Monday, 31 December 2012

The end of 2012

It's hard to believe that 2012 is in its final feels as though it was yesterday that I wrote about the closing of 2011! The time has flown by.

How has this year been for me? Well, it's certainly been a huge improvement on what I was anticipating: while I wrote last New Year's Eve that I was looking forward to 2012, I won't deny that I was expecting it be a long and stressful year. It's had its ups and its downs, but on the whole it's been okay!

The highlight of the year was going with Becca to see Carrie Underwood perform at the Royal Albert Hall. That concert was not something I saw coming, but I am delighted and grateful to have attended. At present I don't have any more concerts planned, but given how the Underwood event came out of the blue, that could quite easily change!

The plan for 2013? Keep on writing and proof-reading/copyediting. Meet more people and make new friends. I've made gains in these areas this year, but not to the extent that I had hoped; I'll endeavour to improve more strongly in 2013 and beyond.

Thank you again my readers, fellow bloggers and friends; I await stepping into 2013 with the rest of you. Happy New Year's Eve.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

"United State of Pop 2012 (Shine Brighter)" - DJ Earworm

When my brother and I were listening to the radio in Oregon, in each December on Open House Party a special mashup would be played. The composer, DJ Earworm, would merge each year's biggest hits into one song; to my knowledge, he began the mashup-making tradition in 2007 and has released a "United State of Pop" track for every year since. 2012's version is "United State of Pop 2012 (Shine Brighter)":

I do not know if DJ Earworm's mashups are still being played on Open House Party. The only one of them that we've heard on British radio is "United State of Pop 2009 (Blame It on the Pop)".

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The big quiz of 2012

There's a 100-question quiz on The Daily Telegraph website. It covers events throughout 2012, from the Olympics, to art and literature, to quotes and to general knowledge. If you have half an hour to spare it's a fun quiz to take:

I scored 69; even without lucky guesses I managed to get at least half the questions correct!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Frosty flora

Over the past month, my brother has taken a few pictures of frost-covered flora:

I'm especially fond of the lightly-frosted holly in the third capture.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

After Christmas Nottingham visit, 2012 (2)

My family and I travelled up to my grandparents' Nottingham yesterday morning to spend the day with relatives. The journey was awful for me, worse than it was last year: before I went to bed on Christmas Day I ate nearly an entire box of chocolate mints, so that combined with the twisty roads to Nottingham nearly made me sick. I was glad I could have my window open to allow the wind to blow through otherwise I would have vomited. It was my own fault, and should have known better than to gorge when travelling the next day.

To move on from my travel sickness, the people present for the day were my grandparents, Nottingham aunt and three of her children/my cousins (one of my older cousins, the one who currently works in China, was there); East of England aunt, uncle and cousins; my uncle currently in Hong Kong, the brother of my Nottingham uncle, and my older cousin's boyfriend. We last saw my oldest cousin at my 21st birthday party and my Hong Kong uncle this recent summer; I had never met my cousin's boyfriend before, but it was certainly a pleasure for me and my family to meet him.

The gift we brought along with us was another photo album for my grandparents. They appreciated the album we made for them for their 50th wedding anniversary; for Christmas, we created an album of pictures taken at their 50th. They loved it.

I helped my grandparents in the kitchen in preparing the meal, which consisted of turkey, roast beef and ham, with stuffing, stuffed olives and a large bowlful of salad - that last one was particularly delightful to prepare, as I asked to slice the cabbage. Based on the mostly time we had while eating I would assume that the food was highly satisfying! (I relaxed a fair amount prior to having any food, so I wasn't in any danger of being sick.)

Much of the day was spent talking and catching up. It was interesting to hear about my uncle's and cousin's lives in China; their experiences of the country differ, especially since my cousin lives on the mainland rather than Hong Kong. My brother and East of England uncle, both being the cameramen, took numerous pictures of the occasion throughout the day. In the late afternoon the family created a playlist, with each member contributing two songs; I chose Gloria Estefan's "Reach" and, much to nearly everyone else's chagrin, Cher Lloyd's "Swagger Jagger". I seem to be the only person in the family with any time for her music!

After the music, the chatting and eating continued until the get-together ended, which was around 9:00pm. I am certain that everyone had a great day and is looking forward to the next time we all meet up.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

After Christmas Nottingham visit, 2012

My parents, brother and I all spent the day up in Nottingham visiting family. Save for a couple of them who were busy for the day, most of my close relatives were there. It was especially good to see the cousin and uncle I have who both work in China. I'll write a little more about this tomorrow.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas 2012 - "It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas", Pet Shop Boys

For the fifth and final Christmas song by a modern artist I've chosen "It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas" by the Pet Shop Boys. I kind of agree with the title, as I've rarely experienced snow on Christmas Day, although I should note that Southern Oregon is receiving a barrage of Christmas weather! Here's the song:

I hope you all have an amazing time today. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Eve 2012

Christmas Eve is not usually an exciting day for me and my family. Excluding 2010, the day is usually spent doing housework or baking. The post I wrote for Christmas Eve last year implied that we had a quiet day; on that day we actually still had cooking to do. For 2012, our Christmas foods have already been made, so that left the housework. I cleaned my brother's and my bathroom. Fun!

The day has been quiet, nonetheless. During the afternoon - and long after we'd completed tidying the house - my brother and I played a board game; it wasn't worth going for a walk instead because of today's near-constant heavy rain. I'm hopeful that at some stage I'll be able to have far more eventful Christmas Eves. My family used to attend a few Christmas Eve parties, but the last one was in 2002 (2010 wasn't a party).

I hope that you have had the Christmas Eve you desired, be it a party or a quiet time with someone. Have a great Christmas!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas cooking 2012 (2)

Here are some more pictures of yesterday's baking; these are from when the desserts were being sliced and placed into containers:

This was the mincemeat flapjack once it was removed from its pan. I wish I had seen the least it came out intact!

I thought I'd get a shot of the flapjack's insides.

