Sunday, 30 September 2012

Michael O'Hare

Two days ago, the actor Michael O'Hare died during a coma stemming from a heart attack. He was 60 years old at the time of his death.

O'Hare is notable to me because he starred in the lead role during the first season of my favorite childhood television show, Babylon 5, as Commander Jeffrey Sinclair. Sadly, the Babylon 5 cast has suffered a number of deaths in the past ten years, with Richard Biggs, Andreas Katsulas, and Jeff Conaway all having died; in addition, a main actor from the series' pilot, Johnny Sekka, died in 2006; and a prominent guess actor, Tim Choate, was killed in traffic accident in 2004.

Besides Babylon 5, O'Hare was a stage actor with experience on Broadway. His part in the play Shades of Brown earned him a nomination for an AUDELCO Award for Best Actor; the AUDELCOs celebrate African-American excellence in theater, and O'Hare was the first white actor to be nominated. His other on-screen credits include L.A. Law and Law & Order.

A short memorial video has been uploaded to YouTube. It contains a fitting line of his from Babylon 5 and has a farewell message at the end:

Michael O'Hare
 May 6 1952 - September 28 2012

Saturday, 29 September 2012

An apology

I am sorry for my recent neglect in commenting on my fellow bloggers' posts. For the past few weeks I've mainly only had time to write my own posts and respond to comments here, but I promise you that I haven't forgotten about your blogs at all! In my reading list there are some wonderful posts you've all written, and I intend to catch up on them very soon. I certainly appreciate my readership and the input you give, but a responsible blogger should always remember to reciprocate!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Cooking spaghetti

Cooking is a skill that both my brother and I need to improve upon. We can cook small foods such as oatmeal, baked beans, eggs, and have even made cakes, but more complicated meals are currently not something we can prepare. However, we are willing to learn. This afternoon we made the meat for spaghetti (Dad prepared the pasta, as that's something he likes doing):

Mum recently read an article about college students not being able to do simple tasks such as toasting bread. While my brother and I are certainly far, far more experienced than that, we do need to work on our cooking.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Peach-coloured rose

Here's another summer flower image that I'm surprised I never posted before (captured with my main camera):

It's of a peach-coloured rose that was in our front yard. The flower is no longer there, as this picture was taken at the end of July. Given the abundance of flowers in our two gardens I have no doubt that it'll be back next year!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The face of Lady Gaga

I discovered this video which someone had put together of how Lady Gaga's face has changed throughout the years. I've seen similar videos before, such as when a person has had their picture taken every day for twenty years; it's interesting to see it with something people are more familiar with like Gaga:

I recognize several of her "looks", but the two that stand out the most for me are her 2005 look when she was on the MTV program Boiling Points (00:25) and her late-2008 "Poker Face" look (00:42).

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Two definitions of "pet peeve"

A "pet peeve" is something that we personally find extremely annoying but other people often aren't bothered (as much) by. Normally a pet peeve involves something small such as fingernail biting, ear scratching, or lolspeak. As far as I've always known somebody can have multiple pet peeves, as "pet" in this instance means to me as "unique to a person"; for example, a pet peeve of mine is when someone is eating down my ear, and another pet peeve is when someone types "a men/women" when the grammar should be "a man/woman".

When reading a forum today I saw a person discuss one of their "biggest pet peeves", and they were corrected by other forum members saying that a "pet peeve" is a person's biggest peeve: to them it was redundant to say "biggest pet peeve". This contradicted my long-held understanding of "pet peeve", as I defined above; when I Googled the term the general consensus among the websites I viewed supported my interpretation, although a couple of other sites supported the other view.

Do you have pet peeves and a biggest pet peeve, or just peeves and a pet peeve? I can certainly understand the other interpretation and where the redundancy comes from, but I'm curious to hear more opinions given that I had never heard of or thought about it until today.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Charlotte Garside and Blisse Mellens

I read the following linked article this morning; it's about a five-year old girl from East Yorkshire - Charlotte Garside - who was born with an extremely rare form of primordial dwarfism:

It's a very emotional and touching piece. While there were a few comments from people being concerned about the Garside being "paraded about" I don't think that was the intention here - even it's the Daily Mail -, and given the rarity of the disorder she needs all the help she can get.

I also read about Blisse Mellens, a girl who goes into epileptic fits at sounds, particularly at those that are loud and/or sudden; her family has to live in near-total silence to ensure her safety:

It's just as emotional and as touching as the article about Charlotte Garside. Both girls do not deserve the conditions that will affect them for their entire lives, but I am glad to see that they both come from loving families who are doing their absolute best to give them the finest quality of life possible.

I hope a cure or some sort of treatment to lessen their difficulties will be found. We often don't think about extremely rare disorders, and as a result we end up forgetting the people who are affected by them.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Barbecued salmon

We have left the summer and have now entered the fall, but Dad has still been able to do a barbecue for the majority of the past few weekends. Just yesterday Dad barbecued some vegetable sticks, but the meat he barbecued was fish - salmon, to be exact.

