Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Olympia Snowe

I was shocked last night to hear that Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has decided not to run for re-election, despite her being a popular senator and because the election is a mere eight months away. Her frustration with gridlock and polarizing politics are among her reasons for standing down.

I am in two minds about her leaving the Senate: on one hand, I support the Democrats and it is my hope that they keep the Senate after this current election; Snowe's departure significantly increases their chances of holding it. At the same time, I think Snowe is a good and fair politician: from what I understand, her votes have often been what she thinks are best for the country, rather than for her or for her party. Snowe has been willing to work with members from either party, and vote against her own when she disagreed with them. She has rarely/never engaged in name-calling as far as I know, and overall she seems like a nice person. While I do not agree with all of her political positions, I have not had a reason to dislike her.

Snowe's departure will also mean another "true" moderate leaving the Senate, and will most likely lead to an increase in the polarization and negativity she wants to get away from. While it would not be her fault per se for any such increase, the loss of another senator both willing to listen to/work with the two parties and not wanting to push through an agenda, as well as not being a negative individual, will only lead to further gridlock.

Ultimately, it was Snowe's decision to step down. I suspect there are people who wished she had said so earlier, but I am sure she has good reasons for making her decision and announcement now. I will be curious to see if she pursues another role somewhere in politics or decides to retire completely.

Finally, I was not expecting to write two politics-related posts in such a short space of time, and I even find myself surprised to be writing this particular piece.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Hot sauce and cheese

Out of all my family members, my mother uses hot sauce the most; she does not use it all the time, of course, but we frequently have meals that are suitable for adding hot sauce (Dad and I use soy sauce more while brother adds nothing). While my own usage of hot sauce is rare, there is one piece of food I do really like adding it to: cheese.

I discovered it one day when for some reason I felt like putting hot sauce on a piece of cheddar cheese. To my surprise, I found the combination worked: the sauce added a tasty spiciness, in both heat and flavour, to the cheese. So far I have only used hot sauce on "cheaper" varieties of cheese, but I would be curious to see what it would be like on less common types.

If you like cheese, I recommend trying it with hot sauce. In all fairness, cheese can be mixed with a lot of other foods, but having it with hot sauce is combination nice enough to want to write about.

Monday, 27 February 2012

United States presidential elections 2000 and 2004

Here are some statistics about the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections in the United States that I find interesting. In 2000, then-Governor George W. Bush won the presidency by winning the electoral vote but losing the popular vote; meanwhile, then-Vice President Al Gore lost the electoral vote but did win the popular vote. Bush won 271 electoral votes and 50,456,002 popular votes while Gore won 266 electoral votes (though should have won 267 but there was a faithless elector in Washington D.C.), and 50,999,897 popular votes. Florida was highly disputed in that election, and had the state been given to Gore he would have won both votes.

In 2004, then-President Bush was running for re-election, and his challenger was Senator John Kerry (D-MA). Bush won this election, this time winning both the electoral vote (286) and the popular vote (62,040,610); while Kerry only won 251 electoral votes (he should have won 252, but an electoral voter in Minnesota accidentally voted for Kerry's running mate instead) and 59,028,444 popular votes. The margins of victory here, while a little too close for comfort, are more significant than in 2000; however, the state that was most disputed in this election was Ohio, although not to the extent Florida was.

Had Kerry won Ohio, Bush would have been narrowly defeated in the electoral college with 266 votes to Kerry's 272 (or 271 when factoring in the Minnesota voter, making the result 271-266 as it was in 2000, but this time it would have been the winner who would have lost a vote), but won the popular vote by more than three million voters. Bush would then have had the record of being the first person to have been elected president without winning the votes of the people, and subsequently voted out after losing in the electoral college but winning the larger share (and even majority) of the popular vote. I am not sure if that would be a record anyone would want to hold, but I suppose it would be better than having the record of winning every state in one election to end up losing them all in the next.

Of course, this outcome did not happen, but I do find these statistics fascinating. I also find it interesting that both Gore and Kerry did not receive the total amount of electoral votes they should have (one because of the faithless elector making a protest, the other from an error), and that had Bush lost Ohio in 2004 he would received the same amount of electoral votes as Gore.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Another one of my jokes (11)

I only have time for a short post today, so I will share another one of my jokes, one from Christmas 2006:

"What moving company helps people move their Internet home pages? E-Haul."

