Saturday, 14 April 2018


To take my mind off the current threat of world destruction, I decided to report on mine and my dad's recent trip to Dublin!

The flight to Dublin from Leeds Bradford went very smoothly, I have to in particular recommend the Viking car park system - you park your car a couple of minutes away from the airport, they take your key, and give you a lift in a mini bus to the airport, and then on return they monitor the flights so that as you leave the airport the mini bus pulls up again to take you back to your car, and this happened flawlessly.

Once in Dublin we headed for one of the oldest drinking establishments in Dublin, Mulligans.

It may not be obvious from the photo, but of the 25 or so beer pumps behind the bar, no less than 4 of them were devoted to Guinness, and as we walked in the barman was pouring pint after pint of the black stuff.  We wasting no time in ordering two pints for ourselves and finding a seat.

Then, I remembered one of the other excellent drinks available in Dublin (any many other places I'm sure) are hot whiskeys - whiskey, hot water, a slice of lemon with cloves placed carefully within, and an optional spoon of sugar.

Hot whiskeys are quite small though, and we found that it was more sensible to order a hot whiskey with a pint of Guinness, so that we didn't have to go to the bar quite so often.

For some reason after a few hours in Mulligan's we went to the hotel and slept for 16 hours or so.

The following morning we happened upon a cafe called Metro that did a decent breakfast, that somehow managed to make us feel halfway human again!

So the second day was spent at a more relaxed speed, visiting the Guinness Storehouse but apart from that catching up on the Commonwealth Games.

I did experience one of my pet hates that evening when, going out for some dinner, I ordered a pie.

For the avoidance of doubt - the photo above does not depict a pie.

A pie should be fully encased in pastry (ideally shortcrust).

What this meal consisted of was a bowl of stew, with a hat on.

The last day we went to several museums - the "National" museums of archaeology, natural history, The National Gallery of Ireland, and Book of Kells are all sited quite close to one another.  I have to say that the free options (aka not the Book of Kells) are definitely the better ones to experience.

Massive skeletons of gigantic deer in the natural history museum

Of course, no trip would be complete without one awkward experience, and that would be the flight back to the UK. When it was time to get to the plane, we obediently boarded two buses that would take us there, which then sat and didn't move for a while.

Then they drove us to the plane, but didn't open the doors, they just showed us the plane for a while. Eventually they told us that we couldn't board, because the crew for the plane hadn't shown up yet. If only we'd had some kind of paperwork, or card, that told us which seat we were supposed to sit in! Maybe you could call it...a boarding pass?

Eventually the crew arrived - it turned out that the normal crew wasn't available so it was a standby crew that had been brought into action - and we took off.  Very soon after lift off they advised us that conditions at Leeds Bradford Airport were extremely bad, and that there was a good chance that we'd end up at Manchester Airport instead - not ideal, when my car was at Leeds Bradford.

Despite this, they did manage to land at Leeds Bradford even though as far as I could see the fog was such that there was no sign of any lights, runway, or even where the ground was for that matter. The landing was a little rougher than the one at Dublin (which was in the middle of the day in good weather) but we were just happy to be down, in one piece, and even better, where we were supposed to be.

All in all I certainly had a great time, and I'm renewed in my desire to work out just how to make a hot whiskey!

Sunday, 1 April 2018


This time in 7 days I shall be arriving in the city of Dublin with my dad for 2 nights of fun and enjoyment with my dad.  I haven't been to Dublin for about 12 years, when I may have undergone various Chinese health treatments whilst inebriated, but I do have very happy (albeit fuzzy) of the place.

Click on the photo, but the Conference Centre Dublin has on their website a "list of upcoming events that we are permitted to publish"... I suddenly want nothing more find out what the events are between these ones, even though it's probably just a convention for dental hygiene products or something.

I've booked the Guinness Storehouse tour (last time I went there was a HUGE queue of people that hadn't booked, while I was able to go to the pre-booked stand and go straight in, so hoping this is still the case!) and also a musical pub crawl, where you go round 3 pubs and learn about the history of Irish music - whilst enjoying a pint or two, of course!

