Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The end of 2013

At last, we're at the end of 2013. I hope that everyone has had a pleasant year; I know that it's been difficult for some of my friends, who are now looking at 2014 with enthusiasm. I, too, am looking forward to New Year, as I have some plans to follow through with, which would be highly beneficial to me if they succeed.

Today could have been a nicer day for me, though; I haven't been well since breakfast, I feel cold even though it's warm and I had to have a lie down this afternoon so I can be awake at midnight. Hopefully, I'll be better at New Year.

See you in 2014!

Monday, 30 December 2013

"Dreamer" - Livin' Joy

For my last music post of 2013, I'd like to present "Dreamer" by Livin' Joy, with vocals from Janice Robinson:

"Dreamer" was released in 1993 and comes from the album Don't Stop Movin'. Livin' Joy were an Italian band and were present in the 1990s, but broke up in 1999; their other major hit was called "Don't Stop Movin'". I came across "Dreamer" from listening to Heart radio.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Gift from Beyoncé Knowles

I found this a few days ago; Beyoncé Knowles went into a store to do some of her Christmas shopping and paid for the first $50 of everyone else's shopping:

A cynic would say that it was a publicity stunt but I prefer to think that Knowles genuinely wanted to contribute a little towards paying those people's shopping bills. It was the holiday season, after all, so why assume bad faith? Regardless of the motive, all those people benefited from her generosity.

As an aside, I think it's great what she did with her new album, when she surprised everyone by announcing its release without any promotion or prior announcement whatsoever. I wonder how many other musical artists will try to copy her.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Winter barbecue

Dad pulled off a winter barbecue this afternoon. He had decided to do one more barbecue this year, with today being the perfect day to do it; the sun shone all day and there was no threat of rain. Wonderful walking weather, too.

Why did he want to barbecue? Well, he wanted some barbecued meat and likes to barbecue. What did he barbecue? Chicken, sausages and salmon. Those meats, combined with the remaining Christmas turkey, mean that we have leftovers for the next week! Not that leftovers are a problem, of course; leftovers often make the tastiest meals. They also come with the added benefit of helping you save money.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Nottingham Christmas visit 2013

Today went well. More of my relatives were present at my grandparents' house than I was expecting (four of my six cousins), so no complaints there. As usual, my grandparents provided plenty of conversation and good food - just the best. Lots of chocolate!

My brother went on a long walk and I helped my grandfather, who loves gadgets and technology, install some more games on his smartphone; he likes short and simple games for his phone, and it's nice for him to have a selection rather than one or two. I later had some discussions with my cousins. In all, we had a good time; well, I did, anyway.

Not surprisingly, everyone is tired. It probably won't be long before we go to bed.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas and after

My family had a fairly pleasant Christmas. Like last year and the year before, it wasn't particularly exciting but we had a relaxing time. I received a few gifts, including a calendar, some CDs, chocolate and soap. As for today, I went for a walk during the morning, hiking five miles to a neighbouring town. Longest walk I've had in ages!

Tomorrow, we'll be spending the day in Nottingham. We'll be going to see family, of course, although I'm not sure who else will be there besides my grandparents.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

"Underneath the Tree" - Kelly Clarkson

The fifth and final Christmas song for my blog this December. This is "Underneath the Tree" by Kelly Clarkson.

This song has been played on the radio almost every day this month and has been compared to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" as a new Christmas classic. Clarkson is one of my favorite singers; I would be delighted if "Underneath the Tree", along with Leona Lewis' "One More Sleep", are played during every Christmas season from now on.

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope that you've all been having an amazing day!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve 2014

The presents are wrapped and all the cooking (besides tomorrow's main meal) is complete. With both these and all other Christmas Eve tasks done, I can relax for the rest of the evening before I go to bed.

I don't have a particularly substantial blog post for tonight, so I'll just say this: Enjoy the rest of your Christmas Eve.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Wrapping Day

Today is the 23rd of December, which is sometimes known as Christmas Eve Eve or the Eve of Christmas Eve. One radio presenter I heard earlier suggested it be called Wrapping Day, stating that most people do their Christmas wrapping on the 23rd.