If you are not familiar with the reference here, U-Haul is a moving equipment rental company in the United States.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

About the "Short Stories" series

After jumping straight into a Short Story with no prior introduction, I thought I would write a bit about what they will be. To begin with, the stories will not have a set genre or topic to them: the first one was food-related, but the second will be about something else, the third different again, and so on (of course, while I will write another food story later on, I will not be bringing back the same characters as before, although I am open to changing my mind on that). I think making them random and covering topics I have not written about before will make them interesting reads.

I want to experiment and use these stories, along with the rest of my blog, to improve and maintain my writing skills. One element that may be common in the series will be stories influenced by obscure items, such as yesterday's story coming from a brief line in a television show. I should be able to write stories from small parts of songs, minor odd events in life overall; and I would also like to include any dreams that I think could be turned into a good story. I am looking forward to seeing what I can turn into a short story.

As always, feedback will be appreciated: if you dislike one of the stories or have suggestions for me, do let me know; and of course if you like or love a story, I would really appreciate being told that, too.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Short Stories: Jacket Chicken

One day, Moe offered to cook dinner for his roommates, and he enquired about what they wanted him to make for them. They argued for ten minutes over what they wanted, each of them offering different suggestions and each of them rejecting ideas from the other people. There was a person who wanted homemade pizza, but another one that did not; then there was one who requested a casserole, but that proved to be unpopular with everyone else.

Moe turned his back to do something else when the group huddled together to talk quietly to themselves, then finally, someone called out "we would like jacket chicken for dinner". Moe had no idea what the meal they were requesting was, but Moe agreed to make it anyway.

When the others had all left for the day, Moe was still wondering what sort of meal "jacket chicken" even was, so he did some research for a recipe, yet several searches for it turned up nothing. After spending three hours on the matter and now bored, Moe decided to take a literal interpretation of the suggested meal.

"I know!" he exclaimed. "Jacket chicken is chicken cooked in a jacket! That is what I will make!"

Fortunately for Moe, there was a chicken in the fridge he could roast, and better yet, there was a jacket from one of his roommates that would be perfect for cooking the chicken: it was big enough for the chicken yet small enough to fit in the oven; most of the jacket was also made of a foil-like material, and any part of the jacket not made from that particular material Moe decided he would just cover with regular foil. He subsequently spent a half hour readying the jacket and putting herbs and spices on the chicken.

With the chicken prepared in the jacket, Moe placed the bizarre concoction in the oven and let it roast for the next couple of hours. The chicken cooked surprisingly well in the jacket, and by the time the cooking was close to completion, Moe had finished the potatoes, gravy, and broccoli to go with the chicken; and all his roommates had arrived home just in time for dinner.

"Smells good Moe!" one of them said. "Hope it tastes good too!"

"It will!" Moe called from the kitchen. "Don't get up, I'll be bringing your plates in myself! You'll be surprised with the dinner!"

They did not have long to wait for Moe to bring them their meals, for he brought them all in five minutes later. Everyone was surprised with what Moe had served them, as they were expecting something else, but no one complained and they all tucked into their food.

"So," began Moe ten minutes later. "What do you think?"

"It's great," his friend Matt replied, with murmurs of agreement from the others. "Only one thing, I thought we suggested jacket chicken, not roast chicken? Not that it matters...this is great! Although for some odd reason I think I can taste perfume in it."

"Oh, this is jacket chicken," Moe responded. "I roasted the chicken in Sally's jacket; the extra taste is probably from when she was wearing perfume and her jacket yesterday."

"WHAT?" was the collective response, combined with the dropping of forks.

"Moe, you're joking right?" asked Matt. "Jacket chicken is just boneless chicken embedded in mashed potato and then baked. You honestly didn't roast a chicken in Sally's jacket did you?"

"I did," answered Moe. "I didn't know what it was! After not being able to find out, I took you guys seriously and roasted a chicken in a jacket. Sally's was the only one that would fit in the oven and not catch fire...although juice did leak and get into the underside of her jacket."

"Gee...thanks Moe!" said Sally angrily as everyone got up. "It cost me £100, so that's a new jacket you owe me!"

"Not to mention another dinner, where you'll be supervised," said Matt. "I don't feel like chicken anymore, I'm off to the burger bar down the road; anyone else want to come?"

