Friday, 31 August 2012

What's in a name - and a few websites to entertain you

I got a letter from Stephen Fry!

I sent him a fan letter a few weeks back and got a response, thanking me for my letter and with a bit of text.  It was nice to get (and a nice change from bills), it was unfortunate that he had my first name as Mark instead of Mike but it's something I've got used to!

It's surprising (to me anyway, but to be fair I already know my own name) how often I get Mark instead of Mike.  Sometimes I consider resorting to Michael but it always seems a little formal to me and best suited for when I'm being told off about something.

Anyway, I'm going to mention a few websites for you to check out: has quite a few cool tests that you can try out to pass the time.  One of these is "How Many Five Year Olds Could You Take In A Fight" - I took the test and I can take on fifteen five year olds.  If you don't mind though, I think I'd rather not anyway!  And according to "Would You Make A Good Human Shield?" my result is...

Created by OnePlusYou - Free Dating Site

So in the case of war you've got a 56% chance that I won't dive out of the way of the machine gun fire and that the bullets will be stopped by my body.  Hope that comforts people.

Another one is Drinkify.  Drinkify asks you what you're listening to, and then recommends a drink to listen to it with, as well as in many cases playing the music.  It doesn't seem to accept anything but it does accept a hell of a lot of different things - I put in "Felicia Day", who although has sung a few songs (very well) is primarily known as a writer, actress, and producer and it still came up with a suggested drink, albeit missing music.

The last site I'm going to mention is Whatdoestheinternetthink - on this site you type in something and it tells you what the internet thinks of it.  I just typed in cheese, and apparently the internet is very positive about cheese.  For the MLIA folk (another excellent website by the way) Harry Potter is 72.9% positive and 74.2% negative about Twilight - an outstanding win for the wizard over the vampires, I think!

And for completeness, the internet is positive about Felicia Day too.  I feel another letter coming on, hopefully this time if I get a reply it'll be to the right name!

I should point out that a couple of the sites I've mentioned today I became aware of thanks to the Vsauce channel on YouTube, which also gives some fascinating scientific facts (like what would happen if the entire population of Earth jumped at the same time) by a guy called Michael who I presume also got fed up of being called Mark.


PS Probably no blog tomorrow as I'm out for the day, fingers crossed back on Sunday!

Thursday, 30 August 2012


Image Copyright Brian Robert Marshall. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

Now I'm not an expert on fish.  I pride myself on knowing something about a lot of things, but not a lot about a lot of things.

And fish are something that I know little about.

I know that they breathe in water, and swim, and eat fish food (and probably something else in the wild).  I know that it's a myth that goldfish only have a memory of three seconds.

But apart from that, I don't really know a lot.

Anyhow, we were very generously given a fishtank at the weekend.  My son loves looking at fish, so it's a cool pet for him, plus they're pretty low maintenance - no walks, no throwing sticks, no combing their hair.  I've always quite fancied a fish.

So, we headed down to the pet shop to buy some fish.

Whoa! You can't just, like, go and buy some fish!  You get questioned as to the size of your tank, how long the water has been in there, if fish are already in the tank etc etc.

And if you pass the test, you can have one or two fish.

Then, a week or so later, you can have a few more.

The reason is that the filter sponge in the tank has bacteria in it, that eat the fish waste.  And the bacteria have to scale up to the increase in waste caused by more fish.

This does make sense.  But the amount of hoops you have to jump through to own a couple of the things is incredible.  I don't know how they survive in the wild, with no filters, or tropical fish food (our pellet fish food will "do for now" but next time we need to get the right stuff).

The other thing is the "size of the tank" issue.  Obviously, you need a tank big enough for the fish to swim around in and do their stuff. That's cool.  But have you seen the fish in the tanks at the pet shop?  There is way more fish in one of those tanks than would be recommended if I owned the tank.  Apparently it's okay because "they aren't in the tank very long because people buy them", but I can't say that I fell for that excuse.  Surely some of the fish get wise to the little net coming in and nabbing their mates, and head for the ground when the pet shop guy turns up, so they never get picked, and as a result suffer fish depression due to small tankiness.

