaks that survived the crash.  All too soon though you discover that the aliens are tougher than you think, and it's a race against time to stop them before they put an end to you.

My base.  Don't mess with me.
The problem is, a game of this age doesn't run very well on today's PCs, so I'm playing OpenXcom, an open-source clone of the original (and you have to have bought a copy of the original for it to work).

Now, the thing you have to understand about XCOM is that it's hard.  You don't have much money, so you're often scraping around to try to keep your fighters armed and your troops equipped.  The aliens can see further than you, and in the dark.  They shrug off your bullets with ease, whilst loading plasma death onto your folks.

So I've always cheated on it.

The thing is, to me the important thing is the story.  There's a lot of really good fan fiction based on XCOM, I particularly liked the story written by Russ Brown back in 1994.  I don't want to go into too much detail in case I spoil the game for you - oh sod it I'm going to.

Basically, we're outmatched.  In the long run, humanity doesn't have a chance.  So we research by dissecting aliens, and studying their equipment, what their reasons are for attacking Earth, how to use their weapons and technology, and eventually finding a solution to stop them once and for all (which isn't once and for all because there are many sequels in the XCOM series!)

So playing fair isn't important to me - I like following the story.  So to cheat in the original, you'd use a hex editor on a saved game to give yourself more money and make your troops tougher.  In the open source version, you can use Notepad.

The only problem is, when you're editing your troops, it takes a while, and I'm really lazy, so I only hacked maybe ten of them, and left all of the rest of them as normal troopers.

So, because my hacked guys are faster than the rest, even though they are tougher, they tend to run further, leaving the rest behind, come up against the aliens first, and get shot.

They started dying, one by one.

There's two main troopers I'll mention.  The first is the overall commander of XCOM, and he's called Dustyweaver after my mates gaming handle.  There were also other troopers called Thog and Denkai (mine and my other half's gaming names) but they took too many plasma bolts to the face and died.

I play Dustyweaver the way my friend would play him - that is to say, he leads from the front.  As a result, he spends most of his time wounded and laid up in hospital while the rest of XCOM fight on without him. To be honest, I'm amazed he isn't dead yet.

As you can see from this screenshot, Dustyweaver is wounded.  Again.
One particular mission springs to mind.  We were investigating a crashed flying saucer, and Dusty, along with a few other troopers, were equipped with stun spikes (or whatever the hell they're called) - basically a sort of taser.  The problem with shooting aliens is, although its quite effective at stopping them from shooting back, you don't generally get to interrogate them afterwards.  So, if possible, you sneak up behind one of them, zap it in the back, and get to take it home for tea and biscuits.

Anyhow, Dusty spots this alien toting a plasma rifle. I'm having him, Dusty thinks,and charges the alien.

Face on.

The alien is blasting away at this sprinting blue beast of a man, hitting Dusty in the chest, in the face, and the shots are getting easier and easier as Dusty gets closer.  It's amazing that Dusty doesn't die, but he actually gets right up to the alien, the alien is frantically reloading his gun, and...

After all that running and being shot, Dusty is too tired to stun the alien.

So we have this grassy field, one side filled with XCOM troopers, the other side with a variety of aliens lurking, and right in the middle Dusty and this Sectoid Soldier are stood looking at each other, in my mind saying "Well I can't do anything. And neither can you.  Bugger!"

After all that, Dusty staggered away and his teammates shot the alien.

The second trooper I have to mention is Simon (his first name is Mathis but I call him by his surname, Simon. When I'm feeling kind.).  Simon is another one of my hacked troopers.

As the battles went on, and one by one the hacked troopers started dying, I became aware of something odd with Simon.

Despite the fact that he was faster than the others, he never seemed to be in front.  And he spent a lot of time in cover, behind walls, fences, in tall grass, basically anywhere that reduced the chance of him getting shot.

Now this isn't a bad thing, but Simon took it to the extreme.

I've had to come to the opinion that Simon is a coward.

Note that Simon's lowest statistic is Bravery.  Unsurprising.

Quite often he advances with a trooper on either side, and a medic behind him, just in case.  It's a bit of a joke now when I play that Simon never ventures by himself.

The guy in the powered suit of armour, crouching inside a ring of cannon fodder?  Yes, that would be Simon.