Everyone except Moe nodded in agreement, and they then they left, leaving their half-eaten jacket-roasted chicken dinners on their seats. Moe, meanwhile, merely finished his dinner and pondered their reaction to the reality of the meal.

"Hey," he said to himself as he began to clear everything away, putting Sally's ruined jacket in the garbage. "The important thing is that they said it was great!"


This is the first of my "Short Stories" series; a series of random, one-post stories. Jacket Chicken was inspired by a brief line in a scene from the television show Red Dwarf (search for the term "spare jacket" on this page), hence the strange plotline. As for "jacket chicken" as a real-life meal...the description by the Matt character is something I made up on the spot. Tell me what you think!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Building the Death Star

Last night, I was informed about and then read some good news! A group of students at Lehigh University have estimated the cost of building the Death Star from the Star Wars universe: at last, I can now start saving money towards a vital goal of having my own Death Star constructed...something I have wanted to do for a long time but not had a reason to until now!

The only problem is that the cost would be $852,000,000,000,000,000 / £543,511,248,000,000,060. Oh, and that most of the Earth's core would need to be used to generate the necessary materials for the construction of my own Death Star as well, and apparently the process would take 833,315 years to complete. Ah well, before investing in a Death Star, I ought to look into stasis technology or other life-extending techniques to ensure that I am around to see my Death Star finished; I will also have to hope that my Death Star will not be obsolete and therefore useless after so many millennia.

Being serious now, I have honestly never wondered what the real-life cost of building the Death Star would be, nor have I ever wanted to invest in or my own personal battle station either. Still, I do find it amusing that someone did make the effort to estimate the price of a fictional construction.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Chocolate sprinkled

My favourite type of doughnut has always been the "chocolate sprinkled" variety. To be fair, I like caramel-topped doughnuts and I like regular chocolate doughnuts, but I love a doughnut with chocolate and sprinkle topping. I do not mind if it is a chocolate doughnut with chocolate icing and sprinkles or a plain doughnut with that same topping: I love them either way. I never dunk a chocolate sprinkled is too nice to eat on its own to corrupt it with the flavour of anything else.

During the occasions when there has been a box of doughnuts available, the majority have included at least one chocolate sprinkled doughnut, and as far as I can recall I was able to have a chocolate sprinkled doughnut from all those boxes except one of them (somebody else ate it out of spite: it was not as though they liked the type themselves, they just wanted to stop me from having it). I would like to note, however, that there had been a queue before me for each of the boxes, so it was not as though I was first in line to selfishly take my favourite type of doughnut! Favourite or not, I never complain about not getting the chocolate sprinkled doughnut (the exception being if someone clearly eats it with bad intentions in mind); besides, there is normally a normal chocolate doughnut available anyway.

The only issue here is that I actually cannot remember the last time I even had a doughnut, let alone a chocolate sprinkled one. The local bakeries do cupcakes, which are still lovely in themselves, but they are not doughnuts. At the end of the day, doughnuts are not an essential part of a healthy diet...but they are still good to eat occasionally!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Water restrictions

Following-up on my post to do with people washing their cars too much, here is an article about the potential water shortage in the United Kingdom, and steps being taken to preserve water, such as limiting showers and not filling up personal swimming pools.

A simple step not covered in the Telegraph article would be to tell people who wash their cars every single week to cut back on how many times they clean their vehicle; as I wrote in my previous post, the cars are often mostly clean anyway: they do not need a weekly wash, and there is less reason for weekly washes in the face of restrictions on water usage.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Coventry pictures

I selected eleven pictures from our visit to Coventry yesterday: six are from me and five are from my brother. While slightly more of my pictures have been included in this post, my brother photographed more than I did because I spent most of our time in Coventry indoors at the meet with my friends.

These are the images I took; all were done with my phone:

A "Welcome to Coventry" sign, taken from within our car.

This is a lot where we parked at temporarily before we found a parking garage located near the middle of Coventry. The tall building in the left/middle part of the background is a Ramada Inn, and the larger buildings to the right are related to Coventry's rugby.

A road my brother, Dad, and I were walking alongside towards the city centre. I do not know what the names of any of the buildings in this picture are.

This picture is an odd one: it was taken from the top of the parking garage our car was ultimately parked at, and done while our car was in motion. Rather than turn out as a blur, the camera on my phone seemed to compensate for pictures taken inside a moving car by having everything in the image appear "wavy". I think it is neat, and better than a blur.

