Saturday, 28 February 2015

Leonard Nimoy

I wasn't planning to blog right now.

As I type this, it's just gone 3am, a time that I think can be safely categorised as "the middle of the night".  Why am I up now?  Well, I went to bed at 7pm feeling really tired, and I guess 7 hours must have been enough sleep, so I got up about an hour ago and thought that I might catch up on some work while the house is quiet.

Then I found out that Leonard Nimoy has passed away.

Star Trek was a significant part of my life when growing up.  Wednesday nights at 6pm was when we'd sit down to watch Star Trek on BBC2, and I used to record the shows on a tape recorder so that I could listen again (we didn't have a video recorder at the time).  I also remember running up a fairly decent phone bill over several months talking to a similar aged kid who was also into Star Trek, as down the phone we'd pretend to command a starship.  Because, let's be honest, we all want to command a starship.  Flying through space, in charge of hundreds of people and a piece of technology that can, apart from other things like fly from planet to planet and blow up asteroids, materialise as many pies, chocolate cakes and cans of beer as you want, rocks.

And Spock was always awesome.  Regardless of what problem was facing the crew, he'd have some fantastic Vulcan solution to it, whether it was logically working out the solution to a problem, spotting a tiny detail about something from looking through his scope on the science station, or just being able to knock someone out with a nerve pinch, you know that you'd always want him on your team.

I'm fortunate enough to own a copy of his second autobiography, I Am Spock, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and learning about the man that created the character.  Everything I've read and heard about him seemed to point at one thing - he was a great man.

Even his last tweet was brilliant.
Thank you.

By Beth Madison (_DSC5611-1 crp) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton has written a brilliant post about Leonard Nimoy which I'd recommend is well worth a read.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

My face vs an air fryer (and other kitchen appliance commentary)

We have a Tefal Actifry air fryer, and let me tell you, they're pretty good.  If you're not familiar with what one of these things is for, basically you fill it with a load of uncooked chips or potato wedges, pour in a big spoon of oil, close the lid, turn it on, and 35 minutes later you have chips/wedges to eat.  Because they've been cooked in only a little bit of oil they're (relatively) healthy, and pretty tasty.  You can lob in herbs too when cooking (although if you do it does make cleaning a bit harder) and apparently they'll also cook other stuff like sausages - although we haven't dared try.

However, two issues with our Actifry:

One - cleaning them isn't easy.  Basically, it is not going to be spotless, and you will end up with bits of it covered in a layer of hardened oil.  The sooner you accept this and stop trying to carve away the oil with whatever blade comes to hand, the better.

And secondly, we store ours on top of a cupboard in the kitchen.  Our kitchen is fairly small, and we have limited options for storage.  So, it is kept about six and a half foot high, so just barely reachable.

Now, the weight distribution of the Actifry isn't even - it's roughly a circular shape, with most of the weight at one side, where the engine is located.  So if you're not careful, it can take a tumble when lifting it down.

The first time it fell, I had to go and buy various spare parts to replace the bits that broke.  So this time, I decided to cushion its fall, by placing my face in the way.

I don't have anything against my face.  It does what faces are designed to do e.g. hold in the eye balls, stop blood from falling all over the place, that kind of thing.  But you could have mistaken me for having some slightly odd fetish as I willingly took an Actifry, powered by gravity, to the face.  Ouch.

And I haven't finished ranting about kitchen tools.

Earlier this week my toaster died.  It was a Breville toaster, and it had blue LED lights that came on when it was toasting (it looked a little bit like this one).  I'd had it for about eight years (ever since I first moved out of my parents) and it was a decent toaster.  I liked the cool lights, and you can't help but understand the intricacies of a toaster over an extended period of time.

When activating it from cold, number five was ideal for a good piece of toast.  When, however, doing more toast, you were better advised to go for number three (or even two) to prevent the smoke alarm bursting into life.

I bought a new toaster online, and it's a supermarket brand one.  It looked reasonable in the picture, but now I have it, it feels cheap, it doesn't light up (so it isn't obvious that it's actually heating your bread up) and it toasts approximately 80% of the bread, leaving two edges undone.  And of course, it isn't sufficiently poor for me to warrant buying a new one, so I have to hope that it will fail at some point so that I can buy a new, better, toaster.

Fortunately though, again due to the size of the kitchen, the toaster is kept in a cupboard about six foot high (in fact just under the Actifry) so with any luck one morning it will accidentally fall out of the cupboard.