This wouldn't apply to my family, as we wrap up presents on Christmas Eve. It also wouldn't apply to at least one of friends, who wrapped up her gifts for others several days ago. Still, I've often wondered if the 23rd of December should have some sort of recognition besides being The Day Before the Day Before Christmas or Two Days Until Christmas.

Do you have an alternative name for the 23rd of December and does it have any sort of significance for you, or is it something you haven't really thought about?

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Last batch of 2013's baking

My brother and I completed our third and final batch of Christmas 2013's baking:

Another flapjack; this one has mincemeat mixed in with the oats, unlike last year's mincemeat flapjack, which had the mincemeat used as filling. The flapjack wasn't particularly durable; it fell apart when I tried to cut it. We now have flapjack pieces rather than slices.

Brownies! The smaller batch of brownies, which was cooked in a round tin, also disintegrated when I cut it. Fortunately, the main batch was far more cohesive and didn't fall apart when I cut it and then extracted it from the baking tin.

We now have plenty of baked goods to eat. Despite the large amount, there is little risk of any serious weight gain; my family endeavours to partake in some form of exercise each day, usually walking. We'll be okay!

Finally, I would like to note that the reason I don't share the recipes for our baking is because the recipes are not mine and I do not have permission to share them.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Start of winter 2013/14

The next winter has begun, or maybe, is it really summer now and winter just ended? Back in Oregon, we had a friend who joked that the start of winter was actually the beginning of summer. Why did he think that? Because it's the shortest day of the year and the days get longer after that until the 21st of June, when the days start to decline in length. Did he also joke about that particular date being the start of winter? He certainly did!

It's felt like winter here for the past few days, anyway, so the official change of season is just a formality at this point.

On another note, it's now slightly over three days until Christmas!

Friday, 20 December 2013

"One More Sleep" - Leona Lewis

This song is big here in the United Kingdom at the moment. It's "One More Sleep" by Leona Lewis.

It's Lewis' first Christmas song, which comes from her first Christmas album, Christmas, with Love. "One More Sleep" is not a cover: it is an original song and was co-written by Lewis herself. With any luck, "One More Sleep" will be permanently added to Christmas tracklists in the same way that Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" was.

Lewis won the third season of The X Factor in 2006. Her single "Bleeding Love", taken from her debut album Spirit, was a hit in the United Kingdom and United States in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

More 2013 baking

My brother and I did our second batch of Christmas baking; these are mixed-fruit oatmeal cookies:

Don't worry, we'll be doing more than just oat-based desserts. We have one of my favourites coming up this Sunday!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Cold right now

It has been an incredibly cold day! At least, it has been to me, anyway. It's been the first time in ages that I've had to wear three layers of clothing to keep warm. Perhaps the worst part has been my cold hands. My hands are usually fairly cold but when the weather itself feels as though it's freezing...well, my hands become even colder and it can be tough to typ.

With the cold temperatures - combined with strong winds and heavy rain - today has definitely felt like a winter day rather than a misplaced fall day. Fortunately, my brother and I are doing something tomorrow that should warm me up: the next baking batch! I'm looking forward to it; I'll be sure to take some pictures of the baked goods.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

"The The Impotence of Proofreading"

A friend of mine linked me to this video; it's a clever poem about the importance of proofreading, which was done at the first Page Meets Stage pairing at the Bowery Poetry Club in November 2005:

It's not just college/university papers that people need to proofread more often, just look at Internet comments. They're full of terrible grammar, appalling spelling and incorrect word choices.

Then again, the amount of bad writers around creates jobs for proofreaders!

Monday, 16 December 2013

A graduation

I'd like to take the time to congratulate my friend and fellow blogger Jessica. Yesterday, after five and a half years she graduated from university, achieving a degree in English and minoring in Philosophy. Congratulations, Jessica!

Jessica is delighted by her achievement and I, as well as many of her other friends, am proud of her. It's awesome to see how happy she is; she has some big plans in mind and I hope she gets the chance to follow them through. She definitely deserves it.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" - Leighton Meester

Now this is a Christmas song that I was pleasantly surprised to learn exists; it's Leighton Meester's cover of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)":

I knew that Meester can sing, for I remember Cobra Starship featuring her in their 2009 hit "Good Girls Go Bad". Her other musical work includes her own single from 2009, called "Somebody to Love" - which featured Robin Thicke - a single from 2011, called "Your Love's a Drug", and an assortment of other songs. Meester's cover of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" comes from the album A Very Special Christmas 7.