The great thing about XCOM though is the stories it conjures up.  One time I was playing, I was attacking a mini-flying saucer thing, basically it's a white disc that hovers in the air and spits plasma at you (these aliens like plasma).  My squad were running around, trying to get a shot.

Finally one guy dropped to one knee, and opened up with his laser rifle, set to automatic fire.  The great thing about auto fire is that you get to fire off three shots instead of the normal one.  True, your accuracy might be a bit lower, but the odds are that one of the shots at least will be on target.

The first shot flew off into the sky, to panic a bird somewhere.

The second shot hit the disc dead on, and blew it up.  Result!

But the gun was on automatic.

And fired a third shot.

The third shot took one of the troopers colleagues in the head, and promptly killed them.

I bet that was an uncomfortable ride home for him, packed into the back of a transport with twelve other troopers, and a fresh corpse of his own making.

Another in-game joke is the armour.  The first level of armour you research is "Personal Armour".  This is a blue work suit that is pretty useless - it is better than not having any armour, but it isn't that great.  I suspect that the Research department, under pressure to provide something useful to use against the alien threat, went out and bought a load of boilersuits.

You can put as many plastic abdominal muscles on the front of your boilersuit as you like, it doesn't mean that it'll deflect a plasma bolt.

Except for the time when the aliens used their psychic powers to mind control one of my guys, and then I couldn't kill them.  All of my shots bounced off that damn armour.  In the end it took about four of my best troopers blasting away at point blank range to punch through that suit.

In other news, I now have a Google+ page with my own customised web link, https://plus.google.com/+MikeRaven - feel free to check it out.  Also, have you tried the puzzle game on Google currently up, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who?  Hit the second "O" (the one that looks like an arrow) to give it a go.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Shampoo is for frequent use

Why do they sell you shampoo which is "for frequent use" - as opposed to what?  Do they mean its not really nice shampoo, so its okay to be used every day, while you might want to keep your Pantene or T-Gel for best?  Or can you get shampoo "for occasional use, be warned that if you use it more than three times a week your hair turns electric blue"?  You don't get this sort of comment on other things.  I've never seen soap that you can buy for frequent use.

Perhaps you could buy a deodorant labelled "for frequent use" as a somewhat blunt gift?

And it's with that thought of the day that I turn to three items of news!

Firstly, congratulations to Hull on being named the UK 2017 City of Culture.  I think it's going to be really good for the city and the competition seems to have really inspired the area.  I hope it makes a real difference to the future of the region.

Secondly, I have a guest blog of mine on the Yahoo! Answers blog!  The Yahoo! Answers team have been very nice and let me blog over there about Yahoo! Answers (which I quite like going on), and fingers crossed another one of my blogs will be going up tomorrow!

And thirdly, the latest episode of MANEATING is being uploaded as I type, and should be available very very soon here.  In this weeks episode I talk about Refreshers Squashies sweets, which are very nice.  And there's loads to do on their official website - like a Wordsearch!

Squashies Wordsearch!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Weekly Routine

Once a week I take my gran shopping, and being a creature of routine the day goes thusly:

 I will arrive at my grans, aiming to be there for 9.30am but inevitably being 5-10 minutes late.  I got away with being late for a while because she'd managed to get all of her clocks and watches set 10 minutes slow, but since the "It's not eleven o'clock yet!" incident during the 11am Remembrance Sunday silence, they've all been put right.

 We'll have a brief chat, I'll check her mail, put her rubbish and recycling in the appropriate bins, and get her coat.

 When ready we'll go to the car.  An issue often arises at this point, as my gran uses a mobility scooter.  The issue is that when I'm moving the scooter into position (for example outside her front door), I'll have it on full speed, but my gran uses it on its lowest setting.  What does happen from time to time is that I forget to turn the speed down after maneuvering it, leading to my gran speeding, out of control, off into the sunset.

 We'll get in the car.  My gran may attempt to put on her seatbelt, but more commonly will pull it across for me to do.  I now understand what Peter Kay means about his grandmother just holding the belt across her lap rather than plugging it in.

The routine involves going to Lidl, Waitrose, and Poundstretcher.  In that order.  Every week.

 As we're driving to Lidl, my gran will dig through her purse for any 1p, 2p, or 5p coins she may have, which are deposited in my drinks holder as a tip.  This is very nice of her, but does make it awkward when you're trying to put a drink in there and it's balanced on a pile of copper.

