Monday, 29 August 2016

International Relations

Howdy Y’all! My name is Jesse and I managed to catch Mike in a confused state somewhere between oblivious and generous and got him to agree to letting me submit a guest post on the Blog of Thog. I’m an average everyday (American) guy currently living in Minnesota. I believe that makes me a Yank to you. (At least those of you who are neighbors of Mike.)

For some reason I am completely cool with Brits calling me a Yank, but I get unnerved when my own countrymen from the Southern states call me a Yankee. That’s more than likely because I was born and raised in Texas and grew up being proud of my Southern heritage...and occasionally making fun of the Yankees in the Northern States.

I figured I would take the time in this post to review a couple differences between life in the US and life in the UK. My own personal experience with life in the UK is fairly limited and somewhat flawed. Besides history and the news, my “education” of life over there comes mainly from movies and we all know how accurate they are.

My first real world education about life in England goes way back to 1987. Mark Thatcher, son of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, married a woman from our church in Dallas, TX. My parents had the pleasure of attending that wedding in London. This trip for them included a wedding dinner at the Savoy Hotel and getting to meet the Queen. Since that’s probably not an everyday occurrence for most of you living in the UK, I would consider that a flawed impression.

As of late, I have noticed that a large number of the bloggers I follow are from “across the pond.” (Sorry – I love saying that almost as much as “grab a pint at the pub.”) Since there isn’t a whole lot jumping out at me as different in their lives, I thought I better do a little research to help identify some of our differences. Fortunately our differences are fairly trivial with the exception of that whole Revolution thing back in 1775.

I turned to the BBC for info and found two lists to get me started. “10 Things Americans Do That Drive Brits Nuts” and “10 Things Brits Do That Drive Americans Nuts” are what I found. For the sake of not turning this into a novel (I have a bad habit of doing that because I ramble.), I am only going to cover item #1 on each list.

Saying "I love your accent" is apparently the top complaint Brits have about Yanks. I can understand that. It's how you talk. Deal with it. Right? I think it's similar to the way my wife giggles every time I'm talking to one of my buddies from East Texas and my old Southern Drawl slips out. It's kind of funny because I never had much of a drawl to begin with. That makes me wonder if I would start talking with a British accent if I were to spend any amount of time talking with a Brit.

Apparently, Americans put food on the top of their list because "overcooking vegetables" takes the #1 spot on the list. I don't know how to feel about that for two reasons. First, it supports AND disputes the concept that Americans are all fat. Putting food at the top of the list supports that concept, but the fact that it involves vegetables kind of disputes it. Second, I always thought we were know for hot dogs and apple pie. When did we start caring about vegetables? I'm not sure overcooking vegetables is a valid complaint, but I won't fight it too hard since it could be a lot worse.

In general, it looks to me like we should have no problem getting along. Especially if a pint at the pub is involved. I will promise not to comment on your accent (and try not to accidentally mimic it) if you promise not to serve me vegetables. I would be completely fine with you substituting the vegetables with a side of those sausage rolls Mike wrote about yesterday.

Thanks for taking the time to read the rambling thoughts of a Yank. I feel working on these two issues I listed will lead to improved international relations and probably create world peace. Until next time....  Cheers! (I always wanted to say that too, but I suppose it's as bad as saying I like your accent.)

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Sausage rolls

Before we start: I didn't realise this, but sausage rolls aren't really a thing in the US, apparently.  If you're not familiar with this delicacy (essentially sausage meat cooked and encased in puff pastry) you may wish to do some brief research.  I welcome any and all Americans - and other nations - to discover the sausage roll. And if you like the sausage roll, just wait till you have a yum yum.

I've been to the bakery today.

You see, my son quite likes on a Saturday morning to go to the bakery for some sort of biscuit - today it's a dinosaur biscuit - and while we're there, it seems churlish of me not to partake in something, after all I must have burned at least three calories walking there, and I wouldn't want to risk fainting with hunger on the way back.  So, I decided that a sausage roll might be nice.

The trouble is, you can't just buy one sausage roll.  Technically, yes, I suppose you could, but when the price for one sausage roll is in the region of £15,000 each, or four are on offer for just £1, you get four.

But what do you do with four?

They are provided hot, or at least warm, from being cooked this very morning.  Over time they will become less pleasant as they cool.  So it makes sense to eat them all up.

But is four sausage rolls excessive, as a mid-morning snack?

Well, yes, they are.

One is absolutely fine, and two is a good amount I would suggest which indicates that you are going to be involved in some form of physical labour (knocking down a wall, perhaps, or stopping a car rolling down a hill with nothing more than your burly muscles and iron will) and therefore in need of the energy provided by two sausage rolls, but more than two is excessive, however tasty and warm they are.