Meester is also an actress, which is still her primary occupation. Her most notable role is Blair Waldorf, from the teen drama television series Gossip Girl.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Starting the baking

My brother and I began the Christmas baking; we made two apple and oatmeal cakes, plus these cherry and coconut oatmeal cookies:

For Christmas this year, we're doing two, possibly three, batches of baking and ensuring that there is a short period of time between each batch. Last year, we baked a load at once and had to eat it all quickly to ensure that none of it went mouldy. Instead, we can eat these at a slower rate rather than rush it.

Oh, and last year we ended up with a record amount of Christmas candy, too, so we had all of that after the baked goods!

More baking-related posts will be coming soon.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Camera with a hat

My "...with a hat" posts are more well-received than I thought they would be. Here is another:

I thought that it was time for my main camera to be featured (although its lens was seen in a Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party post). After all, it (along with my phone) is what I used to capture all the photgraphs I post here; why not let it have a turn, and alongside the hat?

Thursday, 12 December 2013

"Crazy" - Patsy Cline

Not all the songs I like are from the past ten to twenty years; I like "Crazy" by Patsy Cline:

"Crazy" was released in 1961 and is from Cline's album Patsy Cline Showcase. I briefly mentioned Cline in one of my earliest posts, which was about Heart Cambridge. One of the best parts of Heart has been to hear a few old songs, such as "Crazy", which is a lovely and gentle sixties track. It's saddening that Cline died in 1963 because of a plane crash; I wonder how her life and career would have developed if that crash hadn't occurred.

Without wanting to detract from the above, I wasn't going to do a music post today; rather, I had intended to post a picture. Unfortunately, there have been some changes to the Blogger/Google interface recently and I don't know where the link to my photographs is; I had to come up with something.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

An obsolete dating "rule"

While this is an exaggerated parody from CollegeHumor, I thought that it contained an interesting message:

I do not understand, given how easy it is for people to communicate with each other nowadays, why the "2-day rule" is still practised. Even when it comes to dating, I don't see the harm in sending a text after the date or replying to a text shortly after you have received it; it takes almost no time at all to reply to a text or even to send one in the first place. Setting an arbitrary limit on when to contact a potential romantic partner seems counter-productive. Both parties have the ability to rapidly reply to one another...why complicate the matter?

That being said, if someone is needlessly texting another person every hour of every day, that would be clingy and annoying. This, however, excludes a couple happily texting each other back and forth several times over the course of day; after all, by sticking to the 2-day rule, a text conversation isn't interesting or fun because the participants take ages to respond.

I'd really like to hear your thoughts on this. Although I can appreciate why it's preferable to not overtext someone (unless it's supposed to be a text conversation), I think that the 2-day rule and other arbitrary time limits when it comes to communication - especially texting a date - do not fit in today's world of quick communication.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

"Christmas Time Is Here" - Toni Braxton

For today's Christmas song, it's Toni Braxton's rendition of "Christmas Time Is Here":

"Christmas Time Is Here" comes from Braxton's Christmas album, Snowflakes, which was released in 2001. I chose this song because I heard it on the radio in the past couple of hours and I liked it. I was thinking about Toni Braxton this morning, so it's coincidental that I'd hear a Christmas song by her towards the end of the day! I've liked Braxton's voice ever since I first heard her sing and I'm happy to feature her here.

I'm unsure about the relevance Peanuts-related material in this particular video but it does not detract in any way from the song.

Monday, 9 December 2013

A profane - albeit censored - signature?

While this issue has existed ever since I began blogging, I'd like to address the matter of my comment signature here on Blogger, which looks like this:


It's meant to be "Andrew-L'autre" (L'autre being French for "the other"), but for some reason Blogger translates the apostrophe in L'autre into either ASCII or HTML code whenever I comment, displaying the above text. It recently occurred to me that my signature could be interpreted as censored profanity, which it is not.