The dark chocolate brownie mixture after it had been cut up into, well...brownies! I ate one...they're delicious; exactly how I remember them.

A picture of the brownies inside their new container.

The white chocolate cherry cake was slightly stuck to the bottom of the dish it was cooked in, resulting in a small amount of it breaking off during extraction. I ate the broken parts and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the white chocolate inside the cake has a strong flavour: I was expecting it to be a "hint" of chocolate.

There is a lot to eat this Christmas, and the above desserts don't include all the other candies and chocolates we have. Better make sure we get in plenty of exercise over the next few weeks!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas cooking 2012

My mother, brother and I spent a part of the afternoon performing our usual Christmas cooking. For 2012, we made a white chocolate cherry "cake", a mincemeat flapjack and dark chocolate brownies:

This is the white chocolate cherry "cake". It was supposed to be white chocolate cherry brownies but it turned out like a cake instead. Next time we'll double the mixture and use a bigger pan.

This, believe it or not, is a flapjack. In the United States and Canada a flapjack is a small pancake, but in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia it's an oat dessert. The flapjack we made consists of mincemeat contained within a sugared oat base and top.

The dark chocolate brownies. This cooked mixture will be cut up into brownie-sized pieced, as it didn't turn out like a cake. It's been a few years since we last used this brownie recipe, so I'm really looking forward to eating it again!

I am happy to provide the recipes upon request. I would have posted them here, but as none of them are mine I don't think the authors would appreciate me passing off their recipes as my own!

Friday, 21 December 2012


Grapefruit is my second-favourite fruit, behind pineapple. Whether it's fresh, tinned, white, Ruby Red or just juice, I love the taste of grapefruit. Years ago I frequently drank grapefruit juice with my dinner, but for whatever reason I stopped drinking it and switched to having only water with my meals instead. Still, I never lost my fondness for grapefruit.

I'm the only one in my immediate family who can eat grapefruit without succumbing to the sourness of it. Dad likes the flavour of fresh grapefruit, but he has stated on several occasions that the pith is too strong to eat and too fiddly to remove. Last night, my brother and I had some tinned grapefruit with plain yoghurt for dessert, but my brother ended up having jam instead. He found that the grapefruit, while tinned, was too acidic for him. With relatives, my grandfather is the only other person I know who can eat grapefruit like I can.

As with all citrus fruits, it's wise not to eat grapefruit every day, especially the fresh variety; over time, the acid within the fruit can wear down the teeth. Grapefruit is healthful, but also one of those foods to be enjoyed every once in a while.

Is anyone else a fan of grapefruit or other citruses? Speak up, fellow orange and grapefruit lovers!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

"Sleigh Ride" - fun.

Today's song of the season was extremely easy to find: it's fun.'s cover of "Sleigh Ride". I didn't even need to search for this track - I heard it on the radio earlier:

There are now less than five days to go until Christmas! Heart Northamptonshire (not the station I heard the aforementioned song on) has been playing a daily "...Sleeps Till Santa" song this month to count down the remaining days to Christmas.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

24 hours

In early June of 2010, my family and I moved from the United States back to the United Kingdom; in November of 2012, the United States held its 57th presidential election. The two events by themselves are completely unrelated to each other, but there is something significant to me that links them.

When I woke up in Portland, Oregon for day of our flight, I stayed awake for around 24 hours. I was not bored when waiting at the airport, I was completely alert on the nine-hour flight (I was the only one of us not to sleep on the plane), still not tired when in Amsterdam or even when we had to wait for well over an hour in Manchester for my grandparents to arrive in the minibus to pick us up. It was only during the minibus ride the exhaustion caught up on me and I had to fight to keep awake (before then, it was unprecedented for me to sleep in a vehicle).

On the day of the presidential election, I woke up around 7:00-7:30am; I wanted to stay up for the results, and since the United Kingdom is five hours ahead of the East Coast of the United States, I knew I would be staying up for the night. Sure enough, I sailed past 3:00, 4:00, 5:00, and 6:00am without any drowsiness; the lack of sleep caught up with me when I reached the 24 hour mark of being awake, and by then the result of the election had long been announced. I again found myself fighting to not fall asleep, and ended up going to bed for a few hours at the time I usually get up.

From these two events I learnt that if I want or need to keep myself awake for 24 hours or more I can, but once the situation I have to be awake for concludes, the need for sleep hits me...and with a vengeance. For the minibus ride, our flights were long over and we were back in the United Kingdom; with the election, I knew the main result by the time 24 hours came around. With the main goals resolved, why remain awake?

I'm sure there will be many more occasions for me to keep awake for 24 hours or more, only to rapidly fall into a deep sleep when the event is over. The worst part is not keeping awake or even, in itself, falling asleep at the's sleeping during the daylight that bothers me!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

December sunrise

Today began with a beautiful sunrise. The position of the Sun within the clouds gave our star a lovely shade of red. The colour isn't quite as deep in these pictures as it was to the naked eye:

See those birds? I'm glad I managed to get them in the image!

It's not recommended that you take pictures of the Sun or look into it directly, but in this case the clouds had obscured it enough to prevent any damage to cameras or eyes. Besides, this was too good an opportunity to miss!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Small Christmas tree 2012

My family and I assembled our own Christmas trees this year, repeating what we did in 2009 and 2011. We collected some decent branches from outside, allowed them to dry in the garage and then placed them into some suitable jars or pots. We built two trees; this is the smaller one, which my brother decorated:

Unfortunately, taking a picture of the larger tree would show too much of our living room, so only the lesser tree will have its image here. However, I am happy to send a picture of the larger tree - and more pictures of this tree - to anybody who requests it; the larger tree is impressive, but then again, I am biased because I decorated it!