I've nearly sorted everything, although I do need to measure my backpacks to ensure that they comply with the maximum flight sizes - maximum bag size is 48cm high, 33cm wide, and 20cm deep, I'm totally unable to imagine what that equates to, but every time I think "oh yeah, I must measure the backpacks" I'm busy doing something at the computer, and the backpacks and the measuring tape are never in the same place as me thinking "must measure the backpacks"!

We're currently 3 days into the 4 day UK Easter weekend break, with today, Easter Sunday, being the big one where almost everywhere is closed - even the supermarkets don't dare open on Easter Sunday - so I'm currently demolishing an easter egg ahead of going to the cinema (which is open despite being Easter Sunday) to watch some Peter Rabbit.

So I hope you're having a good weekend wherever you are, happy Easter!

Monday, 26 March 2018

A Space Story - Part 3

I hope that you've been enjoying the start to our sci-fi epic being produced between Tim Clark and I, it's time for the next piece! If you want to catch up on the previous parts:
Part One -
Part Two -

“There’s definitely something down there,” Lieutenant Send commented, his eyes fixed on his sensor displays as they had been for the past five minutes as the Tillerson cruised towards the large asteroid.
“Hang on,” he added.
“What is it?” Captain Danger asked. For all that this was an exceedingly dull mission, he could help but get just a little excited.
“A comet with a very high metallic content just passed the asteroid. Irregular orbit.”
“Do comets usually have very high metallic content?” Danger asked the science officer sat behind him.
“Occasionally,” Officer Landale said with a shrug, “we’ve had various reports of these in the past.”
“Hmm.” Danger commented, tapping his fingers on his armrest. He needed a snack.
“Distance to asteroid?” First Officer Konetkov asked.
“Just over twelve thousand kilometres,” the helmsman replied.
“Can we get a visual on the probe? On the viewscreen?” the captain asked.
“I’m pinpointing the location and transferring to the main screen, sir.” Send answered.
The screen, which had been showing a view of most of the asteroid, flickered and changed to show a particular bit of the asteroid. There was something there, sat on the surface, that definitely did not look like it belonged on a asteroid.
“Can we compare that object to our database?” Danger asked. He was aware that he was asking a lot of questions today. It was almost as though he was out of his depth.
“It’s far too big to be a probe, captain.” Landale said with the know-it-all demeanour of an Ohio State graduate.
“So what is it?” Konetkov said, rising to her feet so she could stand closer to the screen. Everyone knew that she could do with glasses, or laser eye correction, but no one dared tell her.

The words tumbled from Danger’s lips.
“It’s a ship,” he uttered, the expression on his face making it look as though he was surprised at what he was saying.
“It doesn’t look like any Earth Spacefleet ship, captain.” Lieutenant Send, objecting. Danger frowned at him - he could be annoying sometimes. Plus he was taller than him.
“It’s not Earth Spacefleet,” the captain said. He turned to the engineering officer at the back of the bridge, who was trying to look busy.
“Please confirm that all sensors are recording, and that internal ship cameras are recording. Earth Spacefleet Procedure Three Two Two is in effect.” he said, swiftly running his fingers through his hair in an attempt to comb the thick graying locks into place. He suddenly wished that he had had a shower that day.
 Konetkov turned to him and held up a finger in query. “Sir, Procedure Three Two Two is the process of recycling human waste tanks for water generation. Are you sure that’s the one that you want?”
Danger growled, and prodded his control panel to bring up a list of Earth Spacefleet procedures. “Two Three Three!” he barked.
Everyone on the bridge suddenly became very professional, and very sharp.

It was down to Captain Anthony Danger of the Tillerson to speak the next, potentially historic words. He took a last drink of his cold coffee to clear his throat.
 “C&C,”, he said, “Activate external communications, and commence broad spectrum extra-terrestrial greetings. Let’s say hello.”

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Now live - The Journey: Part One!

It's time!

After all the buzz and excitement from last weeks post, it's time to let people out of their misery.

I and my fellow blogger, Tim Clark of the excellent Life, Explained, are going to write a science fiction serial, told from different points of view.  Read below the first part of our sci-fi epic, and stay tuned to Tim's blog for part 2!