This is an error on Blogger's side, but just in case it was an error with my computer's browser, I viewed my comments on my phone and saw it repeated there. That being said, please do let me know if you don't see the error.

As for why I use the handle "Andrew-L'autre", I explained this particular subject here. It's also to differentiate me from other Andrews on Blogger. At any rate, I'm definitely not swearing in a censored manner whenever I comment!

I'll also be updating my FAQ page to cover this.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The no-show excuse

On this radio this morning, I heard about some (successful) excuses that some people have used to skip a day of work. One of them involved a person getting the day wrong.

How did the person do this? Supposedly, they went outside on Monday morning to collect the paper. When they did, they found that it was the Sunday paper; as a result, they thought the rest of the day was Sunday based on the newspaper. By the time they realised the real day, it was too late. They contacted their boss, who, believe it or not, accepted their excuse; they did not lose any sick days and it did not cut into their vacation time.

The boss must either have been an idiot or thought that the person was being creative and rewarded them with a free day off. After a little bit of thinking, the excuse doesn't hold up. For starters, the person would have to have forgotten to pick up their Sunday paper the day before. That's not unreasonable by itself, but then they would have to have woken up extremely early on the Monday to have picked up only the Sunday paper, otherwise the Monday paper would have arrived and they would have realised the day. Finally, they somehow dodged both contact with other people (who would have told them the day) and looking at any sort of calendar throughout the day.

What do you think, does the excuse hold? Is the boss an idiot or do you think it's possible that they gave the person the day off because they wanted to acknowledge any creativity involved? Please do let me know!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The camera-shy spider

Dad and I spent the day in Nottingham at my grandparents' house. We were there to see them and to replace an outside light on their garage.

We needed a ladder to reach the light. While Dad was busy up the ladder and in between the moments when I was passing tools up to him, I watched a small spider dangle itself out of its home in one of the ladder's grooves. It did this for several minutes before I took my phone out and attempted to take a picture of it. That's when the spider disappeared back into its groove.

This happened a second time before the spider either gave up or wasn't even paying attention to what I was doing in the first place and had found something else interesting outside its groove (the latter is far more realistic). My pictures of the spider were worthless, however, as the spider appears as a small, blurry dot and isn't identifiable. Still, it's a little funny to think that the spider was merely camera-shy.

I should note that during the times when I was attempting to photograph the spider, Dad wasn't up the ladder!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Another beautiful sunrise

Yesterday morning, I photographed this magnificent sunrise:

This sunrise was extremely difficult to photograph because it was fairly dark outside and my camera had trouble focusing. Unfortunately, many of the images were blurry, but a few turned out okay, such as these two. From what I heard on the radio yesterday, I was not the only person to capture this amazing event.

We had an equally beautiful sunrise last December.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

"Santa Baby" - Sugababes

Last December, I posted a lesser-known Christmas song by a modern artist every five days, which I started on the fifth day of that December. I'm doing the same thing this year and I'm starting with this track:

It's "Santa Baby" by the Sugababes. I discovered it during either the previous Christmastime or the one before it. It was good to find a Sugababes version of a Christmas song because I'm a fan of them; they were an artist whom I was looking forward to hearing when my family and I were in the process of moving back to the United Kingdom.

I previously mentioned the Sugababes in this post. I wrote back then that the exact status of the band was unclear, with one of its members, Jade Ewen, saying that they were finished while another member, Amelle Berrabah, contradicted her. A few weeks after my post, Ewen stated that the band was over and that she, Berrabah and Heidi Range had all gone their separate ways. She was not contradicted.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

"United State of Pop 2013 (Living the Fantasy)" - DJ Earworm

Last night, I learnt that the annual "United State of Pop" by DJ Earworm has been released,

It's "United State of Pop 2013 (Living the Fantasy)", DJ Earworm's mashup of the highest-charting songs on Billboard's weekly Hot 100 charts in 2013. Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Avicii/Aloe Blacc, Swedish House Mafia and Rihanna are the most prominent artists in this year's edition; it is standard in DJ Earworm's annual chart mashups for a handful of artists to be central to the song while the other artists are fitted in around them. The result? An excellent, high-quality mashup.

