Sunday, 30 November 2014

National Days and... The December Challenge!

Firstly, today is St Andrews Day, the Scottish national day.  St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, was a Galilean fisherman who is also apparently the saint of fishmongers, gout, and sore throats.  Google celebrated St Andrews Day by linking to various brilliant views of Scotland - I particularly like the image of Threave Castle.

All this made me think of national days.

England (the part of the UK where I live - yes, the UK is made up of different countries) has its own national day, St George's Day, but we barely seem to recognise it.  We don't get the day off work and its generally (always?  I'm not sure how they work out what day it falls on) during the week.

Anyway, St George's Day is next on Thursday the 23rd of April 2015, and I'm going to do something English to celebrate.  I don't know yet (probably queue and complain about the weather) but this time I'll mark the day.  I'd welcome ideas in the comments for things to do!

Moving on - December is coming, and with it the end of 2014.

So, I've decided to set myself a couple of challenges.

On my blog I want to hit 600,000 views by the end of the year - I'm currently on about 474 thousand (this is according to Blogger statistics - Google Analytics stats are rather  lower), and on my YouTube channel I'm going to aim for 14,000 views - I'm currently at 13,133.

Blogger stats.  Exciting wiggles.

YouTube stats.  Less exciting wiggles (but exciting green triangles)

So, what would you like to see on my blog and on my YouTube channel?  Again, any ideas let me know in the comments.

Enjoyed this? Want to watch a video?  Try "Northerner eating on t'cheap".  Or if you prefer blogs, check out "My Internet Connection Is Unstable"

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Shopping on Black Friday

Friday morning I was out getting a few bits and pieces - we wanted a new kettle and iron, some household staples (aka milk and yoghurt - although I don't actually have any staples in the house) plus a couple of things for my other half who was helping at a Christmas fair in the afternoon.

Now, Black Friday is a phenomenon popular in the USA, being on the day after Thanksgiving, but as we don't as a rule celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK I didn't really think about it.

Well, I went to Asda (large UK supermarket, owned by Walmart) for some of the things on my list, which is normally open 24 hours a day, and was very excited to see people queueing to get in.  Without any prompting I happily joined the end of the queue - about sixtieth, I worked out - to get in.  I think there is some about British people and queueing, when we're not under any immediate time pressures to be anywhere else, we do like a good queue.  There's any number of great things about a queue:

  • It's a social situation where we're allowed to communicate with strangers (about queue-related topics) - whilst we normally steer well clear of any kind of social contact with those folk that we are yet to be formally introduced, the novelty of an unexpected queue can stir us into discussion;
  • We can assess just how far back we are in the queue, and try to estimate how long it will take us to get to the front;
  • You can squint at the sky (grey) and extract a hand from its protective pocket / glove to see if the sky is releasing rain - if so, you are free to frown, and;
  • You can telephone friends and family members to complain about the queue (as the fellow behind me in the queue seemed to manage to do for about 15 minutes straight, over 3 or 4 separate telephone conversations)

You also get to tweet and Facebook about the queue in question:

I feel rather guilty about this because I didn't actually have a value breakfast, I was just making a joke, but I didn't want to disappoint Beth - sorry Beth. This was possibly the first time I pretended that I did have a fried breakfast rather than pretending that I haven't. 

We even had two Police Community Support Officers turn up to backup the security guard on duty, who appeared to be held up by an older gentleman who was certainly talking to him for the full twenty minutes that I was queueing, and quite possibly longer.

In the end I didn't actually buy anything from the Black Friday offers, but I still got to queue up and it was fun (but don't tell anyone I admitted to that!)

Did you go shopping on Black Friday?  Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today it's Thanksgiving and I'd like to cheer on all my American friends who are hopefully eating a huge dinner of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, vegetables, followed with some sort of dessert (apparently the White House's menu includes a huge variety of pies), and the day topped off with watching a parade, or some american football.

President Obama is pardoning some turkeys, and tons of people are travelling all over the place to be with family.