 We get to Lidl.  We will park in one of the west facing spaces, looking into the windowed side of the shop, ideally with an empty space next to us to make it easier to get the scooter around.

 We go around Lidl.  This takes about half an hour, and despite my gran having a list, the list is generally only paid a minimal amount of attention as we go around the shop, following a well-rehearsed script honed over the years.

 "How many cheese twists did you want?" I'll ask her (the answer will most likely be 3.  If there are no cheese twists, she'll have cinnamon swirls.)

 "Do you want any mini-Kit Kats?" she'll ask me. The answer will be no, because they come in bags of 20, she already has about 30 mini-Kit Kats at home, and I worry that if I say yes she'll buy another 20 and have something of a mini-Kit Kat mountain that, if my son spots them, will result in a small child meltdown when I have to explain to him that he can't actually eat 50 Kit Kats for lunch.

 Biscuits are next - she will buy jaffa cakes, half of which I suspect she passes on to my mother, possibly rich teas and ginger nuts, and most likely some Penguins.  Penguins are not referred to as Penguins, but as a variety of different names, just to make life interesting.

 Then we get into the fruit and veg area.  She may buy baby plum tomatoes from here, but doesn't do so very often. Satsumas are felt to see if they are sufficiently ripe - they should have a loose peel, but aren't too dry - if they pass the test she'll buy them, otherwise the purchase of these is saved for Waitrose.

 Apple pies will be purchased, possibly with some jaffa cake bars alongside.  My gran will offer to buy me mushrooms (which I'll accept) and grapes (which I'll usually decline).

 I should note this week we got cherry bakewells instead of apple pies, because they'd sold out of apple pies.  Don't think that we aren't flexible, not for a minute, no sir.

 We will buy three sandwiches, a BLT, a Chicken Salad, and a Cheese Ploughmans.  We may buy four mini pork pies.

 We will head down the next aisle, my gran reminding me to "look at both sides".  We may buy bananas (a small bunch) and two packs of apple juice cartons.

 The third aisle is one that we may get away without buying anything, although options down here are Quavers (if Morrisons don't sell them cheaper) and tonic water.  Sometimes at the end of the third aisle / start of the fourth Lidl will have unusual food items for sale, i.e. they'll declare "It's US week!" and have US beer and hot dogs and squeezy mustard sauce for sale.  Whatever week it is, I'll pick a beer up.  And fortune cookies if it's Chinese week.

 Down the fourth aisle it's ibuprofen, possibly cat litter, and occasionally washing liquid if she wants me to do some washing.

 And on the last aisle we'll purchase milk, and look at the refrigerated special offer items, which always includes big chunks of cheese.  I suspect this is mainly for my benefit because I can't remember the last time my gran bought anything from here, but because I won't be getting home for 5 or 6 hours, I've never bought anything from here either.

 We'll then circle around, and head for the tills.  By the time we get to the tills I should worked out an estimate of how much the shopping will cost.  The leeway for error on this estimate is around 7%.  If I exceed this limit (by the final value being too cheap or too expensive) I will earn a well-deserved "You said it would be £XXX!" from my gran.

 When it gets to being our turn to load goods onto the till belt, I'll put my grans items first, and then mine, with my grans sorted roughly in the order that I want to put them into the bags.  Carrier bags will be removed from my grans bag and opened up, ready to accept the scanned goods.

 Now, it's our turn to get our stuff scanned and pay for it.

 I remember back when I was little, and going to Sainsburys with my parents.  At that time scanning food seemed to take so long that it would have been quicker to type the prices in by hand.

 Then Aldi opened opposite Sainsburys.

 At Aldi the shopping was scanned in a flash, a bolt of lightning wouldn't move as fast as the till operators hands did over that scanner.

 Now Lidl isn't quite as fast as that, but they don't hang about, and one of the staff in particular is fast as anything.  If we get her, I'm most likely going to have to resort to dumping the shopping in the trolley and bagging it after paying - but that doesn't mean I won't try to keep up!  So I do my best to scoop the scanned goods into my ready and prepared bags for life, with the aim of being able to go straight to the car and unload the bags without any packing beforehand.