Captain Anthony Danger of the Venture-class Earth Spaceship Tillerson, sipped his hot coffee. It had been a long, dull mission for the 80-strong team manning the long range vessel, sent on a low priority mission to explore a series of star systems. There had been little demand from Earth Spacefleet to send a ship at all, but a politician back home had been elected in the Mars 2120 elections on his promise to “Further the Exploration of The Cosmos!”, vowing to identify new mining sources and expand the scientific discovery programme.

 Once the politician had been elected, and discovered just how expensive deep space exploration was, he plumped for building the smallest scout ship he could and sending a somewhat mediocre crew of career spacers out in it, to go look at a group of star systems that, the scientists advised, could be relied upon to “not find anything too interesting that might result in a demand for prohibitively expensive research”.

 So far, they had spent a little over seven months investigating four stars, two uninhabitable planets, seventy two asteroids, and six comets, the last of which they had managed to drill and obtain a large sample of ice.  The ice was asserted as being essential for scientific research, although it was worth noting that, apart from giving the science team something to look at, the ships galley was suddenly offering Long Island Iced Teas again.

 In the bijou square command bridge of the Tillerson, Captain Danger enjoyed a slightly nicer seat than the others, and was positioned in the centre of the room where he could easily turn to address any of the control stations. His second-in-command, Commander Anna Konetkov, had a seat alongside him. Each of them had a control display to the side. In front of them were a bank of three desks, for Helm, Sensors, and Communications/Combat (generally referred to as C&C). Behind them were ancillary stations for other ships functions such as Engineering control, Science, and Research. All stations ultimately faced a large display screen, which was currently showing an asteroid, an irregular two hundred kilometre rock slowly rotating in the darkness, a hundred thousand miles away.

 “Sendie, what’s in that rock?” Captain Danger asked.
 Sensor Operator Lieutenant James Send checked the sensor returns, before half-turning in his seat to address the captain.
 “Asteroid Gamma 6/14 shows reasonably high metallic concentrations of Nickel and Iron, but I can’t give more detail until we get closer.”
 “That’s fine,” Danger said with a shrug, “we’ll get there. No rush.”
 The crew sat in silence, some monitoring their various control panels, while others like C&C (which had spent at least 30 weeks of the 31 week journey bored to tears reading ships communications which covered important issues such as the monthly darts tournament) generally mucked about on games and simulators to pass the time.

 Eventually the dagger-shaped E.S. Tillerson got somewhat closer to the asteroid. Sensor data began to improve in quality. Lieutenant Send reported.
 “I’m detecting high amounts of Nickel and Iron, sir, Lower amounts of silicon, oxygen, gold, palladium... this is a good asteroid, Captain. It’s worth putting on the mining list.”
 “It would even have potential as a future base,” Commander Konetkov ruminated. Danger nodded.
 “Hang on,” Send said, peering at his display and poking controls.
 “What is it?” Konetkov asked, a moment before Danger could speak.
 “I’m detecting traces of a radioactive element... Curium.”
 “Curium?” Danger queried.
 “Yes, sir, Curium.”
 “We’ve never encountered Curium naturally in space before.” Danger said, frowning.
 Konetkov rose and turned to address a woman at the Research station at the back of the command bridge.
 “Have we had any space probes out here?”
 The woman checked the computer. “There have been a number of AI probes that have flown through this system, although I don’t have records of their exact flight plans.”
 Konetkov nodded and sat down again. “That’s it, Captain. It’ll be a probe that’s malfunctioned and probably crashed onto the asteroid.”
 Danger nodded. “A probe... we might be able to recover it and get some data from it. This might be interesting.”
 He raised his voice. “Helm - take us in closer.”

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Buzz and Excitement...

Do you want some BUZZ?

Are you awaiting EXCITEMENT?!?


There's something coming on this blog, in the near future.

Something new!

It'll be great, I promise. Or not - maybe.

But anyway, look out for it, next weekend.