I took a look at the YouTube comments for the song. Judging by all the likes, the vast majority of people are satisfied with it; however, there is a plethora of people complaining, too. Many of the critics claim that "United State of Pop 2013 (Living the Fantasy)" is worse than its predecessors, with little reason as to why, although I should note that there are always "worse than its predecessors"-style comments on DJ Earworm's songs.

Others thought that DJ Earworm "missed" loads of songs from 2013, but given that he bases his annual mashups on the biggest hits of the year according to Billboard, this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone; people should read the video description rather than give mindless criticism. About the only point I agreed with was that Katy Perry's "Roar" and Lady Gaga's "Applause", plus a couple of other songs, should have been given a little more prominence but besides that, I am happy with this year's release from DJ Earworm; I've been happy with his annual mashups ever since he began them back in 2007! The music should be appreciated for what it is.

I wrote about 2012's "United State of Pop" here.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Decorations 2013

It's that time of year again. Each day, another house in the neighbourhood puts up decorations. An assortment of snowmen, reindeer, Santas and festive lights has appeared in the past week. The neighbourhood decorating is still incomplete, though, for when I look out my window at night there are no decorations present. I expect this to change in the coming days.

As with last year, my family and I have not put up our decorations just yet. We'll most likely start that process next week. The vast majority of our decorations will be indoors but I think we will be putting up a couple of lights outside, too.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Bloggers Blog Party - November 2013

My November 2013 pictures for the Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party; I'm quite happy with this selection:

Friday, 1st November: My brother and mother made a zucchini and sultana cake. The zucchini didn't have much taste by itself, but it did enhance the other flavours present in the cake. I hope that another will be made.

Wednesday, 6th November: I wanted to enhance the flavour of my apple juice by adding a small amount of allspice. Instead, I put too much in and made it a mess. I drank the juice but left a load of allspice at the bottom, as it was too strong to consume. Unlike the aforementioned cake, I have no desire to have a repeat of this.

Friday, 15th November: Fall really kicked into gear and lived up to its name during the middle of November. The leaves came off the trees and coated the ground; I raked them up but more have fallen since.

Friday, 22nd November: My brother took this picture of a bull finch eating berries in our backyard. The bird paid no attention to my brother, given that it had found a tasty meal and was comfortable.

Friday, 29th November: A beautiful sunrise. I just had to make a capture of it. It was a delight looking out of the front window to see this spectacular view that morning.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A Christmas riddle

This morning, I heard the following riddle on the radio, on Heart:

"A sleigh full of Santas goes under a bridge and when it comes out the other side not a single Santa is on it. How can this be?"

The answer is between the dotted lines below; as to help prevent anyone from reading it before figuring the riddle out, I have whitened the text. Selecting the text with the mouse cursor will reveal the answer.
"Because all the Santas are married!"
The credit for this riddle goes (I think) to Stephen Mulhern and Emma Willis, as I heard it on their segment of today's schedule. There were several people who correctly guessed the answer and others who gave stupid responses. I thought the riddle was quite clever, even if perhaps slightly cringe-worthy!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Birthday 2013

My 23rd birthday took place this past month. It was quiet for the most part, given that it rained for a significant portion of the day; here are three pictures:

This is my cake, a homemade chocolate cake; my brother and I used our breadmaker to make the cake the day before my birthday. It looks delicious but in this state it wasn't yet ready to eat. The above picture was taken a few minutes before this happened:

The icing! The cake's icing was made from cream cheese mixed with powdered sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla and a bar of melted cooking chocolate. It is the best homemade icing that I've eaten to date. Honestly, it tasted amazing.

Do you remember Run Off? (Posts here and here.) My brother and I played a game of it; it had been months since we'd last played it and I wanted to have a go for my birthday. My brother won; his states are yellow and mine are purple. To say that this sort of electoral alignment is unlikely in an actual American election is an understatement! Coincidentally, the result here (272-266, my brother's victory) is the same as the one for the game mentioned in the second linked post at the start of this paragraph.

It was hardly an exciting birthday but I was happy with it. I don't have any complaints.

Note: the above image is not originally mine, but rather, is a modified version of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ElectoralCollege2012.svg. Licensing is listed on that page.