Nevertheless, we've got some fish.  They are quite cool, swimming around in what must be a giant ocean of a tank compared to the one in the pet shop, but they are quite good at hiding - as soon as I released them into the tank, promptly one of them vanished, making me check the plastic bag in case it had somehow stuck in the bag and was undergoing asphyxiation.  But sure enough it showed up after a while, happily swimming around.

I was giving this tale to my parents today (Khat and Ravanna of Guild Ravenswing) and was quizzed "Are they tropical fish? What type of fish are they?".  Apparently as they're tropical fish, they need a heater in the tank, which doubles as the light.  I had been turning the light off on a night so it didn't scare the fish but it's needed to keep them warm! Sorry fish, I promise to look after you better in future.  I was also asked what type of breeders they are - not a clue.  I'll go back to the shop and ask!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Not about SEO. Seriously, do not read this post if you are interested in SEO. In fact, don't read this post because it will make your life worse.

I would guess that there is a lot of interest in SEO.  Even on my tiny blog, I have had new Twitter followers and viewers, quite possibly because I mentioned SEO in my post on Sunday.  if you are one of these people and you've stuck around for this article, thank you and welcome.  If you don't know what SEO is, go read my post.

So, what shall I blog about today?  I've been feeling very creative and geeky lately, possibly because I've finished watching The Guild which is a fantastic web show.  Go see it if you haven't.

I'm toying with the idea of doing some kind of PC game review show on YouTube, I think that it'd be quite fun to do (and cheap as well), one problem is that I am a committed mumbler.  My voice is quite dull and I very easily slip into a mumble to make things worse.  Will have to work on that first.

Okay, what I'm going to blog about today is going to make your life worse if you read it.  This is your warning.  Before you read any more, go change to a different website.  Shut your PC down.  Do not read the rest of this post!

I warned you.

I thought about this when I was a kid, and it has blighted me on and off ever since.  And it will do the same to you.

Last chance - go to YouTube and check out Geek and Sundry, it's really cool! Or the Jeff Lewis 5 minute Comedy Hour, I'm really enjoying that as well.


Okay then.

Have you ever thought about breathing?  About how your body automatically breathes?  It just does it, you don't need to think about it or anything, isn't it great?

Now try to think about something else.

Go on, clear your head.

Except you can't, can you?  You're thinking about breathing.  And you start to wonder, what if it isn't automatic?  What if you have to tell yourself to breathe, or your lungs will fill with carbon dioxide and you'll die.

Time for another breath.  Are you going to consciously work your lungs?  Take a breath in?  You are, aren't you.

Next breath - this one, to prove to yourself that it's an involuntary reflex, wait for your body to breathe, don't tell it to.

But it's not, is it?  You can feel your lungs wanting to exhale, but nothing's happening.

You'll have to breathe again! Consciously! Voluntarily!

How long will this last?  Five minutes?  All day? THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?!?



Told you not to read this post :)

Is this one funny?  Can't decide if it's funny or creepy. Tomorrow's will be cool, it's going to be about fish!

Until then,


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

I Hate Nappies

I hate nappies.

On Monday, my other half went out for a couple of hours around dinner time, so I was looking after our 2 year old.  He's ace.

I was washing up in the kitchen and he came, took me into the living room and sat me down so he could snuggle up with me for a bit, which is cool.

Then I noticed that his nappy was bulging - time for a change, I thought. Not a problem.

Now, I knew that we were running low on nappies.

There wasn't any in the changing box.


Or upstairs in his bedroom.

Not even under his bed.

Okay, I thought, we can use one from out of his going out backpack, and I'll ask my other half to fetch some on her way in.

The going out backpack was empty as well.

Right, I decided, action needs to be taken.  He's going to need changing soon.

So, I decided that we would pop out and get some.  We headed down to Lidl on Cottingham Road - before anyone gets up in my grill about going to Lidl, they're very good value and their nappies have won some awards and personally I've found them to be better than Pampers and Huggies ones.

Parked up.

Got my son out of the car.

Got my son into a trolley.

Went to Lidl.

Realised that Monday was a bank holiday and that Lidl had shut early.

Returned the trolley and put my son  back in the car.

We then went to Tesco on Newland Avenue.  Went in there, but they had nappies sizes 2, 3 and 5, and we've been getting my son  size 6, so no luck there.