I think this is King Richard Street, or Road. I took the picture while our car was stopped in traffic.

Contrary to what the sign says, there were no accidents in that direction: we were just paused in traffic again. I wanted to get a couple of pictures of the houses in the background, and have one that included the sign.

The rest of the pictures were taken by my brother. He mainly photographed the area around Coventry Cathedral:

A view over towards the old Coventry Cathedral. The building was mostly destroyed when Coventry was bombed during World War II, but parts of it, such as the spire, still remain to this day.

This is a picture of a pub in the vicinity of the cathedral.

My brother said that this is another part of the old Coventry Cathedral.

Another picture of the spire for the old cathedral. Yesterday really was an ideal day to get some great pictures.

These are the roofless ruins of the old cathedral. I hope to see the cathedrals for myself in a future trip to Coventry.

That brings us to the end of this post. I hope you liked the pictures: I can say that while I am pleased with the ones I took, I am impressed with the ones from my brother!

Sunday, 19 February 2012


Dad, my brother, and myself all went to Coventry this morning and spent the entire afternoon there (I was meeting up with some friends). My brother and I took a lot of pictures during out visit, and I will be putting in a few for tomorrow's post.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Some thoughts on car washing

Dad and I took the car to the wash a few days ago, hence this post about pictures taken during the washing. At that time it had been a couple of months or so since its previous clean, and it did need a wash. On average our vehicle is taken to the car wash every couple of months and I think that frequency is reasonable.

For whatever reason, there are a few people in my neighbourhood who wash their vehicles at least once a week: they use a large amount of soap and water each time they perform a wash, and a couple of them spend up to an hour or more washing their car. Often the vehicles are not even dirty at all.

Now normally I do not comment on how other people spend their money, and in all fairness they are paying for the water they use. However, there have been a lot of complaints recently here in the United Kingdom that we have not had enough rain this winter, and there have been talks about restrictions on water use (according to my parents, if any restrictions were implemented, it would not at all be the first-time it would have happened). If people are really concerned about a lack of water, a simple measure to help counter the problem would be for certain people to stop washing their cars every week. The more water wasted on washing a clean car every week means that everyone will have to pay more for water later.

From what I have observed, on average vehicles do not really get too dirty over here. There is no need to have a weekly wash of a car unless you go mud bogging, but as the vast majority of the British driving population does not engage in such an activity or ones related to it, I think people who clean their cars a lot could easily cut down on the frequency of their washes.

Friday, 17 February 2012


I had to laugh earlier when going for a walk with my Dad and my brother. When we three last went for a walk together, I ended up taking us through a heavily muddy field and made a mess of our shoes. During our walk today, I selected a route that I thought would not be too muddy for the occasion.

Surprise, surprise! It took us through quite a bit of mud, and whenever I said "we should be past the worst of the mud now", we ended up walking onto even muddier parts of the path. Fortunately, the mud only lasted for the first part of the walk, and once we were back on concrete again we were able to remove the mud from our shoes.

I will be glad when we are out of the wet season: there are several paths that I would like to explore around here, but since the footpaths are mainly dirt paths, all or most of them will be muddy for the time being.

Thursday, 16 February 2012


"Everywhere I go, I make them moves like Jagger; people say I have my own 'Swagger Jagger' but I tell them they need to get their own. They like my swagger so much that they are calling me Mick Jagger. When I go down to the clubs, everyone else get kicked to the curb, but because I am told I look like Jagger, the same does not happen to me."

"I suspected something was awry: I started to wonder why I was receiving all these Jagger-related references. Then I began to think: with my moves, my swagger, people calling me Jagger and telling me I look like him, I suddenly came to realise..."

"I am Jagger!"

This is a short, fun piece based on five songs that contain references to Mick Jagger; "Moves Like Jagger" - Maroon 5 with Christina Aguilera, "Swagger Jagger" - Cher Lloyd, "The Time (Dirty Bit)" - Black Eyed Peas, "Tik Tok" - Kesha, and "The Hardest Ever - with Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger. The "I am Jagger" ending is influenced from Mick Jagger actually being featured in the last song, rather than just mentioned. I find the "Jagger" references in songs amusing, and wanted to write something fun on the subject.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

California rolling

I read a post yesterday by my friend Jessica on her blog about bus rides. I thought the post was great overall, but there was a tiny part of it that caught my eye: the part where she mentioned a "California roll". In this context, Jessica is referring to when a driver slows down to a near-stop at a stop sign, but continues to drive without stopping completely. I know them as "California rolling stops", and although they were illegal in Oregon, we observed that a significant amount of drivers were either unaware or did not care about that being the case.