Don't get me wrong, they obviously have no calories because my wife isn't present to see me eating them.  But the quantity is really just a bit too high for my conscience.  If only they had been formed into a single really big sausage roll, then it would have been fine (or even chopped up into those mini bite-size sausage rolls you can get for buffets, you can eat an infinite amount of them)

Then I realise, wonder of wonders, that it is actually twelve o'clock - that means that they can be classed as lunch.  And whilst four sausage rolls might be considered unusual for lunch, it's not absolutely ridiculous.

Except my son has now paused the consumption of his biscuit to have a go at the remaining sausage rolls.

I trained him well.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016


Firstly, thanks to Tim and Rahul for their blog posts while I've been away :)

Well, we've been on a weeks holiday around the UK.  A great deal of it is fading from memory, so I shall attempt to capture as much as I can...

Firstly, we went over to Wales near Caernarfon to see a friend that we haven't seen for far too long.  Wales was very nice, there was tunnels to drive through which my son loved, although he wasn't quite so keen on the time when, feeling a sneeze coming on whilst on the motorway (in the passenger seat) I quickly decided to take advantage of the open window to release the sneeze, and instead of the offending material being ejected out into nature, it blew back through the rear passenger window and onto my sons head!  We also got lost trying to find the Travelodge hotel on the evening - I think we got right up close to it, and at the last moment took a wrong turning which resulted in us driving around in circles for an hour, fuel tank getting ever lower!

And I had some beer in Mold too (Mold is the town name, not a condition of the beer)

We did eventually find the Travelodge, and have a decent nights sleep, after relocating my son, who on entering the Travelodge skirted past the single bed, settled himself in the big double bed, and asked "Where's daddy going to sleep?!?"

The following day we drove up to Knowsley Safari Park.  I was particularly excited by the bridge that we were going to go over, because the signs up to it just said "THE BRIDGE" - clearly such an impressive bridge that it didn't need a name or anything extraneous like that.
As bridges go, it was alright.  I'd still give the Humber Bridge higher marks through.

At Knowsley Safari Park you get to drive round a park and look at various animals, like lions, rhinos, elephants, and notably baboons.  You can drive round as many times as you want, and to be fair there are warnings not to go in the baboon enclosure if you want your car to survive.

The first time was okay, we had a baboon or two sit on the car, but they didn't show much interest in the car except as a way to get moved around the enclosure.

The second time however, we had baboons that were much more interested in taking full advantage of the facilities that a car could offer.  So firstly one relieved himself on my window (which was fortunately up - apparently baboons urine is red, by the way) and then two more decided to try to rip out the water sprayers on the bonnet - which they succeeded in doing, and my attempt to spray them with water just encouraged them!  Fortunately they held on to the sprayers so when we got to the exit a park warden gave me them back and they were easy enough to put back on.

Not that you can really see, but in this picture my car is missing its water sprayers, because they're in my hand, covered in gnaw marks

We then spent a few days in and around Morecambe, We did lots of things but for some reason I don't have a lot of photos, there was a good bit of chilling out and endeavouring not to overdo it, taking plenty of rest breaks between naps, that sort of thing.

A stream that my son had a great time playing in.

I really don't care for this photo because it's brilliant at showing off my grey hair, but at least it detracts from my teeth...

A really hairy caterpillar, or as it is known in Latin, Hairyus Caterpilla.

We also spent some time in Dufton near Appleby in Cumbria when my wife met up with her university friends, so while she was catching up with people, I got to spend an entire evening eating pizza, drinking beer, watching TV and playing computer games, so I don't think I did too badly out of the deal :)

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and when we did get back we had to tackle household chores - plus, see below...

My computer chair, except you can't see it due to the bag and hi vis jacket on it.  Plus there's another five hi vis jackets/coats/waistcoats all around it.

My past self, forced to clear out the car before we went on holiday, had thought "I know, I'll put all of these things on my chair, so that when we get home I'll have to sort them out".  Of course, my current self, after swearing at the decision I'd made, picked them all up and lobbed them back in the boot of my car where they can sit for another 6-12 months.

So, that's our holiday over and done with, and it's time to get back into the routine of normal life.  Hope you enjoyed reading, if you've been on holiday drop me a line in the comments about where you went, I'd love to read them :)

Friday, 19 August 2016

Rahul Has A Dream

While I'm taking a short break which has probably involved cross stitch, my good friend Rahul Singh from Good Little Indian has stopped by to hold down the blogging fort. Thanks Rahul!

There's a cave in Turkmenistan called the "DOOR TO HELL", it's been burning nonstop since 1971. There's also a cave in Mars, and it hasn't been found yet. No kidding. While none of the 2 genuinely awesome facts has anything to do with Duolingo, but that's what you get when Rahul decides to write.