 At any rate, we finish at Lidl, and drive to Waitrose (to be precise, parking in the disabled bay immediately to the right of the entrance to Poundstretcher if at all possible).  We'll go to Waitrose to the cafe and get my gran seated on the very edge of a chair - I'm convinced that she's going to fall off one day, I do try to get her to sit fully on a chair but she seems to prefer sitting on the edge - and purchase some combination of paninis, bacon/sausage sandwiches, cheese toastie (okay it's Waitrose so it's called Croque Monsieur, but that doesn't change the fact that it's cooked bread with cheese in), or if they are lacking in a number of the aforementioned items, a toasted teacake.

 Because we have a MyWaitrose card, we get two drinks (a small coffee and some kind of tea - either herbal or regular depending on how I'm feeling) but only have to pay for one.  I have registered for my own MyWaitrose card because I imagine it's going to help me feel middle class. And, more importantly, it'll get me a free drink in the cafe.  My gran always comments that most of the people in the cafe aren't eating anything - I imagine it's probably because they're all enjoying a free drink.  But my card hasn't arrived yet and so we currently pay for one drink.

 When I return from buying food I must have a receipt with me so that my gran can see what we're having for lunch.  The receipt is essential. It does not matter if we have the food and I can explain what each item is - we need the receipt!  My gran will check that we still need to keep the MyWaitrose card, I have a feeling that it doesn't have a suitable place to live in her purse and she'd prefer to get rid of it if possible.

 In the cafe we'll eat and drink, read whatever newspaper or magazine is available - my gran prefers the Mail or the Express, I prefer the Guardian or the Independent (or Sunday equivalents ie Observer).

 We'll finish the day off by going to Poundstretcher for three books with nice stories and large print, one box of Whiskas cat food, some Walnut Whips, and possibly a bag of sweets for me - I'll try to resist the latter, but some times my will weakens.  My gran will run over one of the feet of the revolving stand holding the books for children with her mobility scooter.

And in a nutshell, there is my weekly routine!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Platform 2013 is here!

I've just got back from experiencing the various delights of Platform 2013, the biggest gaming convention ever to hit Hull, and it's been pretty awesome fun.

Platform has pretty much taken over Hull City Centre today and tomorrow, being in force in the City Hall, Guildhall, Studio School, and Ferens Art Gallery.  In the City Centre the main gaming focus is taking place, with a mixture of games developers and gaming-related firms in prescence.  It was great to see the Multiplay guys commentating on some fantastic Hunger Games Minecraft and Ace of Spades games.

One of the indie developers there, Beard Bandit, was on hand to feature the first-ever public showing of their new game, Comet Chaos.  It harks back a little to Missile Command, albeit with far better gameplay, graphics, and insane powerups - swopping your missiles for a laser is ridiculous fun!  And watching the stellar chunks bounce off a handy shield is very satisfying.

comet chaos
Comet Chaos - don't be put off by my low resolution picture - I just need a new camera!

beard bandit
One of the chaps from Beard Bandit does an interview while his colleague gets the important job of "playing the game so the interview has it in shot, whilst sitting on the floor behind a table to keep out of the shot himself"

Elsewhere, in the Guildhall, two rooms are set up with all kinds of retro gaming computers and consoles available, from Acorns and BBC Micros, through Ataris and Sega Master Systems.  They only had one Spectrum but it was a +3 - oh how I wanted a ZX Spectrum +3 when I was a kid!  I tried various games, and reminded myself just how bad I am at them.  Today's games are a lot easier, you can pause them and save them and go back whenever you want, and if you die you restart just before where you died... I remember the family playing one game for a month, and that meant that the Spectrum stayed on for the month.  Amazing that the power supply didn't burst into flames really, knowing how hot they got!

BBC Micros.  At least they didn't have any of those nasty Commodores around.

I also popped over to Ferens Art Gallery to see what was going on there, as I sauntered in a Platform volunteer said "are you here for Platform?", I answered in the affirmative and within twenty seconds found myself in a lecture hall, with no idea of who was speaking or what about.  Fortunately the speaker was the very impressive AJ Grand-Scrutton who gave a fantastic talk about his experiences of working in the games industry.

Special mention must be made to Hugh of Let There Be Light Productions - great to finally speak to you in person!  And if he reads this, hi to Nana, I'd be interested in challenging you to a chair-breaking contest sometime, I understand you're quite an expert at it!

