Monday, 30 September 2013

4 rants about certain products who cornered their markets

1 - Why have blueberries cornered the fruit-in-muffins market?  Who does their PR?

No one likes blueberries.  You don't ever think "I know!  I'll get the kids a treat, they can have some lovely blueberries".

No.  It doesn't happen.  You buy strawberries BECAUSE THEY TASTE NICE.

And yet, in muffins, it's chocolate, it's lemon and poppy seed (poppy seed?!? Again - what's going on there), or it's blueberry.  Try and get a strawberry muffin, I challenge you.

2 - If water is so good for you, why doesn't it taste of anything?

There is a reason that bacon, sausages, pork scratchings, cheese etc taste nice - it's because they have fat in them.  Fat, for the majority of the human population, is in short supply and we are genetically designed to like the taste of it, because we need the energy supply of fat to survive.  It's better than stuff like carbohydrates because it's easy for the body to store until needed.

It's just that in the current "modern" western civilisations, we have an excess of it, so we pretend to like salad.

But taking this reasoning, why don't we love the taste of water?  Apparently we need it to survive, and yet the taste of it is nowhere near as good as lemonade, or beer, or coffee or any number of other drinks.

There's only one explanation for it - it's actually bad for us.

3 - Cranberry sauce with Christmas dinner?

Why is it acceptable to have weird jam with a Sunday dinner, if you happen to have it on December 25th.  I'm not saying that I don't like Cranberry sauce, I do, but if we're allowing jam to be spread all over our turkey then what about when we have pheasant?  Can we have some blackcurrant jelly on that?  What about some lemon curd on a ribeye steak?  Perhaps marmalade is the Colonels secret ingredient in his Kentucky Fried Chicken?

(If this post vanishes abruptly, you know that the last suggestion was right)


No one likes the smell of pine, at least not the smell of pine cleaner.  Pine cleaner is inevitably the "bargain" or "value" brand of linoleum cleanser you've bought because it's only twenty pence for five litres, and the trade off for buying such an inexperience cleaning solution is that it stinks of nasty pine, probably it's the smell that you'd get if an elk urinated on a rotting pine branch, it was left to soak in for a few days, and then you brought the branch in to lighten the atmosphere of your kitchen.

And yet we choose - voluntarily - this smell to go in our cars.


Saturday, 28 September 2013

Questions for the Modern World... (and new video)

If Americans are so keen on independence, why are all their cities named after places in the UK?

Don't get me wrong, I'm behind them being independent and not having to pay taxes to the United Kingdom (although I do wonder how much wealthier I'd be if they still did - probably not a lot), but can they change the names of their cities?  They've done it before - New York used to be New Amsterdam, after all - maybe they can make up some new names.

Like Ravensville.

Or Ravenstown.

Or New Raven.

Raventon D.C?

If Yorkshire folk and Lancastrians have an age-old rivalry going on, why do our accents sound similar?

I'll probably get some flak for this one as it's quite close to home (being from Yorkshire myself - albeit born in North Humberside, as it was then), but I remember chatting to someone "down south" who had that I had "a great northern accent".

My gut reaction was to think "How can you possibly have a "northern" accent?!?"

There are so many varieties, from the nasal drone of Hull, the Liverpudlian squeakiness at the end of any word, Wikipedia alone references tons of different variations of accent.

But the reality is, to them soft southerners, we all sound the same.

At least we have decent accompaniments for our chips - gravy, curry sauce, mushy peas, and (in Hull at least) the rarest of all delicacies - American Chip Spice!

Okay, new video is up!

This one highlights a danger to letters all over the world.  Don't hesitate to watch and share, to raise the awareness of the dangers... of child.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Just drinking a coffee

I'm just drinking a coffee.

I'm struggling to produce anything half decent for my blog.  It's bizarre - half the time I have four to five posts ready to go, lined up, and I'm impatiently waiting for an opportunity to get another post out there, and the rest of the time is like this - I can't think of anything good enough to write.  Or I get halfway into a post, until I realise that it isn't very good and/or is overly offensive, and abandon it, forever to exist in the limbo of draft posts that I can't quite bring myself to delete but don't want to publish.

And then I'll hit the drinks - tonight being a coffee.

I wasn't always into hot drinks.  Well, coffee has always been okay.  Preferably with a large amount of cream and sugar, whatever that is required to remove the taste of the coffee and reduce the heat.  I've never understood people that have hot drinks without anything to cool them down.