By the way, I made a picture meme thingy.  Feel free to share.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Hull Internet Creatives

I've been wanting for some time to do more collaborations with people, particularly on my YouTube channel, but also on blogs, but I've had the difficulty of now knowing many other people locally interested in getting involved in stuff.

As a result, I am launching a new networking group for web creators - Hull Internet Creatives!


A group for those in the Hull region to meet, network, and promote their web creations.

Do you:

·        Make YouTube videos?
·        Write blogs?
·         Record podcasts?
·         Create internet content?

Would you like to:

·         Promote your creations?
·         Collaborate with others?
·         Share ideas?

HIC is a group for those people that generate internet content, be it blogs, videos, podcasts, or other materials.  It is a forum for people to connect and work together, to find partners for collaborations, share ideas for topics, and to discuss ways to both improve the quality of their content and increase the popularity of their content.

The group is planned to meet every other month, with the first meeting on Tuesday 21st April 2015 at 7.30pm.  All interested people are welcome, please drop me an email at to let me know that you're coming.  The venue is Red Sails, 2 Beacon Way, Hull, HU3 4AE ( 

We also have a Facebook group at - please join and say hi!

If you'd like to watch me say the above (can't imagine why) here's my video on the group:

Tuesday, 17 February 2015


I like hats.  To be precise, I like the idea of hats.  There's something about a hat (depending on style of course) that makes you feel a little bit higher class than you would be otherwise.

Unfortunately, I don't suit hats.  With the possible exception of my leather outback hat that is (I don't have a picture of this to hand so below is a picture courtesy of

hat pic from
My hat looks like this one.

I was in the local supermarket the other day and found myself in the clothing department - looking for gloves as mine had gone walkabout - and I came across some hats.  Well, I'd just been to watch Kingsman: The Secret Service, featuring Colin Firth looking very cool in a dapper English gentleman sort of way, so my ambition to wear a hat - to be precise, an £6 trilby hat - was awakened.

Hmm.  Not quite the stylistic English gentleman that I was going for.

I tried this hat in different sizes, but no matter which one I went for, they all looked rubbish.  In desperation I tried on all of their range of hats, in the hopes that one might suit.

I felt like some kind of rapper.  And what is that pattern on the underside of the hat - snakeskin?  I think it had a felt underside, because rappers want comfy hats.

A Union Jack beanie hat.  No words are necessary.

I think the last one is actually the best one, and I am actually toying with going back and buying one. 

Yes, a flatcap.  Yorkshire through and through.

If you like the look of any of these hats, get over to the George website!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Pi lives!

My Raspberry Pi, after a few weeks tinkering and playing, is now fully alive and serving a purpose!

This is a bad photo of the Raspberry Pi. But I can't seem to make it take a good one.  It is a small rectangular box, after all.

If you don't know what a Raspberry PI is, it's basically a dinky computer that you can use for all sorts of things - I first got to play with one at a Raspberry Jam in November.

I've got mine hooked up to the TV downstairs to work as a media server (using RaspBMC), so I can basically connect up my media to the Pi and it'll play it on the TV.  I'm probably hideously old fashioned but I don't actually have a home network, but that's next on the to do list.

I also want to get a powered USB hub so that I can plug in more USB things into it - one of the things I want to do is plug in a couple of joypads (or are they called controllers nowadays) and play some games on the thing.

It's all good.

For a little while I was kinda annoyed that they have just brought out a new Raspberry Pi 2, which is faster and better than the original (and it came out 2 months after I got mine), but apparently the new one resets if exposed to the flash from a camera, so I feel good about that.  Although apparently you can solve the bug with a strategically placed pellet of bread, which sounds a solution bizarre enough for me to want to try it!

Do you have a Pi?  If so, what do you use it for?  If not, would you get one?

Saturday, 7 February 2015

A cat post

So, today I made this video:

It's extremely bad, but I've made it because the guys behind Exploding Kittens have set a number of challenges to the community that, if achieved, will boost the rewards given to the supporters of their Kickstarter, and as I am one of them, I'm (as usual) up for looking silly if there's a possible reward behind it.  And my other half greatly enjoyed writing on my head.

This got me into thinking about doing a cat-related post.  Here's some cat facts:

Apparently cats are less stressed when sitting in a box.  I quite like sitting in boxes too.