I am ambivalent towards grilled salmon, but barbecued salmon is delicious - whether it is served hot or cold. The usual taste of fish mixed with the barbecue flavour is wonderful; we usually have salad with the salmon, and when it comes to the leftovers we often mix the fish in with white rice. There's nothing wrong with eating it on it's own, either!

I should have taken a picture of the salmon after it had been barbecued; given the sudden change in weather since yesterday I will be surprised if we have another barbecue this year! If you ever feel like having fish and a barbecue simultaneously, barbecue some salmon!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Ryan Cabrera

When listening to a shuffled list of music earlier I heard "Shine On", a single by Ryan Cabrera from his album You Stand Watching. During the track I thought about how long it had been since a Cabrera song had been a major hit on the radio; "Shine On" was moderately successful in the second half of 2005 into 2006, but "On the Way Down" and "True" in 2004 and late 2004/early 2005 respectively - both from Take It All Away - were far bigger songs of his.

It's a shame that Cabrera has mainly been off the radar since "Shine On"; his music since that single has so far not reached the level of success his 2004 music attained, and a look for him in Google's news search comes up with articles about people named Cabrera, but they are almost exclusively about other people with his last name. Cabrera seems to be active, as a view of his website reveals that he has plenty of tour dates scheduled for the next couple of months.

Hopefully he'll return to prominence one day; for now, here's "Shine On":

Friday, 21 September 2012

Photo book image

I wanted to include a picture of the photo book we made for my grandparents, but didn't want to post images that didn't comply with my privacy policy. Fortunately, before we gave the book to my grandparents I had taken a few pictures and took one of the back (barcode edited out):

Albelli was the company we used to develop the photo book; the people there did a fine job in building the book for us after we had chosen the images and layout for it. Given the high quality of their work, I definitely recommend Albelli.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The interface changes

Well, the new interface has kicked in for my Blogger account, and this time there's no return to the old one. As I mentioned before, it will be a minor challenge to learn the new interface - millions of other people already have - as well as both fun and interesting. I look forward to it!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Natural bunch of roses (2)

Here's another picture of the natural "bunch" of roses in our front garden:

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Back to a normal bed and mattress

Back in June of 2011 I wrote a short, positive review about inflatable beds/air mattresses. In the next couple of days I will be returning to a regular metal framed bed with a normal mattress.

I still stand by my opinion from back then that inflatable beds are very comfortable to sleep on. However, I also stand by what I said about the problem with the air chambers inside them popping. Unfortunately, my parents have had at least three inflatable beds pop since that post, and it became a huge pain (not to mention expensive) replacing their bed every three months. They ultimately made the decision to invest in a proper bed.

About a week ago, my brother's inflatable bed popped. Both his bed and mine had lasted well over a year to that point, making them the longest lasting air beds we've owned to date. While my bed is still okay, our beds are being replaced by normal beds, rather than with another inflatable one each; it may have been over a year since we received new beds, but no one should have to replace a bed every few months or every year.

If you get the chance to sleep on an air bed I strongly recommend it: they are truly lovely to sleep on, but given their susceptibility to popping they aren't good for sleeping on in the long term.

Monday, 17 September 2012

"Jump to the Beat" - Stacy Lattisaw

Perhaps the best thing about listening to Heart Cambridgeshire/Northamptonshire is hearing hits from the 1970s and 1980s. Prior to listening to Heart I wasn't very familiar with disco, but it's a genre I've come to appreciate more; one of my favourite disco tracks is "Jump to the Beat" by Stacy Lattisaw:

The sole sad part is when I research songs that I really like, only to find out that the performer was a one-hit wonder during their career or their career ended long ago. In Lattisaw's case, she had one other song that excelled on the charts, but she does not appear to have released any more music since 1990.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Riding a bike

Dad has spent a few days over the past couple of months giving his bike a large amount of much-needed maintenance. He bought the bike twenty years ago, rode it for work before we moved to the United States and then used it for exercise when we lived in California; when we lived in Oregon he only rode it twice (at most), as the terrain was unsuitable for his bike.

Just before we moved back to the United Kingdom the bike was accidentally left out in the rain, and the water rusted a number of its parts. Fortunately, Dad's recent overhaul replaced any of the affected areas, and the bike's overall frame had little to no damage.

This afternoon Dad rode his bike for the first time in over nine years, and he had little trouble in re-acquainting himself with the controls and balance. He travelled up and down our street a few times before coming back; other than the brakes sticking somewhat Dad said that it was as though the bike was new. He proved that the saying is true: when you learn how to ride a bike you never lose the skill.

Dad riding his bike today made me think how long it's been since I last rode one - over ten years ago. Riding a bike is an excellent source of exercise, but I am already fairly active in that I walk a lot. I definitely think I will ride a bike again, but for now I'm content seeing how happy Dad is with his!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Barbecued breaded vegetable sticks

Mum recently purchased some breaded vegetable sticks, which look like fish fingers but contain carrots, peas, and other vegetables. Dad was doing a barbecue this afternoon, and as there was still some heat left when he had finished cooking the meat he wanted something else; as an experiment, Mum gave him the sticks:

They tasted great! Now to barbecue some actual fish sticks.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Android version names

I've recently been researching Android, as it's something I've heard about for a long time but wasn't exactly sure what it was; I now know it's a phone operating system developed by Google. The most fascinating aspect of the software was the name of each major version release, as each one is named after a dessert:

Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, and Jelly Bean are the current names of each version of Android. I think they're very imaginative...and tasty! During our last year in the United States I heard radio adverts for phones highlighting "Android Cupcake" and "Android Donut", but not having my own phone I never thought to look the terms up (my current phone is a feature phone, and uses a basic touchscreen proprietary software developed by Samsung).

I'm now looking forward to one day hearing names such as "Android Marzipan" or "Android Strawberry Trifle", and I'm certainly interested in what dessert will be used for "Z".

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Other media

I am available on a few other websites, and if anyone is interested I am happy to connect in other places with people I know here (I've already done this with some of you). One place is Twitter - although I admit I'm not very active there - and I also have Skype; either e-mail me or leave a comment if connecting with me elsewhere is something that would interest you. It's okay if it doesn't, but I'm happy to leave the option open!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Two Rushcliffe Civic Centre pictures

I took a few pictures of the Rushcliffe Civic Centre when we were in Nottingham last Saturday; here are two:

Both are phone images. I mentioned the building in a post about 2011's Nottingham trip.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

On trolling in 9/11 remembrance articles

It has been eleven years since 9/11 took place; it's not as significant an anniversary as the tenth, but it still signifies how long it's been since that tragic day occurred. Various memorials are being held in the United States and around the world the commemorate those who died in the attacks.

It angers me when I read trolling comments on articles to do with remembering those who died...and by "trolling" I am referring to posting conspiracies theories and utter nonsense that some people seem to believe about the day. Merely thinking that it wasn't aircraft that destroyed the World Trade Center towers or damaged the Pentagon is one thing, but going on about it on something commemorating the dead is outright disrespectful to the victims. If someone, for whatever reason, is a skeptic they should share their opinions in a place better suited to discussing conspiracies and alternate views about the attacks, rather than perform the Internet equivalent of vandalizing graves.

In regards to my opinion on the conspiracies when they're not being discussed at a memorial, I completely accept the official account of what happened on 9/11. I find all the conspiracies that I know of to be unconvincing and in some cases utter nonsense.

As for 9/11, it is hard to believe that it has been eleven years since that day. I may not have been in the vicinity of the attacks, but the memory of the day is still clear in my mind.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Golden wedding anniversary

It was a delight to celebrate my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary last Saturday; we travelled up to Nottingham in the afternoon to spend a few hours with them before the party and to give our gift to them early. They adored the photo album we assembled for them, to the point where they wanted to bring it to the celebration to show other guests.

Nearly forty people attended the event. Besides obvious people such as my grandparents, parents, brother, and me, others in attendance included my aunt/uncle/cousins from Nottingham, aunt/uncle/cousins from the East of England, Nottingham uncle's brother, my grandparents' nearest neighbours, and several other friends and relatives of my grandparents. At least three-quarters of the people invited to the party came, and one person who was accidentally not invited had the good sense to make it. Some of the people I hadn't seen for a couple of years, but there were others whom I hadn't had any contact with for close to twenty years, and a few I hadn't met at all.

The celebration took place at a fancy Chinese restaurant, with an entire room - which contained four large tables - booked for our group. After people started filling into the room I chose a table and waited to see who would sit with me - there weren't any pre-determined seats, so people could sit where they desired, although my grandparents' and their children sat at the "head table". We did not have to order any food, as my Nottingham aunt had been the primary organiser of the event and had chosen a set menu.

The speeches went very well: Dad was the first to speak - given that he is my grandparents' oldest child - followed by my uncle from the East of England and my aunt from Nottingham (my other uncle is in Hong Kong). Six of the eight grandchildren spoke next (my eldest cousin is also in China, and my other older cousin was briefly away during the speeches), with me going last: the content in my speech made it worthwhile me being the final speaker, and other than a couple of flubs when reading out my script I had no problems in giving a speech in front of nearly forty people. I received one of the largest rounds of applause, so I can safely assume that my speech was well-received!