Tea, though, I've only really gotten into in the last three or four years, when in an effort to cut my caffeine levels I switched to tea (and yes I do know that there is caffeine in tea, but a bit less I hope?).  To begin with I really struggled with the taste, but eventually managed to get to drinking it without milk or sugar, and just with a bit of cold water to cool it down.

I should say, if you've ever read my blog, and especially if you (fools that you are!) have come back and read it more than once - thank you.  I passed through 15,000 views the other day, which is a big achievement to me.  I need to make an icon or something for it...

There we go!

While I witter on about drinking, is it wrong to drink a 75cl bottle of 4% perry to yourself?  I've taken care of one of these and my other half is asking if everything is alright (which it is - I just don't have anything pressing to do in the morning so I'm taking the opportunity to push the boat out a little tonight).

For anyone that's interested, I've mentioned recently that I've been making an audition video for a computer gaming show - well, the video has been finished and was sent off Monday night, and I've been told that they'd like me to go into the studio in person to do an audition!  There was some issues with the video, which is completely acceptable (if my YouTube channel had ten million subscribers I might query this, but hell, I don't have ten million, I have 27! And I love every one of you.  And when I say love, I mean appreciate. Sincerely.), I'm just really enjoying the opportunity to try for this, and everything that I'm learning from it.  I ought to say special thanks to Matt for letting me record him play and talk about GTA V.  And Kirsty for letting me invade their house and not coughing and sneezing all through the recording (I ended up cutting all the audio out - but thank you anyway!)

Now I'm going to go play more Card Hunter.  Expect a proper post about it soon.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

It Lives! (Nearly)

I've almost got my dad's "new" second-hand PC up and running!  I've just got to get Windows installed on it and it should be ready to run.  He's been using a PC that I bought about ten years ago and one that we really can't upgrade any more (AGP graphics card - anyone still got one of them?)

But I've noticed something a little worrying - I'm starting to lose the capability to operate technology.

Now, I am a geek.  This is undeniable.  And I'm somewhat proud of being one (even though, truth be told, I'm not actually that good with computers - I'm not bad, but I could be better)

At the age of four (I think) I had a Sinclair ZX-81 home computer.  After that, a variety of ZX Spectrums. Other computers I have owned include a variety of PCs, from an ancient XT to my current Intel Core 2 Duo (I know, I want an upgrade) beast, Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, Sega Megadrive, Nintendo Gameboy, I think there was an Videopac console at some point, Playstation 2, Wii, a variety of smartphones and tablets, various other electronic gadgets, I hold two degrees (okay, one is a Foundation Degree) in IT, and various other IT qualifications.

But despite all this, my computer skills seem to be fading.

I haven't changed a toner cartridge for a long time, and I suspect that I wouldn't be able to do it now.  When I say this, yes I could, but I'd have to refer to Google.

Or the manual. (dear god!)

I had major trouble today working a software program that I downloaded, one that I used to use (albeit a few years ago).  It took me quite a while to work out how to operate it, which I'm sure in my younger days I would have figured out in an instant.

Ah well - I'm sure there's lots of useful other information now in my head that's replaced the IT stuff.

Like the best place to get sausages from (Jacksons Butchers in Louth)!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Feeling pumped

This is probably the first time I've ever referred to myself as "pumped".  Pumped isn't a word that should be used in reference to a person, or any kind of living creature.  You pump up bicycle tyres.  Okay, I guess I could be considered "pumped" in that I am currently storing some kind of spare tyre around my waist, but that's not the meaning I'm going for.

About half an hour ago I finished a computer gaming audition video that I've been putting together all weekend - and by all weekend, that does include pulling an all-nighter last night to get the damn thing edited!  It never seems to take that long to do a video, you just record it right?


There's bits that don't work and you have to rerecord, or you have to think how else you can do the video, there's cutscenes and videos you need to cut in, there's easter eggs you have to make (not the chocolate type), all this stuff.

I'm always struggled, when it comes to videos, with making the quality good enough.  Part of this is down to that I could really do to spend about £1200 on a new PC and recording kit, but mostly it's down to my innate temptation to settle for what I've got, to say "That'll do" when really, it could be better.

I don't know if anything will go forward from doing this video, but I've really enjoyed the challenge of making it, and it's nice to have been asked to audition.  Hopefully I've learned one or two little things about editing and I've had some new experiences along the way.  I'm almost tempted to say that "I've been on a journey" but I only find that phrase acceptable to say if you've actually physically moved from one location to another.

Or if you've jumped on one of the guys behind "Don't Stop Believing"!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

A musical one

Warning - my blogging is likely to get increasingly haphazard these next few days as I'm working on an audition video to be finished on Monday!