One year I'd like to take part in Thanksgiving, ideally being over in the States, having a great big meal (because I love great big meals), and watching the game over a beer or two.  It sounds quite like Christmas is here (with possibly less presents and more football) which is always my favourite time of year - the one time of year when I have days where I do nothing except watch TV, snack, and hang out with friends and family.

Wherever you are in the world, have a great day this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Princess Daddy

This morning I asked my son to tell me a story.

With a little prompting from my other half, we got the following out of him:

Once upon a time, there was a princess.  And the princess was called Princess Daddy.

Princess Daddy wore a white and pink dressing gown with little hearts on.

Yes, he does.  In my defense... actually,scratch that. I have no defense.

Princess Daddy likes eating peas.

Princess Daddy went on a blue and white boat, and sailed through the clouds to the sky!

Then he had a wee.

The End.

He's got a bright future as an awesome storyteller ahead of him.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

24 hours is a long time...

Yesterday I wrote a post saying that I wasn't sure if I would buy a Raspberry Pi or not.  I couldn't really think of what I would do with one.

Today I bidded on one on eBay.

I don't believe that the nice worktop was included, however.

I didn't win the auction, but I've bidded on another and I'm also looking at the prices for a new Raspberry Pi B+ (the cheapest I can find start about £25 including P&P).  It's intriguing how it captures the imagination - could I use it to make a robot that travels around the house, with sensors detecting things?  Yes. Could I use it to act as a retro games console? Sure. Could I use it to stream video to my TV? Absolutely.

When it comes to computing, I've never particularly been a hardware guy.  I can, just about, build a PC, but anything that smacks of proper electronics, I've steered away from.  But there's something about the Raspberry Pi that makes me want to try.

I might even get a soldering iron!

Once I have got one, I hope I can find a local group of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts - there doesn't seem to be much in the way of groups in Yorkshire, which is a shame.

In the meantime though, I'd love to hear from people who have a Pi and hear what they've done with it.  Drop me a line in the comments!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

I like Raspberry Jam

I don't mean the stuff you put on your toast.

Today I was at the Hull Raspberry Jam in (unsurprisingly) Hull.  Raspberry Jams, thought up by Alan O'Donohoe, a teacher of Computing working at a school in Preston, are groups where people get together, learn how to use Raspberry Pi computers, and share ideas of what to use the Raspberry Pi for.

If you're not familiar with what a Raspberry Pi is, basically it's a computer on a single chipboard,very small and inexpensive, ideal for educational applications and for electronics hobbyists.  Examples of projects that involved a Raspberry Pi include a theremin, recording and tracking unmanned balloon flights, home media hubs, a time-lapse camera, a robot... the list goes on and on and is only limited by your imagination.

I haven't coded for far too many years which is a shame because as a kid I used to program quite a lot and made quite a few games in Basic.  So it was good to get into some geekyness today.

Alan O'Donohoe kicks the event off.

There were a number of workshops and talks that we could sign up for, and I signed up for the first two workshops, which was basically learning how to connect up a Raspberry Pi, and then learning to make a game on it using Scratch, a programming language provided by MIT free of charge.

At the end of the first workshop we got a few minutes to hack Wormy, a snake-type game, by editing the Python code.

I took the opportunity to deliver my hallmark coding amendment - I added in random colours, making the apple go from a boring red colour to a constantly changing delight of colour.  In my programming class at college I endeavoured to apply this every week to whatever assignment we had, which eventually led to my tutor including in his assignment notes one week the sentence "remember Chad hates flashing colours".

It didn't stop me doing it.

This doesn't look like much, but my old programmng tutor would have hated it.

And I even got a few seconds of video of the hacked game in action.  Note the flashing square on the left - that's all my work!