There is something more satisfying about constructing a tree over going out and buying one. I don't like killing a tree for only a couple of weeks at a certain time of the year, and a fake tree doesn't feel right either. These branches may be unusual, and perhaps not as visually appealing as a regular tree, but I love them all the same.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The decorated tin

Remember the bauble-covered tin from last year's Christmas decorations? The tin is back, this time with a new theme:

Mum decorated the tin this time; my "decoration" using the above golden ribbons looked more like a bizarre bird's next than an actual decoration.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

"Shake Up Christmas" - Train

For today's song of the season it's "Shake Up Christmas" by Train. Unlike the previous Christmas songs by modern artists I've posted this month, this one is an original rather than a cover; Pat Monahan, the lead singer of Train, is one of its writers:

I quite like this song, but other than the lyrics it has more of a summer sound to it than a feeling of Christmas; change some of the words, and I could imagine this being a July/August hit. Regardless, it is a good track; kudos to Train for making an original Christmas song.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Sandy Hook Elementay School shooting

As I write this, reports are pouring in over the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Current reports are that 27 people have died, with the majority of them being children. Several shootings have taken place in the United States in the past couple of weeks, and a countless amount over the course of 2012.

In Southern Oregon I lived alongside several neighbors who were armed; I was accepting of them and not at all afraid nor bothered by their presence. However, I do think that something really needs to be done to address all these shootings that have happened recently. I doubt that the 2nd Amendment will ever be overturned - and I also doubt that anyone is really advocating that - but that doesn't stop the enactment of stronger safeguards on who can own weapons and teaching people responsible gun ownership/use. This won't fix the problem, but it'll help to reduce it.

Already I've been seeing people address the shooting by saying "this isn't the time to talk about gun control!". This is not a helpful response to such a tragic event, and it's sad that some people would rather provide a knee-jerk defense of guns before anyone has even suggested the tiniest amount of gun control than think of the victims and their families. It's reckoned that at least 18 children have died! How can anyone dismiss the deaths of children so easily?

I'm thinking of the victims and their families. I hope we won't see the casualty count increase over time.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The blackbird on the fence

I'm fond of watching perching birds. You never know what they're up to; are they looking for food? For fellow birds? Resting? Do they simply like the place they've chosen to perch. I wonder what this blackbird was up to:

The blackbird looked up to where I was for couple of seconds before flying off to find something else interesting to do.

These two pictures were taken with my main camera on full optical zoom; the apparent dreariness in them is because they done through a window.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The ice webs

The cold weather has given me the opportunity to photograph these frost-covered spider webs on our shed:

I think these webs are magnificent; I'm pleased to have been able get pictures of them.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A very foggy day

Today has been the foggiest day my area has had in a long time; the fog's thickness made it nearly impossible seeing more than 50 feet down the road. Now that it's dark out the fog has lifted significantly, but during the daylight hours it was surprisingly heavy. Wanting to explore the town during the fog, I decided to go for a walk.

It's an interesting experience walking around places you're familiar with during the fog: not only does everything look entirely different, but you tend to notice things you don't normally pay attention to when the weather's normal. For example, I learnt this afternoon that my town has a shoe shop. On a perfectly clear day the store blends in with its surrounding buildings; today, the structure was highlighted by the light level and the fog's position around it. I had walked past it several times! Granted, one could say that I'm simply unobservant, but in my defence the shop is hidden behind some bushes and other buildings.

After my walk I was informed that a "fog warning" had been put up. I never would have guessed! The fog is supposed to clear up by tomorrow afternoon, but it wouldn't surprise me if it lasted all day. Besides, the fog hasn't been the troubling part of the recent weather: it's the ice that's caused some problems. My brother slipped on it the other day, and I heard that a little girl slipped and ended up with concussion. The ice has melted for now, but given the cold weather I expect it to return shortly.

Monday, 10 December 2012

"I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" - Girls Aloud cover

The second Christmas song by a modern artist for every fifth day of this season is Girls Aloud's cover of "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday"; this track was originally by Wizzard:

Girls Aloud are a British band; I originally heard of them when I was still living in the United States, and I made a mental note to myself to look out for them on the radio once my family and I moved back to the United Kingdom. Suffice to say, I don't yet have any Girls Aloud albums, but I do have an album by one of the members, Cheryl Cole.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Another one of my jokes (17)

Here's a joke that I recently thought of; this one is terrible!

"What is the Governor of New Jersey's favorite place in Texas? Corpus Christi."

I will note that I did not think of this joke because of how similar "Corpus" sounds to "corpulent", the latter of which could refer to or be a dig at Governor Chris Christie's weight. I've known about the existence of Corpus Christi, a large city in South Texas, for several years, but only thought about the place for the first time in months in the last few days. The Christi-Christie link was too good to miss!

Also, when Mr. Christie leaves office the joke should become "What was the 55th Governor of New Jersey's favorite place in Texas?".

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Chicken skin trick

My grandfather discovered and shared with Dad a simple trick to reducing fat in chicken skin. The crunchy, herb-covered skin of chicken legs and thighs is the tastiest part of the meat, but a lot of people are reluctant to eat it because of its fat content.

What my grandfather did was separate the skin from the legs and thighs. He then carefully laid out the skin between two pieces of kitchen towel, put it all on a dinner plate and then placed it in the microwave for around a minute and a half minute at the highest heat setting. Much of the fat was cooked out of the chicken and absorbed into the paper; when it came to eating the skin it was crunchy again and far less greasy than usual.

If you like chicken skin but dislike the fat and greasiness of it, I recommend doing this. Dad repeated the trick tonight; the only part that was different this time was that Dad placed the skin in the microwave while it was cold, and it had to be cooked for three and a half minutes.

Friday, 7 December 2012

On the word "frape"

For the most part, I am fairly relaxed about vulgar language. Rude words don't usually offend me unless they are said to excess, to which I then find them boring. That being said, there are certain words that do bother me - especially terms that are racist or sexist - with one in particular being "frape".

A "frape" is defined as when someone has their Facebook profile modified without permission by another person (hence, a portmanteau of "Facebook" and "rape"). It can refer to a person having their account broken into, but for the vast majority of the time it's when someone forgot to log out, their friends use their computer, and those friends change the person's profile around in a humorous manner.