So, I've been listening to a lot of teenage punk rock music lately, after buying the "Teenage Dirtbags" compilation album.

It's pretty good, and reminds me of when I used to go to Spiders in Hull regularly (an epic epic nightclub that every now and then I get a massive desire to return to...hmm what am I doing for Halloween...)


Guess what I saw when I checked out the CD on Amazon as part of writing this post.

"UMTV compilation featuring the biggest bands and tracks from the golden era of pop punk"


Yes.  I feel old.

Get this album if you want to rock out.  And pretend that you're 20 again.

While I'm talking about music, I came across a rather decent singer-songwriter this evening.  Lucy Marshall is from North East Lincolnshire and despite only being 17 has already done well over 300 gigs, and shows no sign of stopping.  Which is a good thing because she's quite good.  I particularly recommend "Please" (video below)

Check out her website at to see where she's gigging next.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

G4C Y&H event - Employability, Air Permeability, and Sustainability - all in one night!

I wanted to flag up the latest G4C Yorkshire & Humber event coming up.  On Wednesday 25th September we've got an evening event at the Think Low Carbon Centre in Barnsley.

Attendees will get to enjoy a series of three sessions:

Employability - Janette Poole of East Riding of Yorkshire Council will look at what employers look for and how to stand out from the crowd!

Air Permeability - Bert Simmons of HRS Systems will discuss:
The proportion of national annual expenditure on energy, spent on heating buildings.
How limiting air permeability (of buildings) can reduce overall heat loss & hence energy costs.
Methods of testing and remedies for failures.

Sustainability - Based at Barnsley College the TLC Centre is packed with energy saving technologies. Constructed with the latest energy efficient materials the centre is a practical resource for house holders and businesses wanting to cut energy bills and increase knowledge in a key development area in construction. Martin Adamson of TLC Centre will conduct a tour.

To register for your free place go to

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Internet Stuff

I have news!

I've been asked if I'm interested in auditioning for a series about gaming. It's for Platform Play, and I'm very excited. No idea if I'll get anywhere but it's great just to be asked if I'm interested in auditioning.  If you feel the need you can see my initial web audition below.

Platform Play is part of Platform Expos,  which is working to create a hub of games development, transmedia and content creation in the Humber region.  It's really exciting what they're doing and I really hope it takes off.  If you are in the Humber region, do be aware of the upcoming Platform 2013 expo in November - I've got my ticket booked for the Friday (and the day off work), I'm not quite sure whether I'll be in there doing a load of filming or whether I'll just be enjoying everything going on, but either way it's going to be fun!

Couple of Internet things to tell you about:

Firstly, just a reflektor. This is an interactive film that uses your webcam and smartphone/tablet to interact (it can use your mouse instead of your phone if it isn't to hand) and is quite cool. It follows a young woman who travels between her world and our own.  I won't spoil it by saying what happens but do check it out at

The other thing is that I am rapidly becoming addicted to Card Hunter. This is an online collectable card adventure game that you play either as a single player fighting your way through dungeons,  or in multi player head-to-head. You get loot, which gives you better cards. Very good fun and free to play (although you do get more loot if you pay to become a member of the card hunter club), the only downside is that because it is so popular at peak times you may have to wait to get onto the server (which is always a sign of a good game!)

Pics below:

Okay, so I've got to kill some kobolds right? Lets do this.

A Mighty Bludgeon is deployed.  That's gonna hurt.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

If you made vodka...

If you made vodka out of powdered potato, would the advertising slogan be "With Smash Get Smashed!"

(For those younger non-UK citizens, check out Smash Mash Potatoes Advert to understand the above)

Staying on the subject of alcohol, it's fascinating how, after consuming a coffee laced with spirit, you can wiggle your head backwards and forwards seemingly easier than before.  And yet in the morning I'm confident all that effort-free head relocation will come back to bite me.

I've been doing this pedometer challenge at work, which started on Monday - basically for four weeks I have to walk as many steps as I can, recorded using a pedometer.  I've not been doing very well, so I decided to take things into my own hands and exercise tonight.

An hour on "Lets Dance 3" on the Wii.

Tired now.

But I did get three stars on Cee Lo Green "Forget You!"

Monday, 9 September 2013

Building a PC!

I'm building a PC out of spare parts for my dad - his gaming PC is maybe eleven years old (and used to be my gaming PC - about three PCs ago) and is in bad need of replacement.  And except for a power supply I've got pretty much everything needed to make one for him, which I'm really excited about, as even though I'm known as a computer geek, I do feel a fraud because I haven't built a computer for about twelve years, and  even then I made a mistake - the mistake being that I screwed the motherboard (part of the computer circuitry for you non-geeks) directly to the motherboard, instead of putting little rubber spacers between the motherboard and the metal case.