Inspired by the brief mention in her blog, out of sheer curiosity...and because I rarely hear them said aloud anymore, I decided to research the terms "California roll" and "California rolling stop". I was surprised to learn that in addition to referring to the rolling stop, a "California roll" is also a type of sushi roll filled with crab and avocado; however, it then occurred to me that it should not have been surprising at all: I have never eaten sushi before and do not pay attention towards anything to do with it, and I am used to hearing about rolling stops than a particular type of food. Still, I am pleased to learn a small fact merely from wanting to look up some terminology.

The interesting part here now is that rolling stops only had a small (albeit significant) part of Jessica's post, and food had nothing to do with it whatsoever. Even so, thank you Jessica for your role in my post about California rolls!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A song for Valentine's Day

As today is Valentine's Day, I thought I would post a link to one of my favourite love songs, "Even the Nights Are Better" by Air Supply:

The band Air Supply is a part of my mother's music collection. In my opinion, "Even the Nights Are Better" is one of their best songs overall, in addition to it being a great love song. Even without the lyrics, the tune is lovely in itself, as well as an earworm.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The significance of "Colors of Tabby"

I wrote Colors of Tabby in September of 2002 about our cat Tinker. Tinker was a tabby cat whom we brought with us from the United Kingdom to the United States. She was one of two cats we had while we lived in the United States; I posted previously a rhyme about Smudge, our other cat, here.

Most verses in the poem are about Tinker, although a couple are nonsense purely for rhyming purposes. For example, "Colors of tabby, Partially flabby" refers to the fact she was a tabby and somewhat overweight; "While braver than voles, She’s chased by lizards and forced into gopher holes" is a reference to her hunting voles in the first couple of years or so of life, but at the time of the poem's writing she had completely lost interest in hunting other animals (she backed away from lizards).

As for a bit more about Tinker, she was a social cat: she would often greet people when they came over...there was one time when she had not seen my grandparents for two years, yet when my grandmother entered our house and started talking, Tinker remembered her and came bounding into the living room to enthusiastically greet her. Tinker loved being brushed (especially by me), playing with Smudge, wanting food whenever one of us went into the kitchen or she heard us open the fridge door (she did this more in her later life, and it was our food she was after, not her own), and looking out of open windows (she became an indoor cat when we moved to America, and she came to prefer looking out of open windows to actually going outside). She was a happy cat, as she was near-constantly purring, and it took a lot to anger her.

Yesterday, February 12th, was the third anniversary of Tinker's death, and I decided that a fitting tribute to her would be to post a poem that I wrote a long time ago about her. Tinker's death can be put down to old age, as she was fifteen years old, and would have been sixteen in May of 2009. She had been losing weight for the six months prior to her death, but she had been behaving normally during that time: in fact, she was more active than usual in her last six month of her life until the final two weeks.

It would be great it our pets lived as long as we do, but sadly, they do not. The most we can do is to ensure that they are given the best and happiest lives as possible in the time that they have: Tinker had a good, long, and eventful life.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

"Colors of Tabby"

This poem is about somebody; I wrote it a long time ago, and will write a post on its meaning tomorrow, as well as the reason why I posted it.

Colors of tabby,
Partially flabby.
No fur on under,
An odd blunder.
While braver than voles,
She’s chased by lizards and forced into gopher holes.
Cowers in fear,
Pointing her ear.
Up a tree,
Having trouble hiding her glee.
On the ground,
Not safe from a mound.
Climbing a rock,
A deadly mock.
On the house,
Killing a field mouse.
Small talons to cut,
And leave a rut.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Car wash

Dad and I went to have the car washed this afternoon. Using my phone, I took a couple of pictures of the washing as the car was pulled through!

Okay, I will admit that it does seem strange to want to take a picture of our car being taken through a car wash with us inside the vehicle, but I did want to test the camera on my phone out some more, and this seemed like as good an opportunity to do so as any: I am pleased with how well the images have turned out. The first picture is definitely my looks as though we are in some sort of wave.