In fact, there's a (tiny) chance for you to be involved in some way. In the comments, tell me something. It could be a name, an event, a character you like, an anecdote about yourself or someone you know, a facial expression, a totally made up thing.. anything. It doesn't matter. Tell me in the comments (or email me at and maybe something that you tell me will appear in a thing that's going to kick off next weekend.

I might be giving more detail before the weekend, I haven't decided yet. Or I might just drop it on the internet. Perhaps I need to discuss with the other interested party (spoiler alert - there's someone else involved) what they think.

In the meantime - it's the weekend, so cheers!

Not sure what drink I've got here. I do know though that my hair isn't as dark as this photo indicates!

Monday, 5 March 2018


Now, I work in construction. This gives me the confidence to construct some buildings as the one in the image below, made out of 3 cardboard boxes, some letters, and a couple of metres of parcel tape.

But, it's one thing working in a sector, it's very different when you try to apply your skills at home.

This, for example, is the wall above the window in my son's bedroom.

You may notice that there is only one hook to the left of the window for a curtain pole, and not one on the right. That's because it's come out of the wall (albeit due to a heavy tug on a curtain)

It might not stand out very well in the picture, but there's actually quite a few places where the wall has been plastered or holes filled.

In short, those curtains have fallen down a good half dozen times since I've lived in this house.

I can't work it out - I use rawlplugs (aka wall anchors), the biggest screws I can find that will fit the hooks, sweat and tears. I'll get those curtains up... and several months later my son will roll against them or something, and they'll tumble down like Jack and Jill with a pail of water.

In other news, I found this the other day

I bought this mainly because one of the fruits in the box apparently is "chokeberry". I'd never heard of them but apparently chokeberries are actually a thing, I just thought it was a poor translation of some other fruit. I am yet to choke on any of them, but I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

The Poop Went To School

So, my son made a story the other day, and this morning we made it into a video.

It's about a poop (he's been watching YouTube videos and is becoming Americanised - it's poo, dude, not poop) that goes to school.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

5000 Days of Opportunity

Original image at

In June 2003, a pair of rovers were launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, headed for Mars. Headed into the hostile atmosphere of the red planet, the team behind the rovers had hoped for a mission length of 90 days for each rover. They landed on Mars in January 2004.

One of the rovers, Spirit, went on to operate for 20 times its planned duration, with communication finally stopping in March 2010, after it had been stuck in place, wheels trapped in soft soil for almost a year.

The other rover, Opportunity, is still functioning today.

5000 days on, Opportunity has travelled 28 miles, encountered extramartian meteorites, craters, and contributed hugely to its mission of finding evidence of the past existence of water on Mars.

I find it fascinating to think that, no matter how well planned, a vehicle built in 2003, sent through space, landed on another planet, and is still operating (albeit with some limitations - due to partially faulty memory banks, the rover has been configured to run in a "RAM-only" mode, similar in a way to a computer operating without its hard drive. This requires the rover to communicate high priority information immediately, as it can't store anything when turned off).

Here's to you, Opportunity.

Image taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera on day 5,000 of its operation

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Steak Pie

I love the internet :)

I replied to a lady on the internet a couple of weeks back, who was kindly asking what I wanted, with details.

Over the last couple of days the tweet has been getting some likes, which led me to this morning messaging a chap a recipe for a steak and ale pie, and clarifying what is meant by good honest gravy.

And what I mean - chip shop gravy.

Not "ju".  Not thin, watery stuff that rolls off the plate should you tip it.  Proper gravy.

Thinking back, when I was a kid and went to my grandparents for dinner, sometimes they would ask if I wanted gravy, but because they didn't actually like gravy, you'd actually get a chicken & leek cup-a-soup. Which was fine because I love chicken & leek soup, but is a bit weird calling it gravy.

In other news, my wife has been awesome.

On Wednesday, our son drew up plans for a toy that he wanted.

The only trouble is... you can't buy it.

Basically, it's an erasable whiteboard with a series of numbers at the bottom on loops, each in a particular colour.

My wife made it last night, which led to the cry this morning from my son's bedroom of:


She's awesome :)

Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Saturday, 27 January 2018

I made a thing - Silly Words Educational Game

I made a thing.