Write! Write! Write! A writer writes, a reader reads, and a language learners learns languages. Alas! I'm using too many exclamation marks. Thankfully, the person that'd be editing this blog, is a friend. Oh! I have distracted myself, but take my word... One shouldn't swear while writing professionally. And no exclamations. Alright? Great!

Note to self: Take a long breath, and write properly, Rahul. Okay? Good.

Duolingo, learning French, and some extras. These were to be the themes of this post. While, I've mentioned the extras already, let's get to the main subject. Duolingo.

The story in a snapshot: Rahul installs Duolingo. He chooses to learn French. He's within a month 12% fluent in French. 2 months later, the app shows him 10% fluent in French. He giggles, as he doesn't remember a proper sentence.

There's nothing more painful than an unfulfilled dream. Just a while back, I'd a dream. My dream girl, dressed in black in a wild summer afternoon, temperature clicking 50°C. Both of us standing in the middle of an abandoned land. Complaining about global warming. Then, suddenly I would go down on my knees, and ask her in French, "Voulez-vous s'il vous plaĆ®t aller chercher de l'eau ici?" The girl would say, "What?"

"Will you please go and search for water here?" I'd reply with a faint smile. How romantic!?

However, such is life with slow 2G, and an app that's not Taylor (or tailor; pun unintended) made for that type of Internet. I had dreams of mastering French, and publishing a book in French. How rude is life! What a cheat destiny is! It showed me the meat, and when I moved to eat, it took the plate away. I could literally sue all the Gods for this, or my Internet provider. If I weren't busy playing Baseball. 9 Innings 2016 is the game, Arizona is my team. I've finished last for 2 seasons straight, but I'm addicted. So, goodbye French, goodbye all.

P. S. - The sentence in French has been written using Google translate. If that's completely atrocious. It's not to be blamed. Thank you.

P. S. S. - Anybody wants to sign me up for a book deal? While, I'm playing Baseball. I will try to take time off to write. Good day.

Thanks again to Rahul for blogging, it's well worth stopping by his blog at
and you might want to check out his previous post where he details further his battles with Duolingo.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Mike is on Holiday and Life Explained Takes The Reins

While I'm doing the holiday thing, my good friend Tim from Life, Explained has stepped up to write a guest post.  Take it away, Tim!

My friend Mike is on a holiday. I am not sure where he went, and since I am writing this now (not now, like at the present time, now like weeks ago, probably) I am not even sure when he went. Still, Mike is my friend, we have been blogging friends for quite a while.

Which makes me wonder why he didn’t tell me where he was going, was he worried I would show up at his hotel. “Hey, Mike, here I am with my family, and the people I work with. And the guy who runs the donut shop where I get my “coffee.* We just stopped by to see what you were doing.” Would that be so bad?

Of course he didn’t even tell me when he was leaving. Perhaps he thinks I will go to his house and drink all his beers, and tea, and eat all the pastries and cakes. Which might not be a bad idea considering how little Mike thinks of our “friendship.” If it weren’t for all the flying over all the ocean (two of my least favorite things) to get there.

Still, good friends are hard to find, particularly when they live in the UK and don’t want to be found. Then it approaches impossible. And Mike is one of my oldest blogging friends.

Mike, we are going to go to the Smoky Mountains in a southern state in the fall. Beautiful country, moonshine liquor, boiled peanuts,** a peaceful cabin nestled deep in the forest, Friendship Falls and their version of Loaded Fries, and the comfort of an evening rain shower every time we light the barbecue grill. It is almost heaven. Why don’t you stop by. It is just location redacted.

Your “friend”


*Secret wife fooling code for “Donuts”

**Whatever you do don’t eat the boiled peanuts, I am convinced it is a joke, and they just laugh at the Yankees as they take our money.

Note from Mike: For the record, I have little idea where we're going on holiday, it involves me driving and my wife giving directions.

Sunday, 14 August 2016


Well, right now I ought to be gathering together about a quarter of the entire contents of my household, to fit into my car, as I leave fairly soon for an indeterminate period of time.

No, I'm not being kicked out, we're going on holiday, and the to do list looms.  But I wanted to do a quick post before we tackled the great highways of the UK.

Last night we undertook a good deal of the task ahead of us, that is cleaning the house and gathering all the things that we absolutely must take with us.

One of my "must take" items being this nifty keyboard that I can plug into my phone.  I won't use it, but it's critical that I take it with me.

But now we have to make the final push, before we attempt to leave.