I object most strongly to this frivolous use of the word "rape". Having your Facebook profile picture changed to a balloon or having nonsense written on your timeline is nothing compared to a woman having her body violated. A rape mentally and physically scars a woman for life; a couple of friends messing about with your profile will temporarily make you look foolish and ensure you remember to log out in future and/or increase your account's security. At the end of the day everyone will understand, laugh at, and move on from a non-hostile (if initially unwelcome) practical joke between friends; a rape is not at all humorous nor are its consequences merely fleeting.

The originator of "frape" probably came up with the term in good faith, but they and other people who have used it since don't understand that when we cheapen the word "rape" we risk trivialising how serious and disgusting rape really is. One could argue that editing a profile without permission is still a violation in itself - it is! It's an invasion of a person's space - but it's not rape. Even if an unrelated person hacks into an account it still cannot be likened to rape; it's both wrong and condemnable, but it's still not rape. I'm sure nearly everybody would object to having their accounts hijacked - and in no way am I playing down the importance of account security - but those same people would be further opposed to themselves and others being raped.

The solution to dealing with the usage of "frape" is to firmly explain why modifying a friend's Facebook profile is not comparable to the violation of a woman's body and the loss of her dignity. Say how offensive the term is to women who have suffered rape or how rape-related humour only serves to enable rapists. You could even say it comes across as misogynistic! However you decide to put it, make it clear that the word they are using is unacceptable. If we don't take action, nothing will change; I freely admit that I have made the mistake of letting the use of the aforementioned offensive term go unchallenged, and I am ashamed by that.

Rape is one of those topics that I refuse to take lightly. If we joke about rape we harm those affected by it, we encourage the rapists; and we do nothing in preventing others from becoming victims of such a violent, disgraceful act.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

"Look at this Instagram"

I try not to post two songs in a row, but I haven't been well today and don't have time to type out any lengthy pieces. Last night I came across "Look at this Instagram", a parody of Nickelback's "Photograph":

As hilarious as I found the video, it did get me thinking about my own photography and what pictures I've posted here. I enjoy using my cameras, and I hope that the images I've shared have been worthwhile to all my readers and that they're not considered useless pictures of mundane objects!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

"Last Christmas" - Cascada version

It's December, the time when Christmas music is frequently played on the radio. We all know and love Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You", but there are other modern artists who have released Christmas music, although to be fair, not all have created original songs for the season like Carey has.

For this year's season I've decided to post a lesser-known Christmas song by a modern musician every five days. I'll start with Cascada's cover of "Last Christmas", originally by Wham!:

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Decline of texting

It's astounding; yesterday I learnt that it was the 20th birthday of texting/SMS and wrote a short blog post to recognise the occasion. Today, I discovered that texting reached its peak and is "in decline", albeit slowly:

The main reason for this apparent decline is because of the increased use in apps on smartphones that are cheaper texting services than SMS. Other reasons cited include Twitter and Facebook, but I don't think that either of these are suitable replacements for texting: with Facebook, both users need to be online simultaneously to be able to communicate with one another in real-time, and with Twitter, same again but the conversations are public...clearly not ideal for a discussion intended for quick discussion between two people.

A text is usually the fastest way to contact someone: it's far more likely someone will have their phone with them than be connected to the Internet; even with a smartphone there's no guarantee that the person will use their device to always be on the Web. Despite any supposed "decline", I don't think that texting/SMS is going anywhere anytime soon: it may be old, and can cost up to 15 cents/pence per text on pay-as-you-go, but it's quick and simple.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Twenty years of texting

Exactly twenty years ago today the world's first SMS message was sent. BBC News has an interview with Matti Makkonen, the person who suggested the idea of texting in 1984; the interview was conducted via text messages:

Makkonen is often referred to as the "father of SMS", but he is not fond of the title because texting was created by other people, not him; he wasn't the first person to send a text message, either.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Decorations 2012

The Christmas decorations are becoming more noticeable in my town. A few days ago only a handful of houses were decorated; now it's hard to look at a group of houses without seeing at least one of them dressed for the season. Lights, Santas, reindeer and snowmen are becoming more common each day.

My family and I have not yet put up any of our decorations, but I think we'll start the process next week. With the exception of some new light sets that my parents have purchased I don't anticipate this year's decorations being much different from 2011's.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Excessive phone checking

I was pointed to this article on the Daily Mail about extreme phone checking being a problem for some people in developing friendships and becoming an obsession:

A few months ago I wrote about being less bothered by people checking their phones, with the caveat that this behaviour wasn't done to excess. It is very, very annoying to be talking to someone and they decide that their phone is more important than your discussion; it's also rude on their part.

Don't get me wrong, I think my phone is great and I prefer to have it with me most of the time, but I usually check it twice (occasionally three) times an hour and nearly never at the table, with another person, or at some other engagement. I'm not constantly playing with it, and I don't text with/call people when I'm having a face-to-face conversation: unless it's something particularly imporant - not idle chat - why would people texting/phoning me have priority over the person with whom I'm in the same room?

Friday, 30 November 2012

Birthday dinner 2012

My 22nd birthday took place this month. The main difference between this birthday and the ones before it was having the chance to cook part of the dinner myself. I chose pancakes:

This is the pancake I made for myself; it's my best-cooked pancake to date, even though it wasn't intentional to make the pancake for me the finest of the night!

The finished dish consisted of a pancake topped with ground beef and shredded cheddar cheese, with beans (black-eyed and kidney) mixed into the meat. It's a fairly simple meal: just mix your favourite pancake recipe with your favourite spaghetti sauce recipe and it's done! I wanted to prepare the meat but Mum and Dad did it for me anyway; if I have this meal next year I'll be doing it myself!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The year-old chocolate

Back when my brother and I visited Nottingham in the summer of 2011, we went to the city centre with one of our aunts and a cousin. One of the shops we bought items from that day was Hotel Chocolat; I purchased some chocolate for Mum and Dad:

For the next year, I would ask every so often if they had eaten the chocolate. Eating the bar somehow became one of those things that "would be done soon", but whenever it was said that the bar was about to be eaten, it didn't happen. It got to the point where I had forgotten about the bar after it was buried at the back of the refrigerator.

