Monday, 30 April 2012

Cherry blossom

We had a wonderful, sunshine-filled afternoon today, and I was able to get some great pictures of the cherry tree in our backyard. The blossom is beautiful, look at these:

I especially love that last image with the pink of the flowers combined with the blue of the sky. Yes, I know I took these pictures, but one has to be pleased with their own work!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Longaberger headquarters

In my current rush of viewing places in Ohio, I came across a picture of The Longaberger Company headquarters in Newark. The building belongs on the list of unique-looking structures, here is a picture I found of it:

I love the basket-style architecture of the building. I had not seen it before today, yet it should get more recognition!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Ice cream truck

As I have mentioned a few times before, ever since the hosepipe ban came in effect the majority of the weather has been rain, and as such, the temperature cool/cold. This afternoon, my brother and I went for a walk during a gap in the rain; however, it was still cold and very windy. Then, we heard a particular sound normally associated with warmer weather.

The ice cream truck! Regardless of the fact it was cold, windy, and rainy, the ice cream truck was about and happily playing its tune. Judging from the gaps in the tune, some people were actually getting ice cream in the current weather conditions. Evidently it is their choice, but I found it amusing that the ice cream truck was out and people were getting food from it on a day not usually suitable for ice cream.

As an aside, I was surprised the first time I heard and subsequently saw an ice cream truck over here, driving around the neighbourhoods: I had not read or been told anything about them while living in the United States, so I assumed they were a feature located solely in America.

Friday, 27 April 2012

"Can You Forgive Her?" (swing version) - Pet Shop Boys

The Pet Shop Boys are a band I was introduced to via my parents' music collection. A few weeks ago I was looking for covers (primarily piano ones, as I like piano covers of pop songs) of the Pet Shop Boys' songs, and I found a jazz version of "Can You Forgive Her", a single from their album Very (bear in mind that the original is a synth/dance track, hence why I find this "swing" version noteworthy):

It appears the track is from the single for "Yesterday, When I Was Mad", another song of theirs from Very. I assume it was the Pet Shop Boys who composed the swing version, but whether it was them or someone else that did it, it is a quaint little song and my brother and parents all thought so too.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Voting times

In the recent first round of elections in the French presidential election the voting times were from 8:00am up to 6:00pm, with a two-hour extension in the larger cities. For the United Kingdom general election in 2010, the voting times were from 7:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night. As for individual states in the US, there is no consistency in the poll times but 7:00-7:00/7:30 seems to be common.

Back in 2010 during the UK election, a significant amount of voters were turned away merely due to running out of time. As a potential solution to this problem, I think that voting should begin at midnight on election day and end at the subsequent midnight at the earliest. Having a minimum window of 24 hours helps give all the people who want to vote the time to do so, and even then the polls should only close when people stop turning up to vote: if there is a long line of people waiting to vote, they should be given the chance to rather than turned away because of an arbitrary time limit.

I recommend "midnight" as the opening for voting because if crowds of people frequently queue until then for a book release, a movie, or a concert, I think they will do the same when it comes to their votes. After all, while movies and concerts are valued as entertainment, people who do vote consider their votes to be highly important and they do not want to miss out. Giving them a greater amount of time gives everyone interested the opportunity. Evidently I do believe there should be some sort of a cut-off, as it would be ridiculous for someone to vote a week after the election, but no one should be turned away if they are already standing in line.

I do not think that any political party would be hurt if the voting times were extended in this way: for close races it would be helpful for as many people as possible to vote in case the outcome can be determined more clearly; and as for landslides, well, the victor merely receives an even greater amount of votes. The idea is only meant to ensure the best turnout possible, not to create a new method to rig an election.

This idea could be applied to any democracy, regardless of the size of the country. In fact, countries with larger geographic sizes and population would benefit from having more time for their people to vote.

I welcome any input on this solution to voting times.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Ohio's voting record

In my post about US state nicknames, I wrote that I mistakenly thought Ohio to be nicknamed the "Bellwether State". I led myself into thinking that because of Ohio's ability to vote with the winning candidate of the presidential elections over 90% of the time.