Friday, 10 February 2012

More snow

It snowed again last night! Not as much fell as the amount from a few days ago, but it was still enough for us to go out today to clear the driveway and the paths around the house. While the snowfall was a little lighter, it was harder to clear this time: because of the slightly lower level of snow, it was extremely difficult to scoop it up without compressing it into the ground and turning it into harder ice. As such, we had to make greater use of brooms on this occasion.

On the bright side, today was sunnier than when it was the other day. Much of the snow has melted since last night, but there is still plenty of white ground around.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Leaky fish juice

We had fish for dinner a week or so ago, and some of the leftover juice from the fish was put in a container and placed in the fridge. Sometime during yesterday or the day before, the container was knocked over and a significant amount of the juice leaked out from it. As a result, the refrigerator stank of fish.

When either Dad or Mum first noticed the smell last night, they thought that something may have got into the fridge's drip tray, or that there was possibly even a problem with the fridge itself. Upon further investigation, we realised that some of the other food was covered in fish juice, and that the container (which had been forgotten about until this point) had been knocked onto its side.

It took two hours and various cleaning agents to remove the stink from the refrigerator. Some of the contents needed to be cleaned too: I had to wash at least 40 eggs of the juice and put them all in a bowl, for they were covered and their carton was ruined from being located on the shelf below the container (and right in the path of the majority of the juice as well). The floor also had to be wiped of drops of the juice from me carrying the shelves to the sink.

The smell of fish is a major pain to remove, especially when it is "off". As I have been typing this post the odour has still been in my nose. I hope we decide not to keep more containers of fish juice from now on, but if we do, we remember to use it quickly!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Another one of my jokes (10)

I have not posted a joke for a few weeks. Here is one I wrote for Christmas 2008:

"What do you call a group of joking gorillas? Japes!"

There was a brief period a few years ago (before Christmas 2008) when "japes" was my "favourite" word; I think I annoyed my brother several times when I overused it on a daily basis.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Sixteen years

It was sixteen years ago today that my family and I emigrated from the United Kingdom to the United States and landed in San Francisco. As it happened so long ago combined with me being five at the time means that I do not have many memories of the day, but I can recall a few events that stand out.

I remember that there had been heavy snowfalls in the United Kingdom that February (far more than the recent snow here), and both my parents have said that we were supposed to fly out the day before, but the weather had delayed us (my grandparents were supposed to meet us at the airport, but they had been snowed in).

I do not remember a lot before the flight, unfortunately, but during the main journey I recall being awake the whole time: during this period I mainly kept Dad awake (something he did not appreciate and would keep reminding me of in years to come) while my mother and brother slept. Using some paper and pencils (or crayons, I am not sure) that I have been given, I did attempt to draw some television characters and bugged Dad with that too. The other part of the flight I remember was Dad and I going to the cockpit, and seeing us fly above the clouds from the front of the plane is my strongest memory of the day.

The next part I remember is waiting at San Francisco International Airport for our luggage. After that, the last part I can recall is leaving the airport, with it being the early evening outside and the weather warm and sunny. The earliest memory I have after that moment is from the next day.

It is hard to believe that all of that, plus more, happened sixteen years ago. We did not expect to be moving back to the United Kingdom over fourteen years later, but I guess that is the ways things go. At least in today's world we can keep in contact with anyone anywhere on the planet...something that we did not have in 1996.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Phone memory card

I am quite pleased at the moment: a memory card arrived for my phone today. While I now have plenty of additional space for pictures and movies, what I find more important is that I can also now easily copy said media off the phone onto my computer.

Files saved to the phone memory are difficult to transfer to the computer, as it is a complicated process in which I had to use a piece of incredibly buggy software to get the media off (and even then, the videos were copied over without any sound, which was useless). With this memory card, I can just plug my phone into the computer via USB and...voila! Copy the files straight over without any problems. I do not have any Bluetooth devices other than my phone, so sending media using that was not an option.

When going out, I am more likely to be carrying my phone than my other cameras, so I will find increased storage/better file transferring for my phone very handy.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Snowing outside (again)

After yesterday's post the snowing continued, and we ended up with about three inches of it in parts. Here is a picture of our backyard I took last night:

We spent a portion of the morning outside shovelling the driveway and moving the snow covering it; a large amount of the snow was dumped near the tower of bricks in the picture above. Dad, my brother, and I did throw a few snowballs at each other while we worked, but not too many as we did not want to have to again clear up to snow-free driveway. Several other people in the neighbourhood were playing in the snow, their activities including sledding and throwing their own snowballs.

