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.
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