Since 1896 onwards, Ohio has voted for the winner in all except two elections: 1944 and 1960. In 1944, Governor Thomas E. Dewey narrowly carried the state over President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1960 Vice President Richard Nixon comfortably won the state over Senator John F. Kennedy; in addition, 1960 was the last time Ohio voted against the victor of an election.

Missouri had the best record of being a bellwether until the 2008 election, when it voted against the winner (although the state was incredibly close); before then the last two times it voted the opposite way to the victor was in 1956 and 1900...hence its lower win rate than Ohio. Despite Ohio's record, apparently the state with the better track is Nevada, as it has supported the winner in every election since 1912 except for 1976; however, if Nevada is put on the same timeline as Ohio, it voted against the winner in 1896, 1900, and 1908.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Another one of my jokes (15)

I wrote this joke for Christmas 2005:

"What do you call a loony almond? A nutter"

A "nutter" is another word to describe someone who is crazy (not anything medically wrong, just someone who is a fool); "loony" is a shortened variant of the word "lunatic" and can be used to describe a fool as well, hence, a foolish almond!

Monday, 23 April 2012

2012-2020 electoral map

Last night, my brother and I played a game of Run Off. As I mentioned in my first post about the board game, it uses the Electoral College from the 1990 Census; for a change, we decided to start playing it on the Electoral College makeup from the 2010 Census. This was the result:

My states are in purple, and my brother was the victor in the election with a vote of 282-256. He calculated that had we played it on the 1992-2000 electoral map I would have performed marginally better with 260 votes to his 278. The numbers for each of the states on the above image are their electoral votes for the 2012, 2016, and 2020 United States presidential elections.

The thing that both my brother and I found funny about this particular game is that it makes us the first (and only) people we know about who have gone through an election on this electoral map (even if the said election took place on a board game)!

Note: the above image is not originally mine, but rather, is our modified version of Licensing is listed on that page.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Naming US state nicknames

Inspired by this post of mine, I have decided to do a piece on how many official US state nicknames I can name off the top of my head (the order is done in which ones I think of first). I could come up with ten, plus some bonuses:

"Beaver State" - Oregon
"The Golden State" - California
"Sunshine State" - Florida
"The Empire State" - New York
"Evergreen State" - Washington
"Lone Star State" - Texas
"Show-Me State" - Missouri
"Keystone State" - Pennsylvania
"Silver State" - Nevada
"The Last Frontier" - Alaska

I named "Tar Heel State" for North Carolina, but the state appears to have two main nicknames ("Old North State") so I decided not to count it in the above list. I thought "The Peanut State" was Georgia's nickname (it is the "Peach State"); plus I thought of "Empire State of the South" for Georgia and "The Rocky Mountain State" for Colorado, though I did know that both are rarely used as nicknames for them nowadays. Finally, I named the "Bellwether State" for Ohio, but that is actually one of Missouri's lesser-known nicknames.

How many US state nicknames can you come up with off the top of your head? (Please state which of the above you already knew, too.)

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Orange tulips

It turns out that there are two orange tulips in our back garden; during a bright gap in the weather I went outside to take some pictures of them both. These were photographed with my main camera:

I am pleased to have been able to get my own pictures of two orange tulips. I originally thought there was only one, but it is a nice surprise for there to be a duo.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Exquisite timing

I had to go out earlier to mail a few letters. However, every time I wanted to go out the rain would immediately come pouring down and I would have to wait. After waiting half an hour for the rain to subside, I decided to put on my thick raincoat and walk as quickly as possible through the rain to the letterbox (bear in mind the letterbox is a few streets away).

When I arrived at the letterbox the rain started to come to an end, and before I was halfway back home the rain had stopped. Furthermore, the sun had come out from behind a cloud and I found myself warming up to the point where I had to unbutton and unzip my coat.

Ever since that walk it has not rained again today, yet. I just looked out the window to check and, no, it is not raining: in fact, it is quite bright outside the moment, albeit cloudy.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

An orange tulip

A few days ago, during one of the rare sunny occasions we have had since the hosepipe ban came into effect earlier this month, my brother photographed this orange tulip in our back garden:

I am glad that not all flowers decided to blossom at once from last month's warm weather. Quite a few obviously thought it was worth waiting.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

John Scott Harrison

I found a small yet interesting piece of American history last night. Recently I have been doing some research into the geography of Ohio, and I came across a place called North Bend, a town in the Cincinnati - Northern Kentucky metropolitan area. In the early second half of the 19th century a man named John Scott Harrison retired there after losing his House of Representatives seat.

Harrison is unique because he is the only man (and also only person) in all of United States history to be both the child of a president and the parent of another. His father was William Henry Harrison, the ninth president; and his son was Benjamin Harrison, the twenty-third. As for Harrison's own political career, he represented Ohio's second congressional district for two terms, serving from 1853-57, when he was defeated in his re-election for a third term. He lived in North Bend until his death in 1878; unfortunately, he did not see one of his sons become president (Benjamin Harrison was elected in 1888).

Small, obscure historical facts such as this always fascinate me. I appreciate looking up a particular topic and coming across minor events or people with an interesting, unexpected fact to them.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Carly Patterson

In 2004, Carly Patterson was among the gymnasts for the US women's gymnastics team competing at the Summer Olympics in Greece. During the games, she won a gold medal and her team won a silver; in addition, she was among my favorite Olympians for the 2004 games (with the women's gymnastics being my most favorite event overall). Unfortunately, after the Olympics she had some medical problems, and they were serious enough for her to decide to retire from gymnastics.

After Patterson left gymnastics she started a singing career. During the late summer of either 2008 or 2009, I heard one of her songs for the first time by chance and I really liked it. However, the radio station it had been played on was one I very rarely listened to (KLDR was the station, and my radio had difficulty in picking it up; KIFS 107.5 Kiss FM was my "home" station), so I did not get to hear her again for the remainder of my time in Oregon.

That changed recently when I started thinking of her again and decided to research her music. What I have listened to so far, including the song I heard a few years ago, has been good; even better, her album Back to the Beginning, appears to be available on, meaning I will be able to buy the album over here. I just think it is a shame her music has not received more attention when it is clear she can sing and make good music; I hope she will release more and gain further recognition for it.

Here is a link to Patterson's song "Here I Am":

Monday, 16 April 2012

Annoying misspellings

I can appreciate that people do often make typos: not everyone is a good writer/typist, and not everyone proof-reads what they write, especially if what they are writing is something relatively unimportant such as a comment on an Internet article. This being said, there are some strangely common misspellings that annoy me to no end.

1. Confusing "woman" and "women"
This is the most common bizarre misspelling I have observed. It is exceedingly frustrating when someone refers to a woman as "a women" and women as "woman": for example, typing that "Scarlett Johansson is a women" (woman), "Amelle Berrabah is a women" (woman), and "together they are woman" (women). I see this mistake frequently, and I find it hard to work out why this is so: when we speak normally we never say that a woman is "a women", and on the keyboard the "a" and "e" buttons are close, but not right next to each other in that it is easy to press both of them at once or hit one when intending to hit the other.

2. "Prolly" and "probably"
Mixing up woman and women may be the most common of the misspellings listed here, but by far the most annoying is "prolly" in the place of "probably". I have never heard anyone...either in the US or the UK, pronounce "probably" as "prolly" out loud, so I really do not see how anyone can misspell the word this way.

3. "Temporary" as "tempory"/ "temporarily" as "temporally"
I can understand "tempory" even if it is annoying: I have heard people pronounce temporary as "temp-ree", so I can see where the misspelling comes from. "Temporally" has somewhat of a resemblance to "temporarily", but enough of a difference in the pronunciation to easily differentiate between them; unlike the aforementioned "prolly" and "tempory", "temporally" is a real word.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Timing showers

As part of the hosepipe ban we are supposed to avoid having showers lasting longer than four minutes. To help stick to that limit, we have been using the stopwatch feature on my phone to time how long each of us is in the shower.

So far my mother has been the quickest, being able to clean herself in just over a minute, and in just over two minutes when she has to wash her hair. I have been under three minutes every time so far, with the only exception being when I had to activate (and subsequently deactivate) the stopwatch myself for that occasion. Dad has been the slowest in the shower, reaching the four minute mark, but he has had foot cramp recently and once that fades his time in there should drop.