There may be complaints about the snow in other parts of the country, but people around here do not seem to have any problems with it!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Snowing outside

While we are still having a relatively mild winter, there is some noteworthy snowfall here in my part of Northamptonshire: the road and the sides are white, and the cars in our neighbourhood are moderately covered. Dad reckons the snow is powdery, and probably will not take too long to melt.

It seems that the entire United Kingdom is bracing itself for a massive amount of snow to arrive: I heard that something like four inches worth is expected, but that can be a lot by British standards (especially for London, for whenever it receives snow, regardless of how much, the whole nation has to hear about it). Looking outside, I would say that we currently have significantly less than an inch of it.

The only thing I hope they do not do is start gritting, at least not yet: when we lived in Nottingham during the heavy snows there, the walkpaths were covered in grit, and it was awful traipsing dirt everywhere (especially into stores or my grandparents' front hall).

It is dark here at the moment, and the snow has come in the last hour or so. I look forward to seeing what it looks like during the daytime.

Friday, 3 February 2012

On increasing blog views (again)

I mentioned in a comment of mine for yesterday's post that I would be making a follow-up piece to it. Here are some more thoughts on the matter, though they do crossover with some of what I wrote before, and are a little more to do with blogging etiquette:

1. Think of other bloggers
I think it is important to not see other bloggers as "opponents" or "enemies". Every other blogger has the same goal as you: to write and have their content read by as many people as possible. Before saying "why am I not getting any views?", it is best to think that other people have been in that same position, and you should do your research and see what they have to say that can help you.

2. Networking with other blogs
If your blog has a specialised topic, such as being about children, cooking, or politics, there will be networks of blogs that you can join. If you do join a network, and its members help you and successfully integrate you into their community, remember to then help other people within the network, plus any newcomers: you do not want to take and not give anything back.

3. Comment on followers' blogs and follow them back
Overlaps with yesterday's fifth point, but I would argue that commenting the blogs of your followers is perhaps more important than commenting on random blogs. At the very least, it is discourteous to not comment on other blogs when people are commenting on yours. Of course, you should not comment just to ensure that people continue to give you comments: what you write on their blogs needs to be as genuine as what they write on yours.

It is probably a good idea also to follow the blogs of people who follow you, although this does depend: if you are followed by a particular blog(ger) that you find to be unpalatable (like if the blog serves no purpose other than to slander people, or the blogger themselves is a known troll), I can understand not wanting to follow back. In addition, if you have a huge amount of followers, it may not be feasible to follow them all back and keep track of them...on the other hand if you do have that many followers, I doubt that you will need advice on how to increase your views!

4. Respond to comments on your blog
This is similar to the part right above, except it applies to your own blog: if people are commenting, it is paramount that you reply to them: a lack of response may come across as though you are not interested in feedback (if you have comments enabled on your blog, by default people are going to assume you want input). If people disagree with what you have to say, providing they are being civil you should engage them back politely (blatant trolling should just be deleted, there is no need to feed trolls); and if people compliment you, be grateful!

So ends my follow-up to "On increasing blog views". I would again like to thank Jenny for her inspiring me to write the first post, and subsequently the second. Regardless of how many views you get, remember to have fun blogging!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

On increasing blog views

A few days ago, my friend Jenny wrote a post on her blog in regards to increasing blog views. She had some advice on what to do, further advice on what not to do, and some humour mixed in there too. In her comments section I posted some blog view ideas that have been working for me, and I will be again writing about those ideas for this post although they will be in greater detail than what I put in the comment (they will also be adjusted to apply to everyone). I shall also be writing about some more ideas that I have thought about since then:

1. An active blog
Anyone who is serious about having a blog with a significant base will have to make sure they post regularly. The definition obviously varies, but I would consider an "active" blog to be one that is has at least a post per week. The basic point of a blog is to write content for people to read, and if you do not write anything on a regular basis, you will not receive many views.