It's not been bad to be fair - when clearing out the boot of the car I discovered a Toblerone from Christmas time.  I was worried that it might be inedible, but I ate a chunk of it for breakfast and now I'm feeling a little sick, so that sounds exactly normal.  If you're not familiar with a Toblerone it's a row of triangular "alps" of chocolate (see below pic) which are too big to easily bite off, you need to either gnaw and suck at an alp until it releases its grip on the other alps in the box, or you have to employ some violence to snap an alp off.

I elected last night to put the Toblerone in the freezer, because it's been warm here, just to make sure it wasn't soft.

It wasn't soft.

Those experienced Toblerone-eaters will know how easy it is to be hurt by a Toblerone.  You get a pointy bit jabbing you in the roof of your mouth, or knocking a filling out, or even up your nose.  These risks are not reduced when you harden a Toblerone by freezing it, you just make it even more dangerous.

So after tackling a chunk of frozen, possibly laden with bacteria, pointy wedges of chocolate, I need a holiday! See you all soon.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Paddling Pool

We've got a paddling pool (well, actually we've got two, the blogger lifestyle is obviously paying off, next it'll be a private plane) and with it being the summer, it's being used.

My son loves the paddling pool, it's roughly perhaps two foot deep (just over half a metre for metric folk) and its fascinating how the pool, which as I say my son loves, he's never happier than when he's jumping into the pool and splashing around, is actually the coldest object known to humanity.

My son will be happy playing by himself in the pool for a while, but then you'll hear the dreaded cry "Daddy, you can get in the pool!"

My wife is no help, this would be ideal time for her to ask me to clear out the garage or put my shoes away or one of the other many chores around the house that I should do.  But instead she'll say to my son "Of course Daddy can get in the pool! Go on daddy!!"

I trudge upstairs to locate and release the swimming shorts, get changed, and go outside to face my fear.

It's even worse than I'd imagined.  The inflated rectangular pool of icy death, full to the brim of water that I assumed has been freshly imported from either Siberia or Alaska, awaits me.

And in the middle of the pool is my son, splashing like a manic, sending icy daggers of water in all directions.

Gingerly I stand in the pool, my feet demanding to see their lawyers as they dink beneath the depths.

That isn't enough.

"Sit down daddy!!" my son implores.

So you drop to your knees, and eventually plonk yourself square into the pool, the water now lapping somewhere around your tummy, with your legs entering a competition for Frostbite of the Year.

The funny thing is, your body acclimatises, and after a few minutes, it's okay.  But what happens is that only the bits of your body that stay underwater acclimatise, everything that isn't in the water stays totally unprepared, so every time I get splashed the remainder of my body that gets hit with water says "OH MY WORD WHAT IS IT WHY ON EARTH IS THERE FREEZING WATER ON ME?!?"

Nevertheless, eventually you do get used to it, and you actually start having fun, and you even wonder what all the fuss was about.

Until the next time, that is.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Chaotic Shiny is awesome

I'm busy preparing my RPG notes for my new adventure series, "The YouTube Adventure", the series where the viewers get to influence what happens.

However, I haven't got a clue when it comes to preparing RPG stuff - I've GM'd a total of one RPG game, and that was about fifteen years ago.

Thank goodness for Chaotic Shiny, an awesome website which has tons of different generators for those wanting to create other worlds to adventure in.

If you'd like to get involved in The YouTube Adventure, get over to my video, watch it, and (most important) leave a comment about the character you want to travel in the world.  Feel free to make it bizarre, funny, whatever you think, it's all good :) Remember, without your help, King Zir will be happily sat on his throne in the Citadel of Rett, terrorising the land.  But you can change the world with your comment!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Mister Greygun

I got some mail today - well technically I didn't, it's actually for Mike Greygun, whoever he is.

It's an awesome surname though. "Greygun" - makes you think of a mercenary for hire, he doesn't care if he's fighting for a cause or for chaos, as long as there's enough coin to be had, Greygun will be on the scene. Or maybe he's a gnarled old cop, ready to dish out justice on the mean streets.

Speaking of creating characters, did you ever take part in Fighting Fantasy, or other Choose Your Own Adventure books?  Or maybe you're a D&D or RPG player (maybe even the worldwide phenomenon known as World of Warcraft, which started me off blogging many years ago!)

The YouTube Adventure is for you.  Head over to my first video where I'm outlining the plan - a character put together by the YouTube community will explore the land of Kinban, starting in the village of Thorn, and travelling north to reach the Citadel of Rett.  In the Citadel you must tackle the evil King Zir, who is tormenting the land.  You'll get to decide at each stage of the adventure how your character is going to act.  Go watch the video now, and make sure you get a comment in quick, the next video will be mid-week next week!
TOTS 100 - UK Parent Blogs
Paperblog BlogCatalog