Finally, over a year after I bought the chocolate for them, Mum and Dad ate it. What changed? The bar was re-discovered, and rather than leaving it to be lost again the chocolate was removed from the fridge and left out. Mum and Dad ate the bar over two nights, and said it had "matured nicely" after a year. Perhaps on the next occasion I buy some chocolate for them I'll have to give it to them a year after the date of purchase.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

"Pictures of You" - The Last Goodnight

Here is a song that I was certain I had written about before, "Pictures of You". It's a song by a band called The Last Goodnight, and was released in June 2007. From what I remember, it charted fairly well from the late summer and into the fall.

The Last Goodnight released a second single, "Stay Beautiful", but it not reach the same level of success "Pictures of You" did. They split up in 2008 after a short tour and being dropped from their record label. Most of The Last Goodnight has disappeared from the public view since the band broke up; only the lead singer, Kurtis John, is still (somewhat) on the radar and making music.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Harleston Clock Tower

I found one more image from my East of England visit to post here: it's a picture of a clock tower. The tower is located in a small town named Harleston, a place where my aunt and I took a short walk at:

Harleston is in Norfolk, located on the border between that county and Suffolk. It was quite a pleasant little location to visit.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Two silly "Mega Quiz" questions

I inadvertently treated myself to amusement this afternoon by looking through some old documents of mine and came across a "Mega Quiz" that I wrote years ago. Back in mid-2006 I was interested in starting a blog, as I had friends who maintained blogs and I enjoyed reading what they had to say. One of my friends had a "list" of questions for herself and other bloggers to answer (similar to what my friend Stephanie did here); I not only answered her list, but also decided to create my own "Mega Quiz".

I won't be posting all seventy questions of the Mega Quiz because some of them seem intrusive, others redundant, and some are downright annoying! Here are two of the questions from my quiz, both of which made me laugh:

"41. If you were to write an autobiography, who would it be about?"

"42. If you were to paint a self-portrait, who would it be of?"

A later question asked what the reader's opinions were about the above two questions, what their favourite question was, and what they thought about the quiz overall. I think my writing and thinking skills have improved substantially after more than six years!

Again, I won't be posting them here - nor will I be answering them - but anyone who requests a copy of the quiz is welcome to it.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Republican presidents brain teaser answer

Before I present the answer to yesterday's post, I'd like to clarify that the "fact" I was referring to wasn't presented as a "brain teaser" when I initially read about it. That aspect was my idea, and so if any part of yesterday's puzzle was confusing (especially in light of what the answer is), that's entirely my fault. Now I'm hoping the answer won't be a let down!

Remember, for my first clue I posted the names of all five elected Republican presidents and their running mates, and I advised to "carefully look" at those names. If you want to have one last guess, don't read beyond this point.

All right then, the answer is "Nixon and Bush": the last five Republican presidents to have been elected all had someone with the last name "Nixon" or "Bush" on the ticket. Since 1948, the Republicans have not won without them:

Dwight D. Eisenhower/Richard Nixon - 1953-1961
Richard Nixon/Spiro Agnew, later Gerald R. Ford - 1969-1974
Ronald Reagan/George H. W. Bush - 1981-1989
George H. W. Bush/Dan Quayle - 1989-1993
George W. Bush/Dick Cheney - 2001-2009

From 1952 to 1972, the Republicans won four elections in that period with Richard Nixon on the ticket; from 1980 to 1988 they won three elections with a Bush on board, and in 2000 and 2004 they won with another Bush (with the two Bushes being father and son, not merely two people with the same last name). Nine presidential elections were won with these men: Nixon, 4; H. W. Bush, 3; and W. Bush, 2. Nixon has one defeat as he lost the 1960 election against John F. Kennedy, and H. W. Bush was voted out in 1988. It does not matter if they were running as president or as the vice president: the fact of the matter is, Nixon or a Bush were present on all these tickets.

Gerald R. Ford was discounted despite having served as president from 1974-1977 because he was never elected: in his capacity as vice president, Ford took over when Nixon resigned. I included Herbert Hoover and Charles Curtis in yesterday's post as the final clue because 1928 was the last election in which the Republicans won the presidency without someone named Bush or Nixon running for president or vice president. Hoover was defeated in a landslide in 1932.

A small amount of research into all presidential elections from 1928 onwards will confirm that the party has not won without a Bush or Nixon since that year. Putting "without a candidate named Nixon or Bush" into Google will also turn up a few items on this subject.

Perhaps the Republicans should consider a complete Nixon/Bush ticket in 2016 and nominate Cynthia Nixon and Sophia Bush. Both are actresses (from Sex and the City and One Tree Hill, respectively), and Reagan was once an actor and he won election to president in a landslide in both 1980 and 1984 (granted, he was a governor prior to becoming president); the only major problems I can foresee with this particular ticket is that neither women are directly related to the aforementioned Nixon and Bushes, and both women are Democrats!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Republican presidents brain teaser

I discovered an interesting fact a few days ago; it's a small and most likely useless item of history (as well as not really a "brain teaser" as such), but one I feel worth sharing. To begin with, I'll list all Republican Presidents of the United States since 1948 who won election to the position:

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Richard Nixon
Ronald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
George W. Bush

So other than being president, what is distinct about these five men? Have a think for a moment, but if you'd like a clue, carefully look at these names:

Dwight D. Eisenhower/Richard Nixon - 1953-1961
Richard Nixon/Spiro Agnew, later Gerald R. Ford - 1969-1974
Ronald Reagan/George H. W. Bush - 1981-1989
George H. W. Bush/Dan Quayle - 1989-1993
George W. Bush/Dick Cheney - 2001-2009

I excluded Ford (1974-1977) from the first list because he was never elected to president. Do you see any pattern now? I'll give you one more hint:

Herbert Hoover/Charles Curtis - 1929-1933

I shall reveal the answer in tomorrow's post. Until then, feel free to guess away!