Result being?  First time we had a lightning storm that sucker got electrified.  And was never the same since.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Pouring milk isn't as easy as it sounds

Imagine the scene, if you will.  It's a normal workday morning.  A colleague from another organisation has arrived for a meeting.  As is the normal social convention, I offer him a drink, and he chooses a coffee, with milk.

I select a mug, pour in a teaspoon of coffee, and put in some hot water, and empty the contents of one of those little buckets of milk into the mug.  It's all given a good stir, but it looks as though it could do with a little more milk.

Not a problem!  We have more UHT pots of milk.

I grab another milk pot, open it up and...

Pour the milk into the bin.

This happens occasionally.  If I have something in my hands, and two activities to undertake, I'll do the wrong thing with the item I'm holding.  I remember some years back holding a used straw, and a stamp (I was collecting stamps at the time).  The straw was to be disposed of, while the stamp when in my album.  And I managed to put the stamp in the coal scuttle.

So, we all make mistakes.  I grab another pot of milk, open it up and...

Yes.  Again.  Poured the milk straight into the bin.


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The 5 groups of people you don't want to meet in a supermarket (or why I hate shopping)

I don't mean to hate shopping.  Actually, I like shopping.  It's shopping with other people in the store that I don't like.

But there are particular groups of people that you don't want to meet when shopping.  And so with no further ado, I give you... The 5 groups of people you don't want to meet in a supermarket!

5 - The stressed parent

We've all experienced them.  I've probably been one.  Nevertheless, we all want to avoid the stressed parent.

That's the one shouting at their kids, one of which is crying, whilst the other one discovers how many unbought Smarties they can fit up a nostril at the same time.  The stressed parent will accelerate around the supermarket, getting increasingly cross at the children, and you just know that if you happen to get in the way of them as they charge towards the freezers holding pizza, chips, and chicken dippers (the ones I tend to be around) you'll get, at best, a verbal lashing as they turn their anger on you, or a slam in the posterior by a speeding trolley.

4 - The slow shopper

At least the stressed parent will be out of your way pretty soon - just keep behind them, and they'll speed off into the distance pretty quickly.

No so with the slow shopper.

These folks obviously have all the time in the world to peruse the shop, and think nothing of spending upwards of fifteen minutes deciding on which brand of celery to buy. I imagine that their thoughts go something like this:

  1. Ooh, celery, do we need celery?
  2. Well I didn't see any celery when I looked in the fridge.
  3. Maybe I missed it.
  4. No, I would have seen it.
  5. Do I need to buy celery?
  6. Do I like celery?
  7. Well, yes, I do.
  8. Okay then, lets buy some.
  9. I wonder which type to buy.  Ooh, there are so many.
  10. Should I buy the organic?
  11. Or the normal brand?
  12. The value brand is very cheap, that looks good.
  13. But hold on - what sort of life did the celery experience before it was removed from the field?
  14. Maybe I should get the organic - but it's been flown in, while the general brand is local.
  15. But the expiry date on the general brand is worse... 

And the slow shoppers thought process carries on like this, disconnected from the body, which stands motionless alongside the very next shelf that you need to visit.

You will stand directly behind them, patiently waiting for them to move on, whilst internally building up a level of rage that usually is only seen in Jean Van Damme films, until eventually they pick up the stick of celery they want.

"Good! At last!" You think to yourself.

But they haven't moved. They haven't left the patch.

Oh no, they're inspecting it for insects.

"Leave!" you mentally fire at them. If you knew how to transmit messages psychically, these people would have fallen over by the strength of your mind assault.

Several seconds pass, and then they move.

About six inches forward.

Now you start swearing at them in your mind.  Your hands clench around the handle of the trolley, ready to lift it into the air, and smash them in the side of the head with it. Any jury in the land would let you off, you know they would.  You imagine being in court, in the defendants box.  Twelve men, good and true, stand to one side.  A judge glares at you, into your very soul.  There is no lawyer there to defend you, you're on your own.
 "Mr Raven, I understand that you are alleged to have caused grievous bodily harm with a trolley."
 "Yes, your honour.  But they had stood for four minutes next to the Uncle Bens basmati instant rice."
 "Four minutes?!? My word. Not guilty! Case dismissed!"

And then the slow shopper finally moves on. You feel a weight lift from your soul, and you pick your celery in a space of about three seconds.

You look around for the next thing you want to buy - ah there it is.  It's on that display over there.

The display where the slow shopper has moved to.

3 - The Telephonist

Now to be honest we've all probably been this person, but it still annoys us when someone else does this.

They use their mobile telephone in the supermarket.

There's a reason that they banned the use of mobile telephones when driving - it's because you can't pay attention on two things at once. The reason is still valid when driving a trolley.

If it was a quick call to check whether your partner wanted Brand A or Brand B domestic lager that would be understandable, but when people recite loudly half of what seems to be the most dire soap opera to the supermarket, whilst knocking over displays and small children with their metal goods vehicle, it can be a little frustrating.

But then there's a twist to this group, the next one.

2 - Telephonist with Child

Next we have a combination of two previous groups - the telephone operator, but this one has a child in tow.

They will be absentmindedly picking packets of Cheesestrings and dropping them carelessly in the trolley (Seriously?!? Surely you must have considered the danger of the packet being pierced by something as a result of the fall and the expiry date becoming inaccurate!!) whilst chatting away to a friend, the child happily exploring the supermarket without restriction.

 "Oh yes Tracey! You wouldn't believe what he said. He said that he was going out!"

A pause, presumably while her friend replies.  The child is now covered in a variety of foods that they have managed to smear all over themselves, the floor, displays, and the coats of strangers.

 "I know! Well I said to him that if he was going out then I was going out- CHARMAINE GET YOUR FINGERS OUT OF THE MULLER RICE THIS INSTANT!"

But finally, we have the most scary, the most undesirable group of person. Rarely seen, but always dreaded.

1 - The stranger that speaks to you. That isn't a till operator.


So many social conventions broken. And not in a good way - like the poor deluded fool in a men's toilet that attempted to kick off a conversation with five other men whilst all of them were using the urinals, by saying "So, how's everyone doing?". That one, after about three seconds of silence, resulted in every man in the vicinity bursting with laughter at the chap that attempted to break the vow of peeing-silence.

No, this one is just creepy. I don't want to know that my choice of washing powder isn't ideal. I don't want to know that you're going on holiday to Tahiti this summer. And I don't want to know that if I stick my credit card into an orange, the acid will eat away the personal data on the card within a decade.

I just want to do my shopping.

And go home.

And watch TV and maybe, if I really feel up to it, eat a bag of crisps.

I like crisps.


At Christmas you get all of the above and more groups, such as:

  • The last-minute shopper (rushing around in a panic buying anything they think might work as a present - boxes of broken biscuits, value shaving cream, cat litter, that sort of thing)
  • The big Christmas shopper (buying everything for their whole Christmas in a single shop, driving two trolleys around the store, blocking whole aisles as they pause to choose their cranberry sauce)
  • And everyone else, those people who normally shop in a socially acceptable manner, but due to the stress of Christmas, the store being crammed full of people, and rapidly emptying of the absolute essentials of Christmas, driving usually sane people to scream "WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY DON'T HAVE ANY BRUSSEL SPROUTS? NO, I DON'T WANT BUTTON SPROUTS INSTEAD! AND I DON'T WANT SPROUTS WITH CHESTNUTS, I HAVE A NUT ALLERGY!!!"

Yay for shopping!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Wiki Loves Monuments UK competition

Wikimedia UK is supporting the Wiki Loves Monuments competition, where across the globe (and in the UK for the first time this year) in September people take photos of the world's historic monuments and upload them to Wikimedia UK.  Wikimedia UK, if you're not aware, exists to help collect and distribute freely available knowledge, and is linked with Wikipedia.

The competition is really straightforward, on the website they give you a very short guide as to what to do and what monuments they accept photos of, and then you go off, get some decent photos, and upload them with a bit of a description!  Nice and simple.  If you do have a go do read the guide, common photo errors, and the rules, I fell foul of not reading the photo errors before I went out and a lot of the photos I took had a lovely big church sign in it, with lots of phone numbers and information on there which causes problems. Must try harder in future!

My first uploaded picture is available at,_Kirk_Ella.JPG - to get this picture it was a bit tricky, as St Andrews Church in Kirk Ella is surrounded by lovely trees, which are great but get in the way when taking photographs.  The only way I could get a shot was by laying on the path in front of the church, taking the photo there, and breathing in so that my belly didn't get in the way!  (Bit of a subtle hint for myself to get some exercise - which the Pedometer Challenge I'm doing shortly should help with!)

Anyhow, that's my first picture, but I hope to be getting a lot more up before the end of September!  If you're getting involved do let me know what photos you're getting!
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