I plan to keep the stopwatch going for the moment so we can get a rough estimate of how long each of us spend in the shower, and to see if we can shave some time off our lengths. It will be useful to wash more quickly in itself and save water that way, regardless of the hosepipe ban.

Coincidentally, it began raining as I typed this post up.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Boy finds mother with Google Earth

Another news piece for today's post. I had mixed emotions about the following article:

On one hand, I was delighted to read about a man in India who had re-united with his mother thanks to his use of Google Earth. Twenty-five years ago, at five years of age, he went out with his older brother but ended up taking a nap then erroneously boarded a train he assumed his brother was on...only to return to sleep while on that train and awaken fourteen hours later far away from home. While he was in a new place and frightened, he was clever enough to survive, ended up in an orphanage, and was adopted by a couple in Australia. In the last year or so, he did his research using Google Earth to work out what town he originally came from, then he was able to return there and see his mother again.

The part of the article that saddened me was the bit about his older brother: it was awful to read that he was discovered a month after the younger boy had disappeared...and it was his remains that were found. It is not known if his death was an accident or a deliberate killing. It must have been devastating for the mother to have one child missing and the other meeting a brutal end.

Overall, it was a positive article, and it is refreshing to read about a missing child re-unite with their parent(s). Thousands of children go missing worldwide every year, and too often those children never see their families again.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Newark fire and rescue

I was impressed with this article:

Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, saved a woman from a burning house in his neighborhood, and in doing so he put himself at risk. Both Booker and the woman he rescued received burns, but fortunately his were minor and she was reported as "stable" while in hospital.

What disappointed me was then reading through a few of the comments on the above article. While the vast majority of people were positive about Booker's actions, I was astounded to see that a few managed to find something to complain about. To me, this was a "human" issue, and politics should not cloud the fact that Booker saved another person's life and could have been killed himself in doing so: I think that he, along with others involved in the rescue, should be commended rather than suspected of committing some sort of "publicity stunt".

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Radio call-in fun

I had to laugh earlier when listening to the radio. On the station I was listening to, when people call-in it is either to play a radio game or to request a song. Today someone phoned the station, but it appears all she wanted to do was have a quick chat: when the presenter asked what she wanted to hear, her response was something along the lines of "no, that's all thanks. Bye." The presenter was both amused and bemused (pun intended) by her actions, but moved on after chuckling.

I have heard these things before: even on the radio in Oregon, someone would phone a station, manage to get through, chat for less than a minute then disappear without even wanting to request a song. Other times we would get the opposite when a greedy person would request two songs when they were supposed to only request one.

While partially related to the above, one of the funniest (and most cringe-worthy) radio call-ins was on the Open House Party: I remember one time when someone rang up, John Garabedian (the presenter) asked the person what they wanted to hear, then a massive yell could be heard from the caller's line (it was loud on the radio, so I can only imagine what it was like for Garabedian).

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Mug and egg

Here is a picture of my Cadbury Double Decker mug and egg close up:

I have a collection of mugs, but they are among the items still packed away. It is good that I will have a new mug to add to my collection! Oh, and the above picture was taken today, so I have not finished all my Easter candy just yet.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Naming a United States Supreme Court case

A few weeks ago Dad read something about a significant portion of people not being able to name at least one United States Supreme court case (I have been trying to find the article, though I am not sure if he read it in an offline magazine). I thought about the subject again today, and I was able to think of four:

Plessy v. Ferguson (declared that black people and white people were "separate but equal" was constitutional)

Brown v. Board of Education (declared that separate schools/facilities for blacks and whites was unequal, and essentially overturned the aforementioned case)

Roe v. Wade (protected abortion rights for women)

Bush v. Gore (ended the dispute of the vote count in Florida in the 2000 presidential election; George W. Bush declared the winner)

I may be able to name a minimum of one, but four is still an incredibly low number, especially considering that there are hundreds of Supreme Court cases. Excluding these four (though please state if you could name them), how many cases can you name?