All in all a very entertaining day!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Platform 2013 - one day to go!

Well, the video camera is on charge, the brand new space invaders t-shirt is hanging in the wardrobe and I'm scribbling my YouTube channel address on the back of a load of free Vistaprint business cards I ordered for no reason ages ago.


Platform 2013!

Platform 2013 is a massive gaming expo taking place in Hull tomorrow and Saturday.  Featuring the likes of Google, Microsoft, Multiplay, Sony, Konami... the list goes on and on.  Loads of games to play, new hardware to look at (I believe PS4s will be in attendance), I'm very much looking forward to an event like this, especially one where I don't have to travel for 2+ hours to get to.

I haven't decided whether I'm actually going to do some filming or not, but I want to take my gear with me in case the feeling takes me!

Speaking of filming, my latest episode of MANEATING went live yesterday - this week it's the turn of Ryvita Wholegrain Crackerbreads to be eaten.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

And lo...

Today we have a guest blog from my dad, about feeding dogs raw meat.  I probably need to give some disclaimer at some point - um, okay.  I am in no way instructing you to feed your animals raw meat, in case something bad happens.  And I'm sure vets are very good.  This post is included for its entertainment value.  Which is considerable.

That being said, if you are on the look out for some decent Christmas/Yule presents, I'd recommend heading over to my parents Facebook page, and giving them a message asap with your postal address and a request for a free catalogue.  They do all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff, like gemstones, jewellery, incense, charm bags, moon diaries, candles, totem stones, books... the list goes on and on.  They're mail order only (well okay you can ring them and order) and there is just the two of them running the business, so if you want something unusual and unique as a present for someone you'd best off get a catalogue as soon as possible and get ordering!

Dad - over to you!

Greetings dear reader, I trust you are well. On occasion in the past I may have regaled you with tales wild and varied, of violent awakenings of a befuddled soul fresh from their bed standing in something unmentionable before the sun has risen upon the day, or have read of the home truths of hairy canines, who be they beautiful, lovely, loyal and loving, are all at one in the same time, still dogs! And on this occasion a unique occurrence presented itself to the writer of tales so I bid thee be of good and hearty spirit, and prepare for amazement …

And lo, the wolves didst look up the sheep of many heads, and the sheep didst gaze back at they, as only the silent dead can do, and the wolves were confounded, and they did look to one another in bewilderment, and then did turn their eyes to their mistress as if to say “What the?”

So it was that one of the breeders pups had eaten a plastic bag with dire consequences – Colitis. In essence, it was crapping blood persistently and far from well. The vet recommended steroids for possibly the rest of its life, a diagnosis of considerable benefit to their bank balance (there’s nothing like guaranteed repeat business, right?) The breeder, who knows more about her breed than probably any vet alive and most other people in the world, knew well enough that the poor creature would not develop properly if kept on steroids – sometimes these drugs are unavoidable, but you need to be off them as soon as possible - so another answer was needed.

Much research and talking with other canine experts in many far flung countries was done and an unusual answer was suggested – raw meat, or rather raw carcasses.
The pup really didn’t want to eat its normal food which is cereal based and so in for a penny etc, raw chicken wings were offered to the dog. Amazingly the pup was more than interested and devoured the wings. The breeder knew full well that bitches who have just recently given birth do well with raw chicken to help them recuperate, and that the new mum’s always try to offer the carcasses to their new pups, which seems a little odd … but maybe they instinctively know what is best?

So this was the food for several days and amazingly the bleeding ceased. After some time the cereal diet was tried again but this brought a resumption of bleeding and was quickly stopped. Apparently the cereal diet caused bleeding, but raw bones and meat didn’t?! An unexpected but a welcome outcome.

Further research suggested that raw carcasses are indeed recommended for this breed of dog (Rough collies) and to cut a long story short, a supplier of chicken carcasses was found and now all the dogs at the kennels (around 30 at present) eat the new diet and to excellent effect. An unexpected side effect is that all dog’s are now worm free and without any form of ‘worm doom’ treatment. Apparently the diet changes the pH balance of the stomach and worms don’t thrive in such conditions. Not what one would have expected, but all to the good.

All most excellent, all dogs now eat chicken carcasses and also tripe, and love it to boot.

But what of sheep’s heads?