Friday, 23 November 2012

"Castles in the Sky" - Ian Van Dahl

Another dance artist whom we would often hear on the Open House Party, along with Aqua and DHT, was the Belgian group Ian Van Dahl with their song "Castles in the Sky:

I seem to recall hearing the track every couple of weeks, on average, and sometimes it was played once a week or even twice in one episode; now I hardly hear it at all. As for Ian Van Dahl, they are still active, albeit under a new name; in June of 2008 they released "You Make Me Feel", their first single as "AnnaGrace".

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving for me this year has pretty much been as it was one year ago: a quiet day. I've had a good walk and later on we'll have a nice meal. It will be good to know someone to celebrate it with in person again, but for now it's a private occasion.

What am I thankful for this year? Well, my family and my relatives for starters, and I'm thankful for both their good health and my good health. I'm thankful to live in a nice home in a decent neighbourhood, I'm thankful for all the new people I've been able to meet this year, and thankful for new experiences. There's a lot more I need/have/want to do, and I'm sure I can improve upon 2012's events.

Without wanting this to become political, I don't think I speak solely for myself when I say that I am thankful that the United States presidential election of 2012 is finally over! Regardless of viewpoints or even what country people live in, I think everyone is glad the election has ended, that we no longer have to hear about any campaigning, and now we can enjoy a nice Thanksgiving and next month we can celebrate Christmas.

Also, as I mentioned last year, I'm thankful for my readers, a fair amount of them who double as my friends. Thank you!

I hope those celebrating today will have a joyous time with their friends and family. It doesn't matter if you're having a small event, a family get-togethers, or even a huge party: Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Politics and friendship

President Barack Obama won re-election as President of the United States two weeks ago. Countless people - myself included - were delighted at his victory and numerous others were disappointed: a lot of my friends joined me in celebrating his win, but others did not. Throughout 2012, people have been talking amongst themselves about the election, and there's a very good change that friends with differing politics argued; however, I try to be optimistic in thinking that most ordinary people are mature enough to not let politics get in the way of friendship and have moved on from the election by now.

I came across one particular Internet commenter who was enraged by the result. This person, of course, had the right to be angry, but the way in which this individual expressed their anger was extremely disappointing. At first they mentioned that they were boycotting every business and organization they knew to be liberal/progressive/Democratic or have given support to those causes; this is not unreasonable in itself as there's nothing stopping someone from the other side doing the same thing back. However, they didn't stop there.

The person then said that they "hated" anyone with the aforementioned political viewpoints, and that they had cut off all forms of communications with friends who held those stances: every e-mail address, Facebook friend, Twitter friend, phone contact, etc. had been deleted, and they would ignore any messages from one of their now-former friends. By extension, they had no interest in making new friends with those beliefs, either.

There is the possibility that this person was simply venting and being overly ridiculous with no intention of doing any of the things they said, and I hope this was the case. Still, it got me thinking both on how people can lose friendships over politics and how my disagreeing friends and I had handled the recent election. Did we simply stop talking to each other? Are we fuming? Did we go ballistic at one another and end our friendship on a sour note? The answer is no. No needless arguments or resentfulness took place; yes, my friends and I informed ourselves about our respective views, as learning is always good, but we then we moved on.

When people who differ greatly on politics are friends, I think it's best to not talk about politics, but if people do, they should make the effort to understand how they came to form their opinions and discover where they agree with one another rather than fight about it. After all, what is there to gain by anger? If Mr. Obama had lost, exploding in rage and blaming everyone who disagreed with me would have achieved nothing except lose friends; similarly, if my response to his victory beyond a celebration was to mock friends who didn't support him, I would have had the same result. Bad sportsmanship either way is a poor course of action.

Unless the disagreement stems from one person holding prejudiced views (my friends are not bigots, so this isn't an issue), politics should not spoil a good friendship. The same applies for not allowing them to split up families.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Vandalism of history

The following article was on my newsfeed this morning; this sort of thing angers me:

Those petroglyphs had been there for thousands of years and were an important part of American Indian history; for hooligans to steal some and damage others is an insult to them. American Indians have suffered enough as it is without incidents such as this. The thieves may be able to obtain a few thousand dollars for the carvings, but it's the native peoples who will ultimately pay for this abhorrent act against them in the long run.

I am angered about this. I hope the perpetrators are caught and the carvings will be restored. If they are never recovered then Americans Indians will once again have something significant to them desecrated and a piece of history will be lost.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Phone battery replaceability

I bought myself a new phone two months ago. I looked at several manufacturers, including but not limited to Samsung, HTC, Sony/Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola and LG. There were several factors that influenced my decision on what model to ultimately purchase: price, call quality, build quality (how prone the phone was to damage was important), ease of use, age of model (if buying a new phone, you might as well get a recent model!), quality of the camera, and even manufacturer. However, the factor that became the most frequent dealbreaker for me was battery replaceability.

There were several superb phone models that were in my price range, but the lack of being able to change the battery in each of them put me off, and the more expensive the phone, the more I wanted the option of swapping a failing battery with a new one. I don't particularly want to have to spend £300+ on a new phone to then have to spend additional money on having to send it somewhere to have its battery replaced when I can quite easily do the task myself. Besides batteries losing their ability to hold their charge they can also leak, and if that happens the device itself can be damaged. It's important to be able to occasionally check the battery to see if it is in good condition still; a fully-integrated battery inside the unit doesn't give you this flexibility.

The battery in my former phone could be accessed by removing its back panel; if the battery had ever become faulty it would have been easy to replace, and I wanted its successor to have that ability. At the end of the day I did buy a new phone that adequately filled all my criteria: a quality device with battery replaceability at a reasonable price. I am satisfied with that purchase. Now, a few more phones have come onto the market since I bought mine, and several of them have the same major issue. My brother is looking to getting a new phone soon, as is Dad; both of them have similar standards to me in deciding what handset they want.