Our son is eight now and reads, writes, and talks fairly well, but it took us a while to get him started. One of the challenges we found was that a lot of the books weren't really engaging for him.

What we did find that really worked for him, and gave him a start into reading sentences, was a game where you could build a sentence up out of words (a bit like this Big Box of Sentence Building). We found that our son really liked making silly sentences - in particular, I remember once he made "the cat ate the baby" and was laughing so hard that he went red in the face and almost started having an asthma attack!

We continue to have difficulty encouraging him to read, because although he can do it he doesn't find a lot of interest in it.

One idea I had the other day was to make a game, which is a bit like Cards Against Humanity (a very adult party game) where basically you've got a number of questions, and a number of answers.  What you do is you pick a question, and your child picks an answer that they find funny for the question.  As part of this you can encourage them to read both the question and the answer

Example question with a few answers

My son found it very funny, while allowing him to do some reading and speaking, he also came up with some new answers which was nice to see a bit of imaginative play.

If anyone would like to download a copy of the game you can freely download it from the link below:

Silly Words is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 license.
Which basically means you can print it, play it, change it however you want for your use (I've included via the link the MS Publisher file that the game is made from so you can customise it for your child), but don’t make your fortune selling it :D

Monday, 22 January 2018


Here's some pictures I took tonight of the night sky.

Admittedly, there's not a lot to see. Apparently the camera on my phone can't pick up the stars in the sky.

I did take one photo with flash left on:

I don't think it's an improvement.

Even though you can't see it, the night sky here is lovely at the moment, on a clear winters night the stars do stand out. We're really lucky when you think about it, we have the stars, the moon - without which we wouldn't have tides - we're in a star system with a collection of planets.

We take all this for granted, but can you imagine how life would be different if we were in a star system with just the Earth and the Sun, and nothing else?

No moon to light the night sky, or to create tides.  No other planets.

I wonder if we would be a more insular society? Without that goal to travelling to the Moon, to other planets? If the Earth was alone, with only rhe Sun for company, and the next vista being several light years away?

There's a great deal to see on the Earth, a lot that I want to see. But that doesn't mean that it's the whole universe.

Anyway, I made a GIF of my pictures.

Enjoy! :)

Friday, 19 January 2018

Heinz soup

Easy Cheese.


Biscuits and gravy.



In the UK, I feel that there is sometimes a little bit of food snobbery.

We say "I can't believe Americans eat that Donut Burger, a burger the size of a plate shaped like a doughnut, filled with fries and coated in squeezy cheese"

(I just invented that food and I want to eat it now)

But let's be honest.

One of the most quintessential British foods is Heinz Tomato Soup.

Heinz Tomato Soup is great. It's a brilliant warming snack, a great lunch. I've just had it, accompanied by a corned beef, cheese and pickle sandwich, for dinner.

But we need to face reality guys.

This - is a tomato.

Look how red it is.

If you asked me to describe that colour, I'd say red.

Red - like a tomato.

Because a tomato is red.


What colour is Heinz tomato soup?

Let's see.

Bright orange obviously.

Don't fear, there is a silver lining.  You see, the reality is that Heinz is actually an American company founded in Pennsylvania, so we British (because we have such as grand food tradition, obviously) can continue to turn our nose up at American food.

While secretly craving it.

I'm off to eat some Cherryheads.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Computer Games Update

I've not just been playing Grand Theft Auto V lately.

I'm playing a good deal of mobile games at the moment, in particular Words With Friends, which isn't Scrabble.


Not at all.

It's a completely different game where you place tiles onto a board to form words, with the aim of scoring more points than your competitor.

I'm enjoying it a good deal, the only comment I do have is every morning it messages me, worried that I haven't played for six hours.

Not only have I not played, but neither have any of my friends!

We're all asleep dude, sorry. We'll get back into forming words which no one has ever heard of (Zoa, Lin, Seq, and Ae are all fine, yet apparently "July" isn't a word?!?) in a bit.

The other game I've been playing a good bit is World Conqueror IV, a turn based war strategy game set generally in World War 2 (although there are additional timelines that get unlocked as you advance)

Bears no resemblance to World Conquerors 1, 2, or 3, I'm sure.