A group of cats is called a clowder.  I can't help but think of clam chowder whenever I hear this (and I've never had clam chowder)

Cats have the skillset to use a toilet. (I assume for toilet-related purposes and not for drinking out of)

A cats brain is more like a human brain than a dogs brain.  That explains why they're so annoying.

Cats can be allergic to humans.  Which serves them right.

And here's a picture of a cat.  Thanks to George Hodan for kindly putting this into the public domain.  You're awesome.

#ExplodingKittens #update9

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

To all Football Clubs

I'm aware that football (aka soccer in parts of the world) is big business and the cost of top quality players is really quite high.

Plus, when I was playing Fifa 12 the other day, I realised that I was selling off the players aged 32 because they were getting too old to play.

And I'm 32.

So to all top teams, while there's still a chance of me getting a good two years solid pay from playing football at a top club, I'd like to humbly put forward myself as your next purchase.

I'm extremely skilled at running for lengths of up to three yards at a time, and running into things, I don't care what - balls, players, goalposts, I've run into all of them - and can add a wildcard feature to any match.  Regardless of the ground surface I have a decent chance of falling over and injuring myself (generally with my ankle giving way, but I could do something with my knee or ligaments if that is preferable).  This way you can be sure that I will minimise the amount of time I spend on the pitch, either playing or training, which has got to be good.

I'm more than happy to present the club in positive forms of PR, for example by advertising razors, aftershave, fast cars or holidays.  Alternatively I'd love a piano.

I think for teams up against playing rivals featuring a star striker, I can be of great use by running into the star player at full pelt, ignoring the ball.  I'm sure to get a red card (thereby entirely removing the possibility of me scoring an own goal) and with all luck I'll cripple the striker, leaving the game wide open.

I also come with my own glasses (see below).  These glasses have special features, namely:

  • They steam up almost instantly, meaning that it is entirely possible that the opposing team will stop playing to watch me tackle the referee
  • They pop apart upon impact, so I'm likely to attract more than my fair share of balls aimed at my head, increasing the opportunity for headers

Wily football managers could even buy me for a small sum (see below) and then offer me on a free loan to their rivals, where I'll be able to sabotage them from within.

I have studied post-match interviews at length and am confident that I can adequately represent your club, with the use of these phrases:

  • "It was a game of two halves."
  • "They played to win."
  • "My ankle hurts."

So to attract me to your team, all I ask is a seven figure salary, a sportscar, some new trainers and an understanding that I will undertake absolutely no training whatsoever.

Neither will I play at stadiums more than 60 minutes away from my house.

I look forward to your approaches.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Times Tables

I have a vision of a school classroom, full of children, standing (why they're standing I don't know, but I imagine them standing), chanting in unison "TWO TWO'S ARE FOUR. THREE TWO'S ARE SIX. FOUR TWO'S ARE EIGHT..." and so on.

The UK Education Secretary has announced plans to ensure that all children are well grounded in the basics of English and Mathematics.  This all sounds good, I fully agree that by the time you leave school you ought to know how to do sums and read and write, and do all of these things correctly, because if you're going to apply for a job (or college, or university) you're going to be expected to have all these things sorted.

There was just one point of the news item that I read that sounds a bit questionable - I'm led to understand that the Education Secretary said "We will expect every pupil by the age of 11 to know their times tables off by heart"

I just wonder a little about how relevant times tables are, and whether they're actually the best way to educate kids about mathematics.  I was taught at home and whilst I certainly remember reading the times tables, I was always more comfortable working the sums out rather than having the sums drilled into me.

Before I wrote this, I thought to myself "What's 12 times 12?" - do I know it off my heart?  No.  But it isn't too tricky to work out - 12 times 10 is 120, plus 12, and plus another 12 - 144.

I think I'd be slightly reluctant to rely on my memory to spit out answers, certainly to the times tables that I'm less comfortable with - the sevens times table is probably the worst for me because to me there isn't an easily identifiable pattern to the numbers, so I have to work it out.  Most of the others I can either remember, for one reason or another, or I have little tricks to do the sums quickly.

Do you know your times tables?  Are there ones that you're stronger with than others?  Do you think it's better to know information by rote or to help equip children with the skills to solve problems?

As an aside, thanks to all that made contact regarding my proposed solo tabletop gaming series - I'm planning to do a pilot episode in the next week or two, and if it gets a good reception I'll look to put together a series.  Do feel free to comment with suggestions as to what game I should feature in the pilot!
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