I got us back in the car and drove further down Newland Ave to the Sainsburys.  Unfortunately a ne'er-do-well was lurking around the entrance, and being a tough burly lad I decided to drive on.

We made it to Sainsburys on Princes Avenue.  As it is a bank holiday, people had been drinking all day, there was shouting going on, broken glass on the ground - not overly pleasant, but by this time I just wanted to get some nappies no matter what and this time I took the bull by the horns and left the safety of the car.

Went into Sainsburys - sizes 2, 3, and 5. No 6.

I decided to take a risk and buy a pack of size 5 nappies and hope that they would do for the time being.  Bundled my son back into the car, and headed for home.

Got home at last - this took me about three quarters of an hour, while I was supposed to be tidying the kitchen and generally sorting things out.

Opened the door.

On the table in the hallway was an unused nappy.

Ah well.

When my other half got in later, I told her the story.

She pointed out the new set of plastic drawers where unused nappies are now kept.

She also brought me a cookie.

I hate nappies.

But I like cookies.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Diablo 3 - by a noob. And shaving - by a noob.

Hmm - I think I've got a spot on my chin.

The reason that I'm not sure is that I have a fairly decent beard growing.  I try to keep it under control whilst at work, but I haven't been at work for 5 days now and it's sprouting quite well.  And I think somewhere underneath it all there's a spot.

Might have to shave an exploratory gap to check.

Anyway - off topic.  I've just completed Diablo III on Normal difficulty.

Diablo III, for the people that don't know what it is, is a very good game.  You essentially play through an adventure game, killing monsters, picking up loot, typically being accompanied by one or more helpers as you explore the lands, ultimately heading towards taking care of a rather nasty chap called Diablo.  Apparently he's the root of all evil or the centre of evil or some such gubbins - I've heard that not only does he not pay his television license, but he even helps himself to a grape in the supermarket without paying for it (that annoys me no end)

So, I created a mage called Raistlin - whilst many people know me as my WoW hunter Thog, Raistlin goes back a lot further, to when I was a kid and read a book called Dragons of Autumn Twilight.  I got this book in with a game for the ZX Spectrum - the game itself wasn't memorable, but the book was.  Raistlin was basically this mage, who starts off neutral but over time turns to evil.  If you want to know his story, read the Dragonlance books - they're good. (And to any readers of the Dragonlance books - I know I massively oversimplified Raistlin's backstory here)

So, Raistlin was a cool character and so I used his name in various old RPG games, notably Dungeons of the Necromancers Domain and Mordor.  But when I played WoW, I couldn't get Raistlin as a name, so he fell into longterm memory for recovery at a future date.

And then Diablo 3 came out.

So, Raistlin is back and has just kicked Diablo's ass on Normal difficulty.  I won't go through the details in case you haven't played the game yet (I do recommend it), but I would say that the way the game is set up is directly against how I play.

If I play a game, I usually play it on the lowest difficulty setting, so that I feel like less of a noob, and once I've completed it, that's it.  Don't play it again.

But the idea of Diablo 3 is that you play it on Normal, then on Nightmare, then on Hell, and finally on Inferno.  Now my understanding is that I'm essentially going to play the same game (albeit harder and with better loot) four times, and to me it just seems like a grind.

I like seeing new content, that's cool.  And new loot is always nice.  Perhaps I need to party more?  I'm a bit of a solitary player (mainly so that I don't look bad in front of other players) and I've done very little partying.

I guess I'll leave it a little then give it a try on Nightmare mode - my fiancee has played through the difficulties and loves the game, so there must be something to it.  Any comments folks?

Right - I'm going to try to find a spot!

(Fifteen minutes pass)

No spot.

Damn that hurt.

I (stupidly I know) dry shave.  I generally use an electric razor to get the thick of the beard, but then I always need to use a Mach 3 or a Fusion Power Stealth Ninja Deathblade to remove the last few rogue hairs (and even then it's amazing how often I look in the mirror and a single inch long hair has sprouted overnight) and when it's been a while since I last shaved the dry shave stings a bit.  I constantly get told to wet shave, the trouble I find is if I wet shave the razor gets gummed up with bits of cut beard almost instantly, so you have no option but to buy a new blade (and I like to make the blade last as long as possible - which also unfortunately increases the pain), so instead I dry shave.