Ah well, it only seemed right that the search was ongoing for variations of food carcasses and upon visiting a trade butcher known to the breeder, she was delighted to see sheep’s heads for sale. They were a bargain I must tell you, less than £1 each, and she did speak with the butcher and ask for some sheep’s heads.

Certainly madam, how many would you like (he thinks, she will want one, for a laugh)

Twenty six please.

Certainly madam, erm twenty six? What are you going to do with them?

Feed them to the dogs!

Picture if you will, these are sheep’s heads. Take a sheep, remove the head part and that is what you have got – fur, eyeballs, horns, the lot!

Some time later twenty six sheep’s heads arrived at the breeders and she took them to the dog’s enclosure and ‘deposited’ them. And lo the dog’s were amazed!

And they did look at the sheep’s heads, and the sheep’s heads did look back at them. And the dog’s looked at the breeder as if to say “What the?”

The breeder did wonder if there was going to be a pile of rotting heads in the enclosure thereafter. The dog’s sniffed the sheep’s heads, prodded them, and looked about as if not knowing what to do.

The breeder went to bed a-wondering which colour wheelie bin was most appropriate for disposing of twenty six sheep’s heads.

But amazingly, the curious canines continued to ‘investigate’ the strange arrival in their compound, and the following morning when she went to the enclosure, of sheep’s heads there were none to be seen! Jaw bones, horns and the occasional bit of wool being blown about. All else had vanished completely, tongues, brains, eyeballs, skulls, the lot!

And yes, the dog’s are fine!

Stirred on by the wondrous tale we decided to buy ourselves a chicken and, well chop the bits off that we wanted – breasts and legs – and offer the remains to our two fluffy creatures Maeve and China.

Dad and dogs.  I'm fairly certain the only way he got them both to sit like this was with food.

Maeve, looked at us as if to say “Eh?” She sniffed, prodded, mouthed a small piece …… tried to be attentive as she could, as this was obviously her main meal of the day, but no … what, you expect me to eat it?!

China is a different sort of creature. When she found that she had been given half a chicken carcass she gathered it up and disappeared to find somewhere secluded to eat her prize. We have never known her do this ever before, but hey, apparently this was her birthday and she loved her ‘pressy’.
A few bare minutes later she came back downstairs from the bedroom and took intense interest in the delicious offering which Maeve was ignoring. In an effort to help Maeve along I chopped up all her carcass into bite sized pieces, which was a complete waste of time, no way was she eating that rubbish.

China looked pleadingly, she knows full well that she isn’t supposed to steal Maeve’s food and she looked genuinely surprised when we said “Go on then China, you can have it!”

A few short minutes later every morsel had vanished, the plate licked clean and a very happy dog settled down on the sofa.

And she was fine, no problems of any kind; we haven’t seen China so happy for a long time

NB Apparently chicken carcasses are ok for dogs but they must be raw – cooking makes the bones brittle and likely to shatter into sharp pieces.  

Sunday, 10 November 2013

How can you wave at a driver that isn't there?

You may have caught this story in the news that there are plans to operate driverless "pod" vehicles in the town of Milton Keynes from 2015.

In theory, this sounds great.  Computer-operated vehicles, that could be borrowed to get around town, should be more efficient, allow people chance to check emails (by which I mean check Facebook), and if they are anything like the ones Google are testing, should be safer too.  It's rare that accidents are caused by vehicular failure - far more often it's due, partially or wholly, to the person holding the steering wheel.

But it does throw up some concerns...

  • If you let one through, how does it wave to thank you?  Does it need a robotic arm fitting to salute you?
  • Will it be able to change its driving style so that it speeds up just enough to stop that BMW from pulling out in front of you, because its passenger has a nasty haircut?
  • We know that all computer software, from apps to operating systems, crashes from time to time.  Do you really want a Blue Screen of Death when doing 70 on the motorway?

And I don't think winding all the windows down and back up again will work either.

Plus we have to think about navigation - we all know how good sat-nav is.  That is to say that sat-nav, for about 90% of the time, is great, taking you straight to your destination.  But what about when you specify a location that perhaps is on a private road - will the car take you up to where the public highway ends, and then stop, bamboozled?  What about if you want to go to a shop that's relocated, but the cars database insists on taking you to its old locations?

PS I forgot that my last post was my 200th. So why not celebrate my 201st post instead?

PPS When setting my location for this post, Blogger came up with an error message.  Slightly ironic - if the software on my PC crashes when looking for "Hull, UK" I might not feel 100% comfortable trying it in a moving vehicle!

Friday, 8 November 2013

New web series launched - MANEATING!

A quick blog post tonight, just wanted to flag up my new web series debuted this week, MANEATING!  Content for my YouTube channel has been an issue for a while, I have difficulty making content, never mind quality content.

Anyway, I thought about what I liked doing.

And eating came to mind.

Hence Maneating - a show where I eat stuff!

Here's the first episode, where I eat an Alpen Light Bar.   Mmm.

For more of my videos, check out my channel at www.youtube.com/ravenswingthog

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Construction work is waiting for me

I have a project to undertake.

A project that will challenge all of my construction skills.

The kitchen drawer has finally failed.

The rear wall of the drawer has been falling off for some months.  Since it first showed signs of weakness, I've tried repairing it using a variety of materials, including:

  • Sellotape
  • Glue
  • Thick tough tape
  • Some funky metal bonding stuff in a tube that you have to cut, massage until its soft (a bit like blu tack), and then work into the gap

All of this has, in the end, failed.

My other half pointed out her displeasure with the current state of affairs by putting things into the drawer, and the items promptly sliding out of the back of the drawer and falling into the cupboard below.  I explained that if you:

a) Opened the drawer extremely slowly and carefully, and;
b) Didn't put anything in it

Then the drawer was fine, but apparently regardless of these perfectly reasonable facts it is time to go buy a new drawer, and fit it (gulp)

In other news, I've recorded tonight the first three episodes of my new web show.  It's called Maneating and it'll be on my YouTube Channel... sometime.  Not tonight because I have to do editing and do music, and all that kind of thing.  So maybe tomorrow night.

Unless I play Card Hunter.

The other thing is, have you got your tickets to Platform 2013 yet?  If not, this massive gaming expo is taking place on November 15th and 16th in Hull.  There's speakers from Google and Microsoft, video game exhibitors, a PC showcase, cosplay, all kinds of cool stuff.  I'm going down with my camera kit to hopefully do some filming.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Meme stardom here I come!

I can't help but notice how popular "memes" are at the moment.  I've spent some time analysing the key points of the most popular memes, and here are some home made ones - please do feel free to share (and tell people where you got them from!)

fluffy the bat meme
And here's one for everyone from Hull:
fluffy the bat chip spice hull meme

Speaking of Hull, I went out with my dad yesterday down Princes Ave in Hull.  Due to the weather, we spent the vast majority of Friday afternoon in Pave, and very much enjoyed it.

Me and a pint of Hoegaarden, with fruit in!  Very odd but it did enhance the flavour.

Dad in a philosophical pose.  This was later in the afternoon, when we'd been to another pub, and then due to the rain decided to return to Pave rather than attempt a march to Newland Avenue.

Dad very much enjoyed the Yorkshire Lager on sale, whilst I did my usual trick of trying a different drink every time - I think my favourite was possibly the Schneider-Weiss on tap, very nice indeed.

While I'm blogging I must flag up that Christmas is swiftly coming upon us, and if you want any chance of ordering rather cool stuff for presents (either for family/friends or for yourself) I can't help but recommend getting a catalogue from Raven - obviously I'm biased but my parents business does sell all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff.  They're mail order to the UK and Ireland, send them a message on Facebook with your name and address to get a catalogue, and I do believe that you get a voucher for a free gift with your first order too!  I'd also recommend liking them on Facebook because their status updates are always very interesting, usually a bit of history about what happened on this date, or otherwise it's pictures of food.

Which is always good!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Battle of the Generations

I've always considered myself relatively good with computers.  I've completed a degree in Computer Information Systems.  I use computers every day, and have a tablet and a smartphone which I regularly use as well.

Yet my son, who isn't four yet, can already teach me stuff on computers.  He's far more comfortable working with the tablet than I was at first - all I can think is that I am used to working computers a certain way (e.g. with a mouse and keyboard) and he doesn't have any preconceived ideas as to how it 'should' work.  The other day he tried to hack a neighbours wi-fi - didn't manage it, but full marks for effort. (I jest of course, he stumbled on the menu by mistake, but he still had a great time typing away into the password box)

I was watching this video from Sky Sunrise about tech savvy kids, and I do agree that parents do need to be concerned about how many hours their children spend using technology.  My son probably uses a tablet at most perhaps half an hour a day, to watch a cartoon or play a number of educational games I've installed for him.