For anyone interested in coding or electronics, Raspberry Jam events are great and I'd definitely recommend going to one.  Find out more at - I can't guarantee however that yours will be as exciting as mine (at lunch I ordered a toasted teacake and nearly set fire to the canteen)

Will I buy a Raspberry Pi? I don't know right at this moment - they're very impressive, and today has reawakened my enthusiasm for coding and computing - I'm going to be building myself a new PC next week, and because of today I've decided that I'm going to make it dual-boot Windows and Linux, and I definitely want to do some programming too, but I haven't ordered a Raspberry Pi for myself yet - the issue is that I don't have anything that I can really think of that I want one for, but I don't know if I ought to wait until I have an idea, or whether to get one now and then think about what it could do.  But for those wanting to experiment they're an excellent choice.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Are you ready for Christmas?

Time is ticking away, for in five weeks it shall be Christmas Eve.  Have you got your presents bought yet?  The shops are full of seasonal wares, the television is filling up with Christmas adverts, and a niggling ache is growing in the back of peoples heads as they begin to wonder if they ought to start thinking about getting presents.

I have been putting odd presents away haphazardly over the last couple of months, but now it's time for me to get organised, get a detailed list of presents for friends and family together, lose the list, and then buy what I can think of for people.  What typically happens is one of two things:
1) I end up with too many presents, and end up having to keep three Toblerones for myself, or...
2) I miss out someone's present and end up having to send them something slightly odd like a bag of Haribo.

Last year I had a little problem in that I sent some packs of shower gels and deodorants through the post as presents, and they were intercepted as possible bombs.  They did in the end make it to their destination, but was about a month late, which was a shame.

How are you preparing for Christmas?  Have you started yet?  Or do you leave till the last minute?

Those lovely folk at have published an app review of mine, a review of Relax Melodies: Sleep & Yoga.  Do go take a look.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

I am a caring wife

I took an online test this morning, and apparently I'm a caring wife.

That's probably the reason why, when I had to plug my laptop in to charge this morning, I chose to unplug the recliner on the sofa rather than the pump aerating the fish tank.

Damn my caring nature.  True, I prevented fish genocide, but my feet would have loved to be elevated.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

In the world of soccer...

So, I'm playing FIFA 12 a lot.  I'm aware that any soccer enthusiast will now be calling me all kinds of names because I'm playing a game which is an entire 3 years old, but it was £2, so there.

For much of my spare time over the last week I've been managing Bradford City and helping them to work their way up the leagues, win cups, that sort of thing.

And I thought that I'd share a few of the action packed moments with you?

Here we are facing the deadly Swindon Town.  They apparently have an OVR of 59.  I'm not entirely sure what OVR stands for, but the higher the number is, the tougher they are to beat.


The team from Swindon was seriously hampered when they chose to play eleven coloured dots instead of actual people.

I would note that the game attempts to sabotage my team by rearranging my players periodically, generally putting my best players in reserve and instead equipping my team with a variety of cleaners and lollipop men.

Here's all the action going on.  I have many many pictures that look like this, and they're all just as informative.

And because I'm such an ace player (aka I have it on "easy"), I score goals, and the below happens a lot.

That is to say, things get physical.
Time for another game!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A fridge lands on a comet

In less than 12 hours, a fridge called Phil will be touching down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Of course that's nonsense, but in less than 12 hours, a fridge sized lander called Philae will be landing on the aforementioned comet as part of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. The mission will analyse the comet and do all kinds of interesting stuff.

Find out all the latest, including watching the mission control room, at - to be honest it's not that exciting, but I think everyone's been clearly briefed about the webcam - everyone looks busy (although you can't see their screens so they could be playing Solitaire) and they do seem to surreptitiously glance at the webcam when passing near it. And there appears to be music playing, I don't know if the music is actually playing in the control room or if its to replace whatever noise there is in the room, I assume that it's much like any other workplace and there's the danger of someone within the range of the webcam complaining about a co-worker, eating a bacon sandwich, or swearing when they realise that they forgot to charge their smartphone, so not transmitting sound is probably a good idea.

Nevertheless, I'm doing my best to piece together what's going on. There's a guy in a suit who walks around - I think that he's a boss of some sort, perhaps making sure that the mission will achieve its agreed objective of landing on a chunk of ice.