Ultimately, the problem with razors is that we don't really know anything about them. The only way we can measure the quality of a razor is by the number of blades it has. So manufacturers are having to outdo each other on the blade front, and it is only a matter of time until we are all using a razor that is also used in Chinese takeaways to produce shredded crispy duck.

To go further, there are manual razors (that don’t need electricity) and electric razors. Electric ones usually don’t give as close a shave, but last ages and don’t peel your face off. But now you can get manual razors that need a battery. I await the day when I own an electric razor that doesn’t need electric, and instead you rub it on your calf for five minutes to generate enough static electricity so that all your hairs on your body stand on end and you get to pluck them off one at a time with a pair of tweezers.

Battery powered tweezers, of course.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

SEO and doing it

I've been reading about SEO today.

SEO, for those not in the know, is Search Engine Optimisation.  According to Wikipedia ( it's "the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural," or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic"), search results."

Basically, when you Google something, you generally look on the first page for what you want, and the further away your result is from the first page, the less likely someone is going to click on it.  When was the last time you went beyond page ten of a Google search, despite it possibly finding millions of results for you?

So it makes sense that you want your page to appear as near to the front as possible, to increase the amount of visitors to your site.

Following the Wikipedia article, there are several ways to do SEO. One is getting indexed - to be found the search engines must visit your site.  Well, I've visited a few of the leading search engines and submitted my site for review, so box ticked for that one. Boom!

Secondly, preventing crawling.  The search engines employ programs called "spiders" to visit sites, and gather key information, and you can tell spiders not to index a certain page if it isn't relevant. (for example the secured payroll website of a company probably doesn't need to show up on Google) Not really a problem for me, I'm happy with everyone seeing any of the pages of my blog.

Five minutes and I've already done two points of SEO. Man, this is easy.

Third - Increasing Prominence. This sounds good. I like to increase my prominence whenever I can.

Writing key words in my documents that people search for will increase the likelihood of being found.

But! These spiders are sneaky, they're like jumpy spiders or something.  If you just post a stream of text like "Cheese nachos yoghurt tablet happy brie" they'll know that you're mean and they won't link you or track you or do whatever it is they do, wrap you in a web and eat you for dinner.

Hmm - I don't want to be eaten for dinner by a digital spider.

Never mind.  Apparently I need to be a white hat, instead of a black hat - tricky, I only have a black hat.

Or a santa hat.

So, the idea struck me, what if I make a story out of the key words for the moment?  That way, it'll look legit, right?

So what are the key words I should use?  I had a little look at a few leading websites to see "what people are searching for right now"

And here's the story.


Kate Nash sat in Tampa, eating a Mars Curiosity from her Clutch Bag whilst perusing an advert for used cars on her Tablet PC, but she couldn't focus on the offers.  Her thoughts flitted between healthy eating, beerfear, and the Paralympics.
 "If only Victoria Wood was here," she thought aloud, glancing over at the HD television which was showing Celeb Big Brother.  She flicked the channel over to X Factor, and went back to her Tablet PC.

A thought struck her. She shouted for her butler, and within but a moment or two, he arrived.
 "Jeeves! I want to ask you, how big is the moon?" she asked.  Perplexed, he paused, before answering "The diameter of the moon is only 3,474 km across. Madam, may I suggest that you review the progress of the Arenanet Technicians Fixing your Server?"

She fixed him with a steely glare. "Thank you Jeeves, that will be all. Oh Jeeves," she called, as he wheeled around to face the door, "do be a good man and feed Lycos, won't you?"
 "Yes, milady." Jeeves answered, jumping out of the window shouting "Yahoo!" as he fell.
 "Silly man." she said, pressing the lift controls, making them go Bing.


To the entire world who are now on my blog after I've deployed SEO - welcome to my blog.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Warning: May Contain Spoons

We've been working on my son's speaking recently, as he's a little behind on talking.  He has come on very well and is making lots of noises, but we're trying to get him over the next hurdle from noises to words.

This generally involves an alphabet, and a lot of encouraging and smiling. Saying "Yes, that's a b!" a lot, you can imagine it.

To be fair, he can do some letters quite well.  S is a strong point for him.  Words with "it" as well, he can usually enunciate the "it" part, certainly so it is understandable.