Two of the reasons I've heard for battery replaceability not being universal among phones is that the feature increases the price of the handset or that some people "don't want the hassle" of replacing a phone battery. For the first reason, I've seen cheap and expensive phones alike where the batteries can't be changed; with the second, changing a battery seems as though it's a simpler task than having to contact a manufacturer for repairs.

Regardless, I will almost always choose a battery replaceable phone over one with an integrated battery. There are so many choices out there that you will almost always get what you want.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

"Warm This Winter" - Gabriella Cilmi

It's mid-November, and already the radio stations are playing Christmas music. In the past few days I've heard the usual songs played at this time of year, such as "All I Want for Christmas is You", "Do They Know It's Christmas?", "Wonderful Wintertime" and "Last Christmas". It may be a little early to start hearing them, but when I think about it, I participated in some Christmas shopping three weeks ago; if I've done the shopping, it's certainly not too early for the music.

One song, which I have not been able to get out of my head since I first heard it three days ago, is "Warm This Winter" by Gabriella Cilmi, an Australian singer:

"Warm This Winter", released in 2008, is a cover of Connie Francis' hit single "I'm Gonna Be Warm This Winter" from 1962. Cilmi's version changes a couple of the beginning lyrics, but her cover is otherwise the same as the original. Both are fitting tracks for the Christmas season, and hopefully they'll be as much as an earworm for you as they have been for me!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Interesting facts about the United States presidential election, 1976

The United States presidential election of 1976 saw Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter defeat incumbent President Gerald R. Ford. Ford's running mate was Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, and Carter's VP pick was Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota.

What's not widely known about this election is that it's the only one in United States history in which the two main candidates and their running mates would all go on to be defeated in runs for the presidency. Ford was, of course, defeated in 1976; Carter would lose re-election in 1980, Mondale lost in a landslide against President Ronald Reagan in 1984, and Dole was handily defeated by President Bill Clinton in 1996. Ford lost by the smallest margin of the four, winning 240 electoral votes to Carter's 297 (a faithless elector prevented Carter from reaching 298).

Due to the recent death of the former South Dakotan Senator George McGovern, the 1976 election is now the earliest election in which one of the two main candidates is still alive. Carter is 88 and Mondale is 84. George H. W. Bush is the oldest living ex-president (88, a few months older than Carter) and the most recent president to be voted out of office.

Finally, it's notable for being the last time a Democrat won the entire Deep South, the last time the South carried a Democratic candidate to victory (Carter won all but two Southern states), and the last time Nevada voted against the winner. Carter was also elected on the smallest amount of states carried by a winning candidate (23+DC).

I find these facts about the presidential races fascinating. They may seem trivial, but I think they're worth learning about!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Bus surprise

The most disturbing part of my visit with family the other week (I know I said this was concluded!) was when my cousins and I were on a bus from Nottingham to one of the city's satellite towns. When the bus came to our stop, my four cousins got off the bus but when I close to the door the driver told me to wait.

Naturally, I was alarmed by this. When I approached the driver I wondered what on Earth I could possibly have done for him to stop me from exiting the bus: I had sat down and been quiet for the whole journey. For what reason was I being prevented for joining my cousins off the bus? 2012 has been the year I've had the chance to ride on buses...I didn't expect this to happen!

My worries were quickly eased when the bus driver wanted to know how much my cousins and I had paid for our bus tickets, as he thought he may have overcharged us. It turned out we each paid 50 pence more than we should have done, and so he refunded the £2.50 we weren't supposed to pay.

It was good to know I wasn't in any sort of trouble, but it was great to meet someone who was honest and refunded money they could quite easily have kept. Granted, there probably is some rule somewhere that requires them to return excess fares, but regardless, the incident become one of those moments that brightens your day.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Another one of my jokes (16)

This is a joke that I thought of last night, just before I went to bed. When I used it this morning it was greeted by groans, as it has an incredibly obvious punchline:

"What is Chicken Little's favourite James Bond film? Skyfall."

I won't be surprised if someone has already come up with this joke. A Google search for "Chicken Little Skyfall" does find websites where "Chicken Little" and "Skyfall" are linked, such as the title of this one, but so far I haven't observed any other Chicken Little/Skyfall jokes other than mine.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Ideas after a rush

I find myself back in the same position as I was in August after my Nottingham trip: for the past few weeks I've had my work cut out for me with an abundance of content about my East of England trip with some United States election piece sprinkled in between. Now I'm suddenly out of ideas and am scrambling to find something new to write post (besides moaning like this!).

I wasn't helped today by having to spend a few of my waking hours in bed from not feeling well. If there's one thing I cannot stand it's sleeping during the time I should be awake: I always feel strange after being asleep for a part of the day, but worse yet I feel as though nothing has been achieved.

I think the best solution would be to list a few ideas for when the glut of pre-existing content has finished. That way I won't end up with nothing to write and have to rely on posts similar to this one!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

"Everything at Once" - Lenka

A piece of music for today's post; it's "Everything at Once" by Lenka, an Australian singer. I saw her a few times in a commercial when I was in Suffolk:

I had not heard of Lenka prior to seeing the advert, and I had to Google the song's lyrics to find out. I like both the sound of "Everything at Once" and Lenka's pronunciation of certain words in the track. Both her albums are available on Amazon UK.

The irony here is that the advert wasn't for her: it was for Windows 8!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Final three East of England pictures

Here are three more images from my visit to the East of England:

A view of St Edmund's Catholic Church. This was taken back in Bungay on my first day.

One of the front support columns of Southwold Pier. It looks as though people have tried to toss coins onto the column without them bouncing off into the water.

A view of the western side of Norwich Cathedral. It would be good to one day see the interior of the cathedral.