The makers of the games, as an aside, are very cunning, because the free versions of the games are packed with adverts and of course these adverts behave differently to everything else in the game - for example, you might press on a picture of an apple, and the game speaks "Apple.", but if you press the advert next to the picture of an apple, the game closes and the tablet takes you to the website selling the thing on the advert.  This frustrates my son so as a result I'm looking at buying full versions of the games he finds most popular (which to be fair isn't a bad thing - it supports the makers of the games and the full versions generally have more features anyway)

I'd be interested to hear your views.  Should kids be kept away from technology? Or should they learn to engage with it from an early age?

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Coping with the clock change

Clocks go back tonight!

No idea how this affects other counties, but in the UK at 1am Sunday morning the clocks will go back one hour, going from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time.  Basically, it means mornings will be lighter, but it'll get dark earlier.

A commonly held opinion is that it also gives us an extra hour in bed on the Sunday.  This would be true, except for the fact that my three-year-old son is going to get up at his usual time, like it or not.

So I've tried to mitigate this.

Today he's been out this morning, been to the park this afternoon, had no afternoon nap, and I've kept him up until half 8 (his usual bedtime is half 7) in the hope that tomorrow morning he isn't going to awaken sometime around 5am expecting to get up.

We'll see tomorrow what happens.

In other news, A Girl Named Michael (a blog by a girl named Michael - when I first attempted to type her blogs name I misspelled it, coming up with "A Gril Named Michael" which I assume would be a blog about a rappers mouth furniture that for some inconceivable reason they decided to name after an Archangel) asked me to answer three questions.  I'm little worried how random my answers were compared to other people.  Check the questions and answers out at http://agirlnamedmichael-mj.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/3-very-random-questions.html

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Is it difficult to identify prostitutes?

Allow me to clarify this slightly concerning title by confirming that I have never requested the services, or indeed provided the services, that a sunset operative is best known for providing.

But how do you know, if you are attempting to procure this form of support, how do you know that the person is actually a prostitute?

I travelled to London last week and as a result was driving around Hull at 5am, a time of day that reaffirms the fact that Hull is a city that sleeps. It might be all fine for somewhere like New York to "never sleep", but in Old Hull we are so busy that we just need to nap from time to time.

Whilst driving to the train station, I passed  a female, perhaps in her mid-twenties, wearing dark trousers, and a padded blue jacket. Now she was stood down a street waiting for something. But I've no idea if she was a gigolo or not. She wasn't wearing a leather mini skirt or basque (is that the right word - apologies if I have offended any folk of the ethnic grouping located in Spain and France by suggesting that workers of ill repute may wear you) but then it is 5am in mid-October, slightly misty and definitely not weather that you would want to be out in without some good quality garments.

But what if she was just going to work somewhere that was a long distance away and she was waiting for a pre-arranged lift? As a man who, on a good day can vaguely resemble an out-of-shape lumberjack, I am aware of my potential to worry vulnerable females - little do they know that all they need to do in my case is brandish a mouldy peach and I will scream like a little girl - and, if I were attempting to hire a night person, what if I approached her with an offer to purchase her and she wasn't one? It could be a very uncomfortable conversation...
 "Hello there!" I would cheerfully announce.
 "Um, hello?" she might respond.
 I could attempt to identify her by asking "Are you working?"
 "Well, I will be when I get to work."
 "Work eh? A nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse! In you get.  I'll take you to work! Rowr!"
 "Are you a kerb crawler?!? I'm calling the police!"

And vice versa - what if I stopped, offered her a lift to the station, thinking her not to be a prostitute, but she actually is, so she gets in the car and is very displeased when I actually drive to the train station, and politely indicate that she leaves the car while I get a parking ticket? She might follow me onto the train thinking it some kind of bizarre role play, only to kick up quite a fuss when I refuse to pay for her ticket and the conductor throws her off at the next stop.

Maybe I shouldn't be up this early.

If you're still reading, I urge you to check out the video below, of one of the epic fight scenes from The Matrix series being re-enacted in Macy's.  It's great!

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