So when his nana had him for a little while the other day, and had a little accident - nothing too severe, nothing to worry about - she, without thinking, emitted a word that can only be described as foul language.

A word which includes an S, and an "it" bit as well.

And our son can now say it.  Thanks! :)

One other thing to mention...

I was in Asda, getting various random bits of household gubbins and food – no alcohol, which to be honest is unusual for me as despite the fact that I can't hold my drink, I do like to keep a little in the house.

I go to the checkout, unload my trolley, and mosey on down to the far end to bag my purchases and to prepare myself for parting with my hard-earned money.

About two-thirds of the way through, the checkout girl stops.
“Have you got ID for this?” she asks. I'm not too surprised as I used to get ID'd quite a bit and although it's less common now, it does occur. I always say the most accurate way to check if someone is underage is to ask them, and then if they burst into a beaming smile, you can be sure that they're overage.
I fish around for my driving license, my brain slowly catching up with me as I show the girl my license.  I haven't bought any alcohol today.

“What am I being ID'd for, anyway?”

“You've bought some cutlery, sir.”

I've bought some cutlery. Was it a meat cleaver? A smaller, but concealable knife? A serrated bread knife, perhaps?


I've bought a spoon.

A ******* spoon!

What am I going to do with a spoon? Gouge out someone's eyeballs? Sneak into an egg and spoon race and beat all the kids? Bop my servant in the middle of the forehead, Basil Fawlty-style?

If I hijack a plane with a spoon, I deserve to keep the plane.

Friday, 24 August 2012

A Day Out

Had an excellent day today out at Robin Hoods Bay with my dad, checking out a couple of pubs and a few shops.

Despite raining we were determined to enjoy our day at the seaside and enjoy it we did - here's my dad carrying out some impromptu testing on behalf of Ye Dolphin:

Whilst I decided, being the designated driver, to cool down by the assimilation of ice cream through osmosis into my hand.

All things taken into consideration it was a good day - a very decent "pig out grill" at Ye Dolphin, followed up by a trip to The Laurel.  It's strange how Bay affects me - I assume it's something to do with the place itself, coupled with regular visits for over half of my life - but I always feel at home in Bay, relaxed and safe.  Endless afternoons talking nonsense in The Laurel over a pint or two, playing on the beach... it's just such a nice place to be.  I often hear seagulls in a morning near my house and that always reminds me of staying in cottages at Bay, waking in the morning to the cries of the gulls.  I felt a little guilty for being extremely quiet today (I think I was anyway) but the feeling of being relaxed was so good I was lulled into peacefulness (no I don't mean I had a nap)

I did amuse myself today with the strategic placement of QR codes in places around Bay.

A QR code pointing back to this website - although I kind of imagine it being a 4-eyed alien that's been shot in the bottom right eye.

I've placed copies of my blog's QR code inside a book in one of the book shops, in some of the pubs, possibly in one or two other places as well.  I'm hoping that the code by itself with no explanation will spark some curiosity and get people coming here to find out what's going on.  If you stumbled across my blog after finding such a code, welcome! And do feel free to drop a comment about where you found it (and then maybe check out the very good adverts on my pages too)

As an aside, if anyone really really wants to dish out some QR codes for me drop me a mail with your postal address - I'll send you some.  Just be thoughtful about where you put them - I'm aiming for strange and bizarre and making people curious - not annoying them by sticking one under their car wiper blade.

Changing the subject completely, I've just read an article by Mark Hill on the 6 most absurdly difficult video game puzzles of all time.  It's well worth a read, the bizarreness of the puzzles (especially numbers #1 and #2) are hilarious and I couldn't stop myself from laughing at the last one.  And it's amazing what you can do with sellotape, a cat and a packet of syrup.

Finally, has anyone not seen the bizarre music video "Gangnam Style" by Psy?  It's a extremely strange yet very very funny video by a South Korean rapper - I must admit to being relieved when I checked (albeit on Wikipedia) that he is well known for his humorous videos.  I recommend 1:54 in the lift.

Right - time for me to crack on with watching the Guild!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

How is Wil Wheaton 40?!?