Monday, 9 April 2012

Local ginger cat

A feline named Fudge was the cat we saw the most frequently during our stay in Littleport. When we first moved to our place in Northamptonshire we hardly saw any cats at all, but recently there has a been a beautiful ginger cat wandering around our neighbourhood.

The picture was taken with my main camera through a window on the top floor of our home. It has been good to see a cat in the area around our house: we have seen several cats when goings on walks through the town, but this one is the most prominent at our location.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Easter treats

Today is Easter, and yes, I did receive chocolate. Here is a picture of my chocolates...a Double Decker egg (with bars of chocolate included), a Malteaster bunny, with Lindt eggs and bunny:

Now you are probably thinking "Wait! You're 21, why are you still getting Easter candy?" Well, the truth is, I do not receive Easter candy every year, and last year it was me who bought some big chocolate eggs for the family! My parents found some cheap chocolates for everyone this year; and besides, with the "big eggs" we received, as you can see we get a mug in addition to the sweet treats!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Magnolia update

It was merely a few days ago when the magnolia tree in our backyard was blossoming and looking beautiful. Now, thanks to rain, some frost, and even hail, many of its flowers have lost their petals and much of its beauty has been lessened:

Not that I am complaining about the weather, as we cannot change it and we definitely do need the rain (it has been raining frequently here since the hosepipe ban in into effect). Still, it would have been good for these flowers to have lasted a little longer.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Another barbecue picture

This is a picture from the second barbecue we have done so far this year. It was taken over a week ago (too cold at the moment for any outside cooking!), and is a better image of burgers on the barbecue than my previous shots:

We will be having burgers for dinner tomorrow, but they will not be barbecued!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Hilda the hen

I loved this story about Hilda the hen and her "chicks":

Animal stories such as this one always impress me; I love reading about members of different, unrelated animal species befriending or considering each other family. It makes a lovely change from bad news to read these articles.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Hosepipe ban

Tomorrow, we will be under what is called a "hosepipe ban". Essentially, this means we will officially be under restrictions on how we use water: we will have to keep an eye on how much water we use when doing something that requires the use of water, such as dishes or having a shower (and we can save water by making efficient use of left over water from dishes and timing our showers).

Among the things we will not be able to use a hosepipe for include: watering our lawns/gardens, filling up a personal pond/water feature, washing home walls and windows; and cleaning cars or boats. There are exceptions to these: giving animals water (livestock, fish in a personal pond), and washing away health hazards and graffiti are exempt; and as far as I know we will still be able to clean windows and outside furniture by using a bucket and sponge rather than hosing them down. Anybody who has a pipe connected to a personal water source or rainwater instead of through the mains is also exempt from the ban.

I expect the ban to remain in place from now to throughout the summer, unless we somehow get massive amounts of rain all over the country during the next two months. I am not familiar with how long these normally last, but I do not anticipate it being lifted until fall or winter.

The part of this I find hilarious is that for the last couple of days, including today, we have had rain! Unfortunately, as said just above it will not end the hosepipe ban before it even starts, but I do appreciate the irony in it raining when the ban is about to take effect.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Eating cooking chocolate

I am fond of the bars of cooking chocolate that you can get over here. While they are, by their name, intended for cooking, I find myself resisting the temptation to eat a bar when using one. Here is a picture of the one I melted this afternoon for a cake:

It looks delicious, and I can assure you that it tastes as good as it appears (the flavours I have seen so far are milk and dark). In a way I prefer these bars of cooking chocolate to the bars of chocolate that are eaten normally: they have a nicer sweetness and seem like a smoother chocolate to me; however, regardless of the types of chocolate that are available, I do not think it would be very healthy to frequently consume any of them!

Monday, 2 April 2012

More of the magnolia

Here is another picture of the magnolia tree in our backyard...its blossom is impressive:

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Another one of my jokes (14)

I think a joke is appropriate for today, considering the occasion. This was written for Christmas 2009:

"What do you call a canine Sith? Arf Vader."

A Star Wars joke: the "Sith" part may not be obvious to those who have not watched the series, but I think most people know who "Darth Vader" is.