I have plenty of pictures of the event - as do several other people - and there was more activity there than what I've written about, but in keeping with my personal privacy policy I cannot share any more here. All I can say is that it was great to celebrate my grandparents 50th, and everyone - especially my grandparents - had an amazing time.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Quick note

I don't have any time today for a long post on what happened yesterday, and to be honest I am still quite tired and will soon be going to bed. I will mention, however, that my speech did go well: I'll blog about it all tomorrow.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Giving a speech

I will be giving my speech later today; it isn't very long, but as it will be my first-ever delivery and it'll be in front of family (from what I've heard, tonight I'll be seeing multiple members of family whom I haven't seen in over fifteen years!) I am somewhat nervous. Still, I'm optimistic everything will go well...and I'm not the only one giving a speech!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Gabrielle Giffords at the 2012 Democratic National Convention

I have taken the time to watch a few of the major speeches that have taken place at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina over the past few days. I have been impressed with speeches from Lilly Ledbetter, Sandra Fluke, First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Governor of Florida Charlie Crist, Senator Harry Reid, Vice President Joe Biden, and President Barack Obama himself; all of them gave enthusiastic, resolute and inspiring speeches, and it was amazing to watch and listen to both the speakers and their audiences.

The person I was most delighted to see attend the convention was Gabrielle Giffords; she lead the Pledge of Allegience with Florida respresentative and Chair of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schulz:

I felt proud and pleased for Giffords at how well she has improved since the attempt on her life, and it was a beautiful moment for her to be up there on the stage, but at the same time I did have some lingering anger towards her shooter as I watched her have some trouble walking and reciting the Pledge (although she was able to pull off both). As I have written before, Giffords' recovery has been remarkable; it's great she was well enough for an appearance at the DNC this year, and she will remain one of my favorite figures in the political world for a long time.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Bus prices

My brother went out on a bus trip today to both try out our local public transport system and to visit a neighbouring town. He discovered that the price for an adult single ticket is £4.50, and if you don't ask for a return ticket it's another £4.50 back. This compares to £1.70 in Nottingham for the same type of ticket.

He wasn't surprised, though; when we were in Nottingham a month ago one of our cousins from the East of England explained that a bus ticket in her area cost around £6.50. Even so, we are in a more populous region than my cousin and her family, so I assumed that our bus fares would be higher than Nottingham's, but significantly lower than those of the town in the east.

It does put somewhat of a dent in our plans to use the bus more, unfortunately. We were going to start taking some bus rides, but the price is too high to travel on them frequently; we will still take the occasional trip...bus rides are fun!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Morning glory

My brother took this fine shot of a what appears to be a morning glory:

His camera is fantastic at taking close-up images of flowers! I'm glad he allows me to use a few of his images here provided I credit him.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The new interface

For the past few months I have been using the old Blogger interface rather than the updated one, but now my dashboard is telling me that it will be removed in the coming days. A shame, because I like the old interface for how easy it is to navigate and use. Still, I accept the retirement of the old look, and think that it will be both fun and a minor challenge to finally learn how the new interface works.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Natural bunch of roses

We have a natural "bunch" of red roses growing in our front garden:

They are the loveliest-smelling roses my nose has ever encountered: their combined odour is strong enough for you to hold your face at least a foot away from yet still smell them. They are delightful...I wish I could share their scent!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Gray wolves in Wyoming

I'm disappointed that gray wolves have lost their protected status in Wyoming. Granted, there are 109 breeding pairs in the Northern Rockies (27 in Wyoming), and Wyoming is required to ensure that it maintains at least 150 gray wolves and fifteen breeding pairs, but I think the current numbers are still too low to justify taking them off the endangered species list. I share the concern that this move will lead to wolves being killed, and in a few years they will have to be put on the list again.

I've never really understood the fear of wolves. Harassing livestock is the most cited reason for killing them, but I don't see how wolves are any more threatening to livestock than coyotes or mountain lions: in Southern Oregon ranchers always took steps to ensure that cougars and coyotes could not harm their animals, but these "steps" normally involved a decent fence around their properties or keeping llamas, not a culling of anything that could potentially kill the livestock.

There are 1,100 other gray wolves in Montana and Idaho, and Oregon and Washington are also home to them, but other states shouldn't have to pick up the slack for one. I hope these four states don't do anything that could harm their wolf populations, as that would further hurt the conservation work.

Wolves are wonderful animals; it is a shame there are many misconceptions about them. It's been awhile since I last read it, but I recommend Wolves at Our Door : The Extraordinary Story of the Couple Who Lived with Wolves; based on the recent decision in Wyoming, it's something I need to read again.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

My videos, and a thank you

I was recently looking at the viewing statistics for my YouTube channel, Askytrill; thank you to everyone - both followers of my blog and people who surf the Internet in general - who has taken the time to watch the videos that I have uploaded. While I am certainly grateful to people who read this blog, it also means a lot when people look at other content of mine. Thank you.