Been watching a lot of the Guild this evening, so far I'm into season Three and I just spotted in the credits a certain Mr Wil Wheaton.  Now I've never really noticed Wil in anything since Star Trek; TNG many many years ago (Wednesday nights at 6pm on BBC2 when I was about ten - joy!  We didn't have a video recorder though so bizarrely I used to tape record the show, so I could listen to it and imagine what happened!) but this is more down to my lack of facial recognition capability than Wil's lack of talent.

Visiting his blog ( has brought me up to date on his work - note he's been wearing a beard from time to time, again how am I supposed to recognise people when they change their appearance?  When the Data guy did stuff without painting his skin gold it took me ages to spot him too.

He's forty - oh my god, because I still think of him as Wesley Crusher I imagine him being 15 or so - and actually pretty cool.  One to follow on Twitter, I think.

The other noteworthy thing for today is when I went to the local Sainsburys store to get some bits for dinner, I was searching for cottage cheese (which took ages because I wasn't wearing my glasses) and the shop assistant next to me starting kicking off about liver, and how it looks disgusting.  He then apologised for being random!  Bless the guy, I wish my mind worked quicker (one reason I'm not a stand up comic - if I got heckled it'd be two days later when I thought of a good comeback) because I should have told him that random is good.  Damn, we're on this planet for a short time, and if you feel an urge to be random then be random.  Random's what I love about i-series and I wish I could get some more randomness.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Work Related For Once... and then not

Got home about an hour ago as this evening I've been on G4C duty.

It's actually been really good - this evening I met with the Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire Branch of the Association for Project Management to discuss G4C and how we can work more with the APM.  The meeting was really positive, but also I was very impressed with the branch meeting and how much emphasis was placed on students and getting them involved.  As G4C is all about the future of the construction industry I really do see students as being part of our key audience.

Just straying onto the topic of construction best practice, the 2012 Yorkshire & Humber Construction Best Practice Awards are open for submissions.  There's a few new categories this year so do check out the categories, if you have not applied before it might be that there's something for you this year.  Details are on the website at - do be aware that although the website says the submission deadline is Friday 24th August, I've had email notification (as well as some tweets) saying that the deadline is now 5pm on Friday September 14th, so you've got plenty of time to think about your submissions and get them in.  The awards dinner is due to be held on October 12th and promises to be a good night.

I'm starting to relax now as I'm not back in the office until next Wednesday now - I've got a teleconference in the morning to talk about some work around intelligent clients that G4C is involved in, that should be interesting and I'm hoping to be able to provide some good input.

Moving away from work I'm aware that right now something like 3,000 gamers are thinking about (if not already done) packing up tents, sleeping bags, snacks, drinks, and their PC, to head down to Telford for insomnia46, the massive gaming festival that kicks off this weekend.

For those that don't know what a gaming festival is, essentially it consists of two elements.  Firstly, many many stands from various manufacturers of gaming-related stuff, be it computer builders, component suppliers, snack providers, game retailers, you want it (and it relates to computer gaming) it'll be there.  Lots of competitions and fun activities.

Secondly, a huge room (or rooms) of rows and rows and rows of tables and chairs populated by gamers hooked up to the Internet for a long weekend session of gaming.  There is various tournaments as well, with the best gamers competing for various cash prizes with somewhere in the region of £30,000 up for grabs.

It's really hard to explain to non-gamers because they say "But can't you just play at home?  I mean it's the Internet, why go somewhere to go in the Internet?".  But firstly, there's a lot of LAN gaming done (a local network as opposed to going on the Internet) which you can't necessarily do at home - unless you have several PCs hooked up to a home network.  Secondly, the whole festival vibe is unreal.  Everyone there is a gamer.  Everyone.  You become part of a mass of geeky, fun loving, gaming people who have the freedom to wear crazy stuff and live life.  Last time I was there one of our PCs wasn't working, so I put a message on the forum asking for advice - within ten minutes a guy in a leopard suit wandered up and fixed it (the leopard suit was really handy for tracking him down to deliver beer as thanks too).  It's just that random vibe that anything can (and does) happen.  Social barriers break down because although you might not know anyone, you're all gamers.  You can all admire someone's flashy case with UV lights and watercooling.  You can get pizza delivered to your desk (oh yeah).  And then you make friends because you can't finish your pizza, so you shout out "who wants pizza?" and someone turns round to you and starts chatting.  You can, for a weekend, not feel guilty about gaming because that's what you're there for.

I love i-series.  Last time I went was last August, as you can imagine it's trickier to disappear for a long weekend when childcare is an issue so I can't see us making it there this year (it's too late for August and I can't see me getting the cash together for the November one) but hopefully next year I'll escape for a few days.

For more info check the website -

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Windows is downloading updates...

Little tired this evening - have been for a few evenings, in fact.  GP rang up today and told me to go in for an extra blood test next week as my iron level is a little low, so I've got that to look forward to.

Apart from that, it's been a good day.  I really enjoyed reading up about the Mars Rover and what it's up to at the moment after making its successful landing on the red planet and blasting a little rock with a laser (I'm now imagining it featuring in a Wh40K story about the Mechanicum...)

I particularly liked the press release at - although the article is about the pretty cool colour pictures of the Martian surface, it does mention the rover "undergoing a brain transplant" which I translate as being the Nasa term for updating your motherboard drivers.  I wonder if it's Intel or AMD?

To stay on geeky subjects I've started watching The Guild again.  Last time I got halfway through series three and then stopped for some reason, but this evening I've just got through series one and reminded myself just how cool it is.  For the uninitiated, The Guild is a internet TV show about a group of people that play games together in the same guild.  While the show does take things to extremes, WoW players (and players of other MMOs) will recognise something of MMO life in the show, especially the characters.  I want to be Bladezz (but I'm probably Vork!)

If you've no idea what I'm talking about go to - each episode is only 4-5 minutes long so you don't have to worry about spending your evening watching something you might or might not like.  It'd be interesting to know what do non-gamers think of The Guild?

For construction folk, remember the Yorkshire & Humber Construction Best Practice Awards are currently open for submitting entries.  There's a ton of categories so there's something for everyone.  Go check it out at - the website says that the closing date is Friday 24th August but I've got a tweet saying that the date has been pushed back to September 14th so if you thought it was too late to enter think again.

Okay - I've got a long day tomorrow promoting G4C in the Yorkshire region (get in touch if you want to get involved by the way, more info about this construction best practice initiative for newcomers to the industry in my last post) so I'm going to do some chores and get some sleep.  Night!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Keeping it real

Good evening,

Just thought I'd post a bit of a piece before bedtime.  I've been busy tracking down my old blog articles and getting them on here so that they're all in one place.  They're mainly about World of Warcraft and Guild Ravenswing (which I was a senior officer of, whether I am or not I'm not sure bearing in mind that I haven't logged in for a number of months!)

I've got quite an interesting week up ahead of me which I'm looking forward to.  I've got three days at work (mostly in the office no less - it is something of a standing joke that even when I'm "at work" I'm not in the office!) which includes Wednesday afternoon meeting the Construction Sector Network and the Association for Project Management to discuss an initiative that I'm involved with called G4C.

G4C (Generation For Change) is an initiative to gear up the future leaders of the construction industry with the skills and knowledge that they need to revolutionise the industry.  I'm particularly involved with the Yorkshire & Humber region, where I've been trying to do stuff for about 2 years now, with varying levels of success.  Short story is that I've been far too focused on organising and doing everything myself (plus making some defendable but ultimately questionable decisions) and the other regions seem to be taking off better than mine.  So to address this I'm setting up a committee of people that will work together to organise things, and basically do bigger and better stuff than I could achieve myself.  I'm really looking forward to getting the committee going and seeing how things go - plus I'm aware (as the name of this whole blog indicates) that it is getting harder for me to declare myself as a "newcomer" to the industry and one day I will need to hand this thing onto someone else, and the committee should be an ideal vehicle to keep the initiative going.  Obviously if you are in the construction industry and based in Yorkshire / Humber do drop me a line if you'd like to get involved.  We've also got a LinkedIn group at

Apart from work on Friday myself and my dad (Ravanna/Oshune to WoW folk) are heading off to Robin Hoods Bay for the day.  Bay is a little fishing village just south of Whitby in North Yorkshire, about 2 hours drive from my home.  It is really nice and lovely to relax there and since I was 13 we've probably been almost every year to Bay for a break of some sort, be it a week or just a day.  The thing that differentiates Bay from other places is that it has a really nice community feel to the village, you really do feel as though you're coming home when you come to Bay.

© Copyright Rob Newman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Above is a pic of the bay itself, missing from this picture is the usual ice cream van!  The main issue I've got is where do I want to go for lunch - the normal choice is the Dolphin, an excellent pub on King Street which delivers a fantastic menu of food and a good choice of ales as well.  However, I have been for a few days in the mood for fish and chips, so on this occasion I may vote for the chip shop instead. Hard to decide! (But a nice problem to have)

Wherever we eat we'll have to include a visit to the Laurel before we leave.  The Laurel is a tiny pub halfway down the big hill (the only bad thing about Bay really, walking up the hill!) which holds special memories for me, spending afternoons on holiday in there, talking nonsense over a few pints.  One of the things that I never used to be particularly good at was going into pubs by myself, generally I'd only go if I was going to meet up with some people or going with someone.  But the Laurel is so welcoming (as to be fair is one or two other pubs in Bay - perhaps it's the location) that I could happily wander in, have a drink and a chat and be on my way.

Typically, when I'm in the mood to write, reality breaks in.  I've got to be up for work in about 8 hours so time to get some sleep!  Stay tuned for!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Ey up!

Ey up!

Welcome to my blog.  I've had one of these chappies in the past, but it kind of died due to neglect a while back.

I'm Thog (or Thoggy if you want a cutesie name to call me by), I work at a council, and I have a partner and a kid which are both epic. (just to round that off my job is excellent too)

Here's a pic of my WoW character and my many companions!

Basically I like to game and read, and write, but the writing bit I do far too little of. As 99% of writers in the world do, I imagine of the day that a publisher will come round to my house and say "You're so great! Here's ten million pounds! Please relax and enjoy your life because you're brilliant!"

But apparently not too many publishers actually do that, something to do with reducing their carbon footprint by staying in the office more.

So basically I'm going to use this blog as a good practice for me to get into writing more and more, and hey if it entertains some people for a minute or so then all to the good.  I recently got into the Joel Runyon's website - basically if you need any inspiration for getting on with your life go check it out at

I have colitis - meh, you're not going to need to know about that and you're probably not interested unless you have it.  And fortunately it isn't that bad (lot better than it used to be, if you suffer with this you have my sympathies).  All I would say if you do have it is take your medicines, use your doctors, and look at your diet.  This week I basically fasted for 2 days (well kept to 500-600 calories) which was due to some documentary that I refuse to watch but apparently is really good, and actually it made a fantastic difference to me, so I'm seriously looking at reducing my food down to what I actually need, bearing in mind that I'm overweight, am an office worker and do very little exercise so my calorie intake is generally way over what I need.  Obviously anyone reading this and thinking about changing your diet - go get some professional advice, doctor or dietician.  If you want a nutritionist speak to me, I'd be an ace nutritionist. (apologies to steal from the master that is Dara O'Briain, but basically anyone can call themselves a nutritionist)

What do you call condensed milk? Mlk!

I tried to have some evaporated milk with some fruit for supper but it floated out the window.

There's a couple of extremely bad jokes I thought of this morning.  I harbour some ideas of trying to be a stand-up comedian but I suspect I simply don't think quickly enough, especially to handle heckles. Perhaps a comedy writer like David Mitchell (must go check out his latest Youtube video at

For those on a budget and that like a beer can I suggest Lidl - they've currently got (at least in my local one) Mann's Brown Ale, a decent and inexpensive basic brown ale for only £1.19.  The sneaky thing also is that it's only 2.8%, which for a lightweight such as myself is ideal!  So far I've had two various beers tonight (one of these and a "Lucky" beer which my mother suggests smells of fish) and I'm somewhat relaxed so that gives you an idea of how little alcohol it takes for me to go from sober to unsober.

I saw the trailer for Mists of Pandaria today, the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, and it looks ace.  It definitely made me want to go and preorder the expansion.  I used to be a big WoW gamer but I lost enthusiasm a while back and despite going back once or twice for short periods I've mainly moved on from the game.  That said, I'm sure I'll be getting the expansion and levelling up to level 90 along with everyone else!

Okay, I've kicked this thing off so I'm feeling pretty good. Time to go conquer the galaxy in Birth of the Federation!

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