It's quite good as it's got a few different game elements - there's a full world conquest where you can choose one of quite a few countries and see if your side can conquer the world (I'm doing rather well on my phone as Finland at the moment), there's also single scenarios as well as challenges that you can undertake in order to unlock certain generals or other features.

It might not look very clear in the screenshot, but, reflecting history time and again, my Spanish army has just taken New Delhi.

It's not desperately easy and the temptation is to stuff a bit of cash in to unlock some uber General that can make your army far more efficient, but so far things are going reasonably well.

Hope you have a good weekend, if there's a particular game you think is worth a try do mention in the comments - I love my first person shooters, and strategy games (turn based and real time), I would like to find some really good co-operative first person games - one of my favourites is playing the special missions on Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 with a friend, but we could really do with some more missions or something like this that we could play!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Warning - Grand Theft Auto V ahead

Warning - some adult related content ahead.

So, I've recently been playing Grand Theft Auto V.  It's been out a few years now, but I've just got my hands on it (thanks to my good friend and Counterstrike partner Dusty).

Now, you are probably aware of Grand Theft Auto, it's not the most law abiding of games. For the uninitiated, it involves stealing cars, and carrying out missions which tend to be morally ambiguous at best. And I'm not talking about squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle, or parking on a double yellow line without a disabled badge.

Although you can also play tennis. We might be gangsters, but we're middle-class gangsters.

Anyway, I played a few missions with one of the main protagonists, Franklin.

Here he is!

Franklin had had a bit of a rough day, all things considered. He'd collected some cars and take them back to a car dealer of questionable nature, taken part in a gun battle, chased down some guy on a motor bike (which he was supposed to shoot whilst driving, only I couldn't work out how so I had to drive into the biker, get out of my car and then complete the task whilst foot)... it had been a bit of a tough day for him. So he decided to go and unwind.

Unfortunately for Franklin, I was controlling him.

So, Franklin went into a strip bar, had an overpriced drink, and then got a couple of private dances from a lady called Infernus.

The strip club in the cold light of day

Things were going well with the dancer, Franklin was complimenting her on her tattoos and the like, and she suggested that the party be continued at her house.

You too could meet an Infernus at a place like this.

Franklin agreed.

Now, here comes the first problem.

In a game called Grand Theft Auto - where you can pretty much steal any car you like - I had decided, for reasons unknown, to walk to the strip club.

Meeting Infernus round the back of the club,  I realised that her house was quite some distance away, and would take forever to walk to. And she didn't look as though she was likely to sprint, considering the stilettos she was wearing.

I'm not going to spend half an hour walking to Infernus's apartment, I thought, Franklin's a busy man. Besides, was the classy Infernus going to be happy walking across city?

So I did what anyone in Los Santos would do - I stepped out into the highway in front of a car, and as they came to a stop Franklin opened the door and pulled the driver out. Hey presto, I've got a ride.

That's when things went wronger.

A very annoying bystander who had seen the whole thing go down decided to call the cops on me.  Infernus declared that she wasn't down for this kind of action, and started walking away.

I swiftly drove the car up to Infernus, hoping to talk her round, but apparently driving a car at high speed towards the exotic dancer scared her.

Now, I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I ran into her.

Panicked at the way things were turning out, I put my foot down, and Infernus tumbled along, pushed at high speed by my car, until she was pulped quite badly between my stolen car and a commercial waste bin.

This one, actually.

This definitely put a downer on Franklin's evening (and Infernus's, for that matter).

Following this was a high speed car chase going the wrong way down the city highway as I was pursued by various police cars trying to hunt me down.

So spare a thought for Franklin, whose night didn't go down as well as he hoped.

But at least he's got a nice new haircut and beard.

In other news, my son last night, busy drawing pictures of people, asked me what colour my hair was.  I didn't reply so that I could see what he'd say next.

He then said "Is it black?"

Black. Yes, I'll take black.

Not sure on the exact percentages, but silver definitely has a bid. So I'll stick with black for now.
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