That concludes my visit to the East of England. I had a great time there, and I hope that you enjoyed hearing a little about it and seeing some of the pictures I took!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Norwich images from 2nd November

On the 2nd of November, my aunt and I made a second trip to Norwich, this time with the focus on me being able to see some parts of the city beyond the shopping areas. This was the day I was supposed to be returning home, but my uncle's rush of work resulted in my visit being extended.

My aunt and I again travelled via bus to Norwich; on this occasion we rode on a double-decker for the arriving journey. When we made it to Norwich, our first task was to have lunch: my aunt took me to a wonderful Chinese buffet.

After our meal we made our ways towards Norwich Cathedral, taking a long route there via the shopping and side streets. The above is of a pedestrianised street where some of the city's nightclubs are located (no, my aunt wasn't taking me clubbing).

This is the arch leading into the grounds where Norwich Cathedral and an expensive neighbourhood are both located. Vehicles enter and exit the area through this narrow point; I'd hate to get a moving truck past the arch.

This is Norwich Cathedral itself, looking towards its spire. The cathedral is over 860 years old, with construction starting in 1096 and ending in 1145. It is a truly magnificent building.

Located in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral is a statue to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, the commander of the British fleet during the Battle of Trafalgar. Another statue, one of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, is also in the grounds.

I've yet to read the books or see the films, but I just had to take a picture of a passing bus advertising The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 on its side.

One of the many side streets in Norwich. After spending over two years back in the United Kingdom, it still fascinates me how many quiet side streets and alleyways there are in the cities and towns. The best part about them is how fun they are to explore.

I was lucky to get this capture of a rainbow over Norwich. For about five minutes it was a double-rainbow, but the rain prevented me from getting any pictures. By the time the rain had stopped the rainbow had been reduced to a single, and the majority of the beam had faded away. The last part of the rainbow, shown here, shone for ten more seconds before it too had disappeared.

A better picture of the Norwich City Hall. The evening shot from yesterday's post was fine, but this capture done during the day is superior, and it doesn't contain The Forum.

We left a little earlier that time, as it was confirmed we were leaving the East of England that night and we had some tasks to complete before departing for Nottingham. It was a shame we couldn't stay another hour, as Norwich is a fine city: it's a pretty place, it's easy to walk around, there's plenty to do and it's not exactly hard to get to via public transportation. I'm really looking forward to visiting there again.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Norwich images from 30th October

On my fourth day in Suffolk, my aunt and I travelled to Norwich; my aunt wanted to do some birthday and early Christmas shopping, and she thought it would be a good idea for me to accompany her. I was delighted to go for three reasons: I haven't exactly had the chance to spend a lot of time with my East of England aunt, and an opportunity to talk to her one-on-one made our trip to Norwich highly beneficial before we even arrived in the city. The second reason was because I wanted to see more of Norwich, and the third reason was that I was looking forward to more bus rides.

This was my first of two visits to Norwich that involved walking around the city (this excludes the night when we all went to the cinema).

Upon arriving in the city, the first place we went to was the Chapelfield mall to get some lunch. Early decorations were already up in parts of Norwich, as can be evidenced by this Christmas tree in the mall. I shouldn't have been surprised to see the tree considering that we were in the city to do some early Christmas shopping!

As we were mainly in Norwich for shopping, I did not take many pictures until the late afternoon/early evening when we were outside more. This building is The Forum, a community centre; we had a look around its gift shop, located at the front entrance.

The Forum is off to the left, but the building in the middle is the Norwich City Hall. It was constructed in 1938 and is an example of British Art Deco-style buildings. I was disappointed with the slant in this image, but I suppose I can't complain too much since I was using my phone and not my main camera.

This is the St Peter Mancroft Church, located near The Forum. The church was constructed in the 15th century and is located at the centre of Norwich. I'm extremely pleased with how this image turned out.

The journey back was something I was definitely looking forward to. It wasn't because I was desperate to leave Norwich: far from it, in fact; I knew we would be riding a double-decker bus on the return journey, and I had never ridden in a double-decker bus before that time. The ride was improved by us not only sitting on the second level, but also sitting at the front. I took this picture of the main bus stop in the centre of Norwich from the upper front window of the bus.

I shot a greater amount of pictures in our return to Norwich a few days later. They'll be in my next post.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Southwold images

I had a great time going to Southwold on the second day of my trip to Suffolk. It is located on the English coast, right next to the North Sea. I was surprised to learn that Southwold is quite a small town (around 1,500 people), but based upon how busy the place seemed I assumed it was much larger! It was my first trip to the English coast since 1994, which was also a visit to Southwold.

This is near the town centre. Again, the place is incredibly busy...anyone could be fooled into thinking Southwold is a bigger place than it really is.

A shot looking towards the beach and the North Sea. The sea itself was calm, but the weather was cold, and made even cooler by a strong breeze.

The beach huts. I've seen plenty of these in pictures of the English coast and this was the first time I'd ever seen them in person. Some of these huts are used for commercial purposes, but a fair amount are beach homes. Southwold is an expensive part of the country, and while the huts themselves consist of one room and a toilet, they can cost anywhere between £25,000-£125,000...perhaps even more depending on the location.

The Southwold Pier. We spent most of our time on the pier in a café called The Clockhouse (the building on the near right); not surprisingly, the pier was colder than the areas on land, but I found The Clockhouse to be a little overheated! They serve lovely food there, nonetheless; I appreciated the hot chocolate and brownie I ordered.

Southwold as viewed from the pier. The Southwold lighthouse can be seen there on the left.

Finally, the North Sea itself, taken from the very end of the pier. Despite making the effort to educate myself about the geography of the United Kingdom, while I was in Southwold I honestly thought that it was considered to be a town on the coastline of the English Channel; evidently the North Sea is one area I've neglected to learn about.

We then walked back off the pier and into a small arcade area, where we played a couple of simple games before walking back to the car and departing Southwold. Is Southwold a place I'd want to return to? Certainly; I'd love to see it on a sunnier day.