2. Suggesting posts to people who may be interested in a topic
Mindlessly spamming your blog will only cause it to blocked, blacklisted, or have something else done to it that will cause its reputation to be ruined. However, sending a particular post to somebody who might be interested in its topic is acceptable: for example, if you found an online recipe, used the recipe, then wrote a lengthy piece about it, it would be a good thing to send the post to the writer of the recipe (this does assume the post is helpful, whether it is a glowing review or something constructive that suggests how the recipe could be improved: do not send them a post that outright insults them). Doing so offers the other person feedback, and gives your own work some views (who knows? Maybe they will suggest your piece to others, or even decide to follow your blog themselves).

3. Using Twitter
If you have a Twitter account and several followers, it would be very worthwhile to link to your posts in your tweets. If you do not have a Twitter account, and therefore no followers, it will still be worth creating an account there: it is likely you will know people with Twitter accounts, so you will be able to follow each other. In addition, careful use of the hashtags (the "#" on the keyboard, followed by another word, such as "#cooking" or "#homecooking") can attract people to your tweets, and therefore your posts. If you have written about painting, placing "#painting" in your tweet will help you find some views.

If you use other social media, such as Facebook or Google+, I also recommend linking to your posts on those sites as well. Be warned, however, that it would be best not to use those accounts solely for the purpose to linking to your blog: no one wants to follow a spammer.

4. Telling friends
Simple word-of-mouth by telling your friends about your blog will get you views. In addition to having friends who "officially" following my blog, I have other friends (and family) who follow my blog...they are just not in the "followers" section. If your friends find your blog interesting or merely a fun read, they might even tell their friends about it.

5. Commenting on other blogs
Commenting on other blogs can certainly raise your profile. However, I would be very careful with this one: it is probably not a good thing to comment on other people's blogs just to promote your own, and commenting on every "most popular" blog may be seen as suspicious. If anything, I think it is best just to comment when you feel it is appropriate to, and give the comment substance: the occasional genuine, well-thought out comment to another blog will give you more readers than spamming them with silly comments will.

6. Keep the blog fresh
This is perhaps the hardest of all: coming up with new topics to post, and frequently, can be very difficult: even for me, the hard part is not the actual writing, but coming up with something to begin with. If you run out of things to post and are constantly going back to old writings on the blog, or anything you do post that is new comes across as a redress of everything done before, your readership and amount of views will decline. At the same time, if you have a particular style, your readers like your blog the way it is, and you are still gaining followers, it is probably best not to stray from that formula too much in case the changes drive them away; but you can still modify a format without alienating readers.

At the end of the day, I believe it is best not to worry too much about views, and instead just blog because you are fond of blogging and are into writing. Evidently you should make some effort in attracting a base, but the readers will come to you with the more you write (I am finding that posts of mine from months ago are receiving more views now than they did when they were initially submitted).

Finally, when referring to other people, it is also courteous to give them credit where it is due. As such, I would like to thank Jenny for inspiring me to write this post.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Half dollar dreaming

This is going to sound strange, but there is a type of coin I have always been fascinated with: it is the United States half dollar coin. These coins can be identified from their having John F. Kennedy on the obverse side and the Seal of the President of the United States on the reverse; and from being larger than quarters. I was introduced to them when Dad once showed me a half dollar coin that belongs to him. The reason this becomes strange is because I have actually dreamt about owning or finding half dollar coins on several occasions.

A recurring type of dream of mine are the ones where I find a half dollar coin or two (or sometimes even a huge stash of them), and I experience a significant amount of happiness within that dream: in the context of the dream, I have achieved a major goal and am happy for it. Sometimes finding the coins is the purpose of the dream, other times it is merely a side story, but there are occasions where it has nothing to do with the rest of the dream whatsoever. The only downside to these dreams is that no matter how elated I feel at finally owning a half dollar coin, I soon wake up and think "that was just a dream!".

In reality, the coins are difficult to attain, hence why I do not own any for the time being: while they are still in production, they are more for collectors and are rarely used in circulation itself. I am not actually even sure how Dad was able to collect his half dollar coin: I do not know if he found it or managed to come across the occasional one found in circulation. Either way, it is an achievement in itself!

I do own a substantial number of American coins, and I have had most of them in my collection long before we left the United States. This collection includes pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters (it also includes an old American penny, plus a few quarters from the 50 State Quarters program); I still hope to have a United States half dollar coin in there someday, but for now I will keep on dreaming!

Here is an image of a few designs of the half dollars. I am most familiar with the second type shown in the picture, and it is the design I have written about: