Friday, 30 November 2012

Birthday dinner 2012

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

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

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

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The year-old chocolate

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

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

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

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

"Pictures of You" - The Last Goodnight

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

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

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Harleston Clock Tower

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

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

Monday, 26 November 2012

Two silly "Mega Quiz" questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Republican presidents brain teaser answer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Republican presidents brain teaser

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

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

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

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

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

Herbert Hoover/Charles Curtis - 1929-1933

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

Friday, 23 November 2012

"Castles in the Sky" - Ian Van Dahl

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

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

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Politics and friendship

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Vandalism of history

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

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

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

Monday, 19 November 2012

Phone battery replaceability

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 18 November 2012

"Warm This Winter" - Gabriella Cilmi

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

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

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

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Interesting facts about the United States presidential election, 1976

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 16 November 2012

Bus surprise

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Another one of my jokes (16)

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

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

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

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Ideas after a rush

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

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

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

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

"Everything at Once" - Lenka

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

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

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

Monday, 12 November 2012

Final three East of England pictures

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Norwich images from 2nd November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Norwich images from 30th October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 9 November 2012

Southwold images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The first day in Suffolk

On my initial day in Suffolk, one of the first places I visited was a town called Bungay. I walked with my aunt, uncle, and immediate family members around Bungay and took a few pictures before we returned to my relatives' house. The first day in Suffolk wasn't particularly busy for any of us - other than making the trip there - so I thought it was good to walk around one of the local towns.

All images from the visit were taken with my phone:

This structure here is the Bungay Buttercross. Located near the town centre, the Buttercross was built in 1689, the year after most of Bungay was destroyed in a fire.

I was fortunate to capture this shot of the rain pouring from the clouds in the distance. See that area of darkened sky beneath the clouds? That's rain.

A cenotaph outside the St Edmund's Catholic Church. It commemorates British soldiers from Bungay killed in World War I (the cenotaph itself refers to it as the "Great War").

I was most impressed with this structure. It used to be a windmill but I was informed that it was converted into someone's home. Imagine living in an ex-windmill!

Bungay is a lovely little town and is a very pleasant place to walk around. I look forward to visiting there again.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

On the results of the United States presidential election, 2012

At long last, the United States presidential election of 2012 is over. I stayed up all night to watch the results come in, and although it was quite a nail-biter at first, President Barack Obama pulled ahead in the electoral vote when the Pacific states, Iowa and Ohio were all called for him. As I have been strongly in favor of his re-election since before his 2008 win, I am delighted at his victory.

Mr. Obama won all of his 2008 states with the exceptions of Indiana and North Carolina - the latter which he lost narrowly - and as of this writing Florida, which hasn't been called yet but he is leading there. Nate Silver, the statistician who correctly predicted the outcome of 49 of 50 states in 2008 will have a 100% success rate on the presidential level this year if Florida ends the vote counting with a win for Mr. Obama.

I watched Mitt Romney's concession. I am far from a fan of his but I give credit where it is due: I thought that the speech Mr. Romney gave was decent, polite, and gave a call for national unity and support for the president. He sounded fairly cheerful and even looked as though he wanted to be there. I can only commend him for his graciousness.

Beyond the presidential election, the Democrats have both maintained and increased their majority in the Senate, while the Republicans have kept their majority in the House with minor losses; I had hoped that the Democrats would regain the House, but that was definitely a long shot in this election. Maine, Maryland and Washington have all approved gay marriage in referendums held in those states, and Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality there. Colorado and Washington have both voted to allow the use of medical marijuana.

The other interesting referendums of the night were the two held in Puerto Rico. One referendum asked voters in they wanted to change its territorial status or maintain the status quo, and the other one asked if they wanted statehood, free association or independence. Puerto Ricans appear to have voted for change in the former and statehood in the latter. Should Puerto Rico's request be approved by Congress and signed by Mr. Obama, it will become the first new state since Hawaii was admitted to the Union in 1959.

A ridiculous amount of money was spent on this campaign: over two billion dollars was spent on the presidential race alone. Hundreds of millions more was spent on Congressional races, with some Super-PACs having spent tens of millions of dollars just to defeat one person - Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) were swamped with massive amounts of money against them but they held onto their seats. I would like to see the end of the Super-PACs and other excessive wasting of money before the next elections; too much was being spent on elections before Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was ruled upon, and now political spending is out of control.

I am mostly satisfied with the results of the election. I'm also glad that the whole campaign is finally over, and hopefully people will make the attempt to mend any fences broken by extreme partisanship. Sour moods, grudges and a refusal to work together will achieve nothing but more bitterness and political fighting.

Now that the election is finished and I've said my piece, I'm looking forward to writing some more posts about my recent visit to Suffolk and showing some of the pictures I took while there...something that we can all enjoy regardless of our political persuasions!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


I am patiently waiting for the results of the election. Besides the obvious presidential race, I'm also interested in multiple Senate, House and gubernatorial races, as well as the referendum in Puerto Rico. I will be staying up late to see what happens.