Then there are some guys with shaved heads with headsets on. I think that these are possibly telesales operatives selling secondhand fridges, as I presume prior to launching the mission they probably used a lot of fridges to see how to crash one into a comet without breaking it - they're probably a lot cheaper to damage than a space science probe.

There are also some other guys also wearing headsets but with hair. I think that these are IT technicians because I've seen them at least once get under a desk, which in my experience means that they are computer techies fixing the network or plugging in a USB cable or some such thing.

Finally there is one other quite young guy with hair, glasses, and no headset. He's clearly a trainee who perhaps is on day release from the local college, and I'm surprised that I haven't seen him bringing anyone coffee yet.

So do head over to the website at about 8.30am GMT when I expect the room will be a lot fuller as they do the rather challenging task of landing a fridge probe onto a speeding chunk of ice by remote. Seriously though, all the best to the ESA with this incredible mission!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Garage doors, Downton Abbey and FIFA

I'm typing this having just come inside from the garage, where I've been power tooling.

This would be a picture of a power tool.

Over the last few months, we've been having a battle with thieves attempting to get into our garage for nefarious purposes (I assume that it is for nefarious purposes, if it is a holy order attempting to find the secret of life and they believe that it is located within the concrete and metal construction at the bottom of the garden, then they're welcome to explore for it,as long as they leave it tidy. (or at least tidier than it is at the moment).

They broke in one of the doors - we've secured it. So now they've broken in the other door, so it's now been secured too.  I hope that this will be the end of it, but for some reason I suspect not.

Next - Downton Abbey Series 5 has just finished!  I won't spoil it for anyone that hasn't seen it yet, but it's all very good.  I just always gets disappointed because I've just got into the habit of spending Sunday evening watching Downton Abbey with a coffee and a yoghurt or something, and now I have to think of something else to do.

Which I may have, actually - I got Fifa 12 (yes it's old, but it was only £2) for the Wii at the weekend, and am thoroughly addicted.  So far I've got Bradford City promoted and won a cup with them, that said the game is on easy so I'm thinking that I might restart and try on Medium.

Or the other hand,beating Hull City 6-1 was quite fun.  Maybe I'll stay on Easy a little longer.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Woe is me...

I have to report a loss in our household.

My PC is dead.

Last week it refused to turn on, so after replacing the power supply with no success, I gave in and sent it to the repair shop, and they've told me that the motherboard is fried.

So, until I get a new motherboard/CPU/memory combo (which isn't something I budgeted for right at this moment), I'm on the laptop.

But there is something different on the horizon - this weekend, I have the house to myself while my partner and my son are away.  Don't get me wrong, I love them both very much and I'm sure by Sunday afternoon I'll be waiting for them to come back, but the novelty of this weekend is still something that I'm looking forward to right now.

I've been working up a list of everything that's happening in Hull this weekend so I can go out and make the most of the time.  As things stand possible activities include:

  • Remembrance Weekend at the Streetlife Museum
  • Going to the gym
  • Buying and wrapping Christmas presents
  • Clearing out the garage
  • Going to a lecture at Hull Uni about "northerness"
  • A poetry reading at Central Library
  • A matinee showing at Hull Truck Theatre
  • The Freedom Festivals "Freedom to Tell Tales" storytelling project
  • Sunday jazz at Pave Bar
  • Blogging / making videos
  • Going out Saturday evening (actually that one isn't optional, it's the reason I'm at home)

Or of course I might end up spending all weekend playing on my partners PC, with a bag of snacks and beer within reach.

What are you up to this weekend - and which of the above do you think I should do?  Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Thank you

Firstly, thanks to everyone that took part in #HOTDRINKDAY on Sunday, regardless of whether you supported tea or coffee, it's much appreciated, it was great fun to do and I hope to take part in more debates of equal seriousness in the future.

And most importantly tea won.

I'm continuing to struggle on without a computer as mine is under repair - I'm very much hoping to hear something in the next day or two about what the problem is, in the meantime I'm using my partners PC while she's at a school meeting, typing as quickly as I can to attempt to finish this post before our temporary cat stands on the keybardso;dfjpwaejiof.,vdv;


Fingers crossed I'll be back in a day or two - with a working computer!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

#HOTDRINKDAY - Why Tea is better than Coffee

Today's the day that we've all been waiting for.


For the last week broadsides have been fired across the Atlantic Ocean as we try to settle, once and for all, which is the better drink - tea, or coffee.

Here, we are defending tea - after you've read this post, if you're still unsure in your mind, then go visit Life, Explained for the home of coffee supporters.

Let us begin.

Why tea is better than coffee

So, Tim Clark challenged me to defend tea against the accusation that coffee is the better drink, which I strongly deny.

I could talk about the history of tea, how it has been consumed for thousands of years (possibly as far back as around 2900BC?), and certainly for a much longer time than the relative newcomer, coffee.

But instead I'm going to bring it to a much more personal level.

I'm going to talk about how tea makes me feel.

Now, don't get me wrong, I like a posh coffee from Starbucks or Costa, and it is nice to enjoy a coffee now and again, with cream and a couple of lumps of sugar, perhaps a biscotti too.

But the fact is that you basically add all these things to hide the taste of coffee, not to enhance it. Can you really taste that shot of espresso mixed in your pint of frothy flavoured milk, topped with cream and a dusting of chocolate?

Of course not.

Tea, in comparison, is a lot simpler. A bag of best tea in some hot water, perhaps with a dash of milk to bring the flavour out, is all that's needed.

Or you can make a drink of tea much more civilised. Afternoon tea with buttered hot scones, jam and would not be complete without a pot of tea, some fine China cups and a jug of milk.

Not to mention a teapot and a tea strainer.
You can't make coffee more civilised - you can make it trendy, but not civilised.

Coffee is a quick fix.  Something to kick your system into action and to wake you up.  But let me ask you this - do you start your car with your accelerator pressed to the floor, getting up to speed as fast as you can?

Of course not.  You start it, and ease it into movement, gently and carefully.

If you take this level of care with a lump of metal, surely you should do the same for your body?

Tea is the best hot drink, and I've been pleased to see many people around the world supporting this view.

Thanks for reading.  Now, if you haven't voted already, vote now.  We'll see tomorrow who is the ultimate winner (though tea is looking good as I type this)

I'd love to hear about any other blogs and their views about the best hot drink too.  Now go and check out Tim's blog, and see if he can convince you of coffee's superiority.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The calm before the storm - 1 day to go!

I've been quiet on the blog for a few days, mainly due to the fact that my computer is currently out of action - Tuesday night it refused to power up, and even after fitting a new power supply it refuses to show any sign of life, so it's been taken to a repair shop - fingers crossed it'll be back up and running sometime next week.  In the meantime I'm on the laptop.

The other reason that I haven't been doing my social media thing on an evening is that we now (temporarily) have a cat in the house.

Action shot of James in motion.

We're looking after James at the moment, and to try to ease him into his stay with us I've been staying downstairs watching TV to give him some company.  It's a hard life.

Nevertheless, it is about 25 hours away from the great TEA VS COFFEE debate going live - if you've not been following what's been happening, all this week we've been leading up to two epic blog posts, one of which will be going up right here on the Blog of Thog (in support of tea) and one supporting coffee, on Life, Explained.  The posts will be live 3pm UK time, or 10am Ohio time (or different times in you aren't in either of those time zones), so make sure you visit us tomorrow and say hi, show your support for your favoured hot drink.

And that isn't all you can do.  Do you have a view on which hot drink you prefer?  Do you prefer a different hot drink to tea or coffee?  Do you not like any?  Well, make sure you do a blogpost or a video about it tomorrow, do let us know (and use the hashtag #HOTDRINKDAY ), we'd love to hear from you.

If you don't fancy blogging or doing anything that active, do at the very least vote here for your favourite drink, at the moment tea is absolutely thrashing coffee but there's plenty of time for that to be turned around (or even for coffee to be overtaken by hot chocolate, now that would be very amusing indeed!)
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