Monday, 5 November 2012

On my support for President Barack Obama

For today's post I am taking a break from writing about my recent visit with family to cover something I haven't gone into a lot of detail about before: some insight into why I support Barack Obama for re-election as President of the United States. Tens of millions of people will be voting tomorrow and tens of millions more have participated in early voting: it seems fitting for me to write this today.

My support for Mr. Obama in 2012 dates back prior to his initial election in 2008. After eight years of George W. Bush in office (whom I supported in 2000 when I was nearly ten years old, but not in 2004) I was eager for a change in the White House. Before the primaries began I thought that former North Carolina Senator John Edwards would have a shot at winning that time, and I even thought that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney wasn't that terrible despite me not supporting his party; however, Mr. Edwards crumbled in the primaries, and I disliked the infamous incident with Mr. Romney's dog Seamus.

When Mr. Obama scored early primary victories I decided to learn more about him, and before long I supported him for president; besides Mr. Edwards I did not trust, like or know much about the rest of the candidates on either side, and so Mr. Obama was my clear choice. Pleased with the prospect of a black president, tired of the wars the United States was involved in, and being disillusioned with and distrusting of the Republican Party, I thought that Mr. Obama should serve two terms.

Now that we are less than 24 hours from election day 2012, my opinions have not changed: I support Mr. Obama, and I trust the Republican Party even less than before. I will admit that there are issues on which I do disagree with Mr. Obama, but I've come to conclude that he is the preferable choice over the current Republican nominee, the aforementioned Mr. Romney.

Among the reasons for my endorsement are as follows:

1. Foreign policy
I mentioned before about being tired of the wars the United States has been involved in. I congratulate Mr. Obama for ending the war in Iraq and for winding down the war in Afghanistan, albeit I wish the latter was being wound down more rapidly. I am pleased that he has not launched a military strike against Iran, and that he thinks patience is necessary in giving diplomacy and sanctions the chance the resolve the situation, rather than resorting to recklessly bombing or invading. The United States should not get itself involved in more costly, lengthy wars - for both moral and financial reasons - and Mr. Obama looks to be keeping in line with that view.

The "reset" with Russia and the signing of New START, despite the re-election of Vladimir Putin, are still good decisions in the interests of international peace and co-operation; Mr. Romney's statement that Russia is the United States' "number-one geopolitical foe" reveals both poor judgment and him being trapped in the mindset of a long-gone era when the two nations were rivals.

I do, however, disagree with Mr. Obama's expanding of wars in other places, such as Pakistan, even with the use of drones, which seem to cut down on the amount of casualties. I am also slightly worried that he could still go ahead with military action against Iran, but both he and Vice President Joe Biden have been adamant that they do not want this scenario to ever become a reality, and there is a growing chorus of people around the world who oppose an attack on Iran, believing that it would be a disaster. Mr. Romney's "similar" position to Mr. Obama's in the final presidential debate would be more believable if not for his flip-flopping on various issues and the selection of several neo-conservative warmongers to his foreign policy advisory team.

2. Social issues
Mr. Obama has strongly defended women's rights throughout his first term. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was the first piece of legislation he signed into law, and he considers it necessary for women to have access to contraceptives and safe abortions. He wants his daughters to grow up in a fair world for everyone, and one where they have control over their own bodies; he is not a woman, and doesn't consider it his place to restrict what women can do and achieve.

As for Mr. Romney, he has advocated protecting women's rights in the past, but over the course of the past year or more he has changed his position on the issue, although at the end of the day I do not think what his current opinion on the subject will matter. After the Republicans took control of the House and several governorships and state legislatures in the 2010 midterm elections they passed numerous pieces of anti-women legislation; the bills passed in the House were blocked by the Democratic-controlled Senate, but in some individual states little has been able to stop the Republicans there, with places such as Wisconsin repealing a piece of equal pay law. If Mr. Romney were to win, and the Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress, I don't think it's a stretch to say that he would sign legislation aimed at curtailing the rights of women. Comments from some Republicans running for Congress, such as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, do not instill any confidence that Mr. Romney would merely be a net-neutral on women's rights.

On the subject on LGBT rights, I think it's great that Mr. Obama is the first sitting president to openly support gay marriage. At best, I think that Mr. Romney would do nothing either way for gays and lesbians, but his and the Republican Party's outspoken opposition to their cause over the course of the campaign leads me to believe that he would be a net-negative for them. At some stage I will have to write a post about my opinions on marriage equality.

I support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for a variety of reasons, such as it forbidding health insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charging higher rates for women. There is also a clause in the bill that will come into effect allowing states to opt-out, provided they implement a better system in its place; I think that this will give states that want universal health coverage for their populations the chance to enact that type of care.

3. The economy
The recent jobs report revealed that unemployment had increased slightly to 7.9% in October, primarily due to a rise in people entering/returning to the workforce, and that the economy had added an extra 171,000 jobs. Before then another report had stated that the economy had grown by 2% in the third quarter. While 7.9% unemployment is still high, considering what Mr. Obama inherited from the previous administration the economy has done well and has been recovering gradually; the United States is in a far stronger position economically than most if not all of Europe, where a lot of countries have meager or non-existent growth, and in some cases are in recessions.

Granted, there is more work to be done to help the unemployed, but with Congress having given minimal help since the midterms the economy is in better health than it could be. As for underemployment, while it is an important issue to address I have not yet read anything to suggest that this was a significant factor in previous presidential elections, and I do not believe that Mr. Obama should be singled out for something hardly discussed in the past.

While I support the PPACA, I will admit that Mr. Obama should have focused more on the economy beyond the stimulus before the midterms. If he had done so the Democratic losses in 2010 would have been far fewer, and there would be little talk of him not being re-elected.

4. Uncompromising opposition
The Republicans have been opposed to nearly everything Mr. Obama has done, tried to do and still wants to achieve. I believe that if he loses this election, it will signal that all the opposition needs to do in the future is sabotage the current president to win next time. There would be no incentive to work with anyone from the other side if obstruction and disruption are key to victory.

5. Racism and disrespect
It is ridiculous to think that racism does not have a part in this election. A significant amount of Mr. Romney's supporters are only voting for him because they do not want a non-white person in the White House. This is not to say that all people voting for Mr. Romney or against Mr. Obama are racist. I know at least one person voting for former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and another person who is thinking about writing someone else in: they voting against both main candidates, and I know for a fact that neither of them are racists and would be horrified to be given the label.

Still, I think that a defeat for Mr. Obama would be both a victory for racists and a demoralizing factor for minority communities, in particular among African-Americans. I would not be surprised to see an increase in discrimination against minorities by those emboldened by the defeat of a non-white president.

I wrote about the amount of disrespect and vitriol that the president has received prior to and since his election. While elections should not be about "wiping the smile off someone's face", I would be delighted to see all the people who are only against Mr. Obama because they are racist fail in their goal of making him a one-term president. Similar to point four, if he does not win then being insulting and disrespectful to the president and people with different political opinions will become the norm.

Final thoughts
Again, there are issues on which I disagree with Mr. Obama, but he has been my choice for president in this election before the last one concluded. As I have only covered some of the reasons for why I support him and have not expanded much on where I don't agree I am happy to provide further explanation upon request.

One might say to me "you can't vote in the election, so your opinion is irrelevant. Go away/keep out of it.", but as I have made fairly clear several times on my blog I used to live in the United States, and did so for over 14 years. I was there under three different presidents, and during four presidential and three midterm elections. I may not be living in the United States now, but its politics interest me and should concern everyone given the nation's influence on the rest of the world; I should also note that I wasn't able to vote in the 2008 election, which took place while I lived there.

Yes, I have been a spectator in all presidential elections that I have followed, and this one is no different. Besides talk to a few people and write this piece, I can do nothing more than wait for the result.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Back at home again

I'm now back at home in Northamptonshire after a wonderful and surprisingly extended visit with relatives in Suffolk and then in Nottingham. It has been a busy nine days and it does feel strange to be back at home again, but this feeling will subside fairly quickly.

There was a surprise waiting for me at home: a couple of weeks ago I bought Jordan Hill's debut album on Amazon, and the delivery would take between 8-14 days. I was delighted to discover that her album had arrived when I was away.

In the meantime, I have over 250 pictures that I took during the trip to rename. I'm also looking forward to writing some longer posts than the ones I've been typing up recently!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Brief Nottingham stay

We arrived in Nottingham last night after a 2 1/2-hour nighttime trip, and are now currently having a short stay with my grandparents. My aunt and uncle from Suffolk will be returning to their home tomorrow.

As for today's activities, I've spent a good portion of it with four of my cousins; we went over to my Nottingham aunt and uncle's house, and then we went to one of the local cafés. It is also the last day of my (unexpectedly extended) visit with family: I definitely go home tomorrow.

Friday, 2 November 2012

In Norwich again

For my "new" last day in Suffolk my aunt and I went to Norwich again; my uncle still isn't back from his work so we had plenty of time to walk around the city for a second time. We rode the buses again, visited Norwich Cathedral and the market, and took plenty of pictures.

The only disconcerting part of today was when we were on our return bus. The bus turned onto a road and there was a loud bang from underneath, which was felt throughout the vehicle; the driver stopped the bus a couple of times to check if there was any damage, but there was either no damage or nothing he found concerning. The most likely explanation was that we hit a piece of concrete or a raised part of the side of the road.

I am all packed up and ready to go, although I won't be home until Sunday. I'll be staying at my grandparents' home in Nottingham for two nights.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Last day in Suffolk

Today is my last day in Suffolk. It's been quiet again: my aunt, a cousin and I watched a film in the morning, and my aunt and I visited a couple of small towns outside the town where they all live.

There was a change of plan; originally I was supposed to be leaving Suffolk tomorrow, but my aunt and uncle had planned to visit other family members. Depending on my uncle's work we should be leaving for Nottingham in a few hours time and will be staying there for the night. I'll be returning to Northamptonshire tomorrow.

*Update as of 20:26 01/11/2012: It seems I won't be going to Nottingham tonight: my uncle's work will have him busy for the rest of the evening and most of tomorrow. We'll likely be going tomorrow evening instead.