Friday, 29 November 2013

"Hung Up" - Madonna

This is "Hung Up" by Madonna:

"Hung Up" was the first single released from Madonna's tenth studio album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, which came out in 2005. "Hung Up" was also the first Madonna song that I ever liked and I received Confessions on a Dance Floor eight years ago today. It's definitely among my favorite albums; several of its tracks were played on the Open House Party on KIFS (107.5 Kiss FM), which I thought was great.

If you watch the video instead of just listen to the song, it might be considered mildly explicit by some but it's not offensive and certainly not worse than other videos out there. It mostly consists of people dancing.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

So what am I thankful for in 2013? Well, just like last year, I'm thankful for my immediate family and my relatives, for my friends, my good health and that I live in a good home. Not really much change there, as they're all reasonable things to be thankful for every year.

I am also thankful this year for a specific friend of mine. I can't go into too much detail as to not violate their privacy, but I am thankful that this person is still alive. They underwent a massively traumatic experience this year and were lucky to survive it. I've never met this person face-to-face, given their residence thousands of miles away from me, but we've been close friends online for well over two years; to say that I would have been extremely upset if anything had happened to them is an understatement. As such, I am thankful that they are still living and breathing on this Earth. I truly value our friendship.

I hope that you have all been enjoying time with your families and friends. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

"Reached the end" advert

This popped into my head today; I'm not sure what caused me to think of it:

It's a 2002 television commercial for DirecTV's DSL Internet; I remember seeing this advert during its run. The notion of somebody reaching the "end" of the Internet was funny back in 2002 but now, given the Internet's size and how widespread high-speed access is, it seems ridiculous!

Again, I'm really not sure why I thought of it. I was glad that it didn't take me long to find it. At any rate, it's a bit of humor.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Writing about belongings

I've written several posts about some of my belongings. It recently occurred to me that such posts could be seen as boasting or seeking some sort of validation. I'd like to give my assurances that this is not the case.

I only write about certain possessions of mine because, for the most part, they are objects I've owned for years and I wanted to share a little about my history. They are also merely something else to write about; the whole point of my blog is to write and share some of my experiences. My "[object] with a hat" posts, which do fall under the belongings category, are only done for a little bit of humour, nothing more.

While I doubt that anyone thought that I had any other reason(s) for writing about some of my belongings beyond what I stated above, I wanted to clarify anyway. If people seem to appreciate them, I'll keep posting!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Iran deal

Given that I've commented about Iran on a few occasions, it seems fair that I should comment on the interim deal. What do I think about it?

As I am sure it's obvious, I am pleased. Iran will significantly scale back its nuclear programme and allow more thorough inspections in exchange for some sanctions relief. Granted, this is only an interim deal and it will not end the dispute, but it will enormously contribute towards a peaceful resolution.

This is the first major deal between the West and Iran since 1979. I think it is a welcome change from threats (from both sides) and sanctions. I'd like this deal to be among first major barriers broken in the path towards normalising relations between Iran and the United States, and Iran's and its relations with other nations.

It is natural for people to be cautious about the deal, but I'd like to see effort put into ensuring it is successful in the coming months rather than concede now by assuming it's going to fail. The fact the deal even exists is evidence of how far the situation has positively progressed; all parties involved just need to be patient and follow it through.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The golf balls

A very long time ago, I used to collect golf balls:

Back when my family and I lived in California, there was a park that we walked to most Sundays. This park was popular with golfers, who would play their games but never pick up after themselves. My brother and I would pick up all the balls we found and bring them home; we amassed a golf ball collection while cleaning the park of what was technically "litter".

The two golf balls in the above picture are the only ones I have left; however, neither of them came from the park. I received them from a neighbor in Oregon. Other than them, I do not collect golf balls anymore; don't get me wrong, golf balls are neat, but I no longer have any need to collect them.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Smell of cooking food

This evening, the house was filled with the aroma of pizzas cooking in the oven. Cooking pizza has, in my opinion, a delicious smell to it; this odour will remain in the house hours after the pizzas themselves have been eaten. It'll be gone by the morning but I'll most likely still be able to sniff traces of the smell before I go to bed.

My opinion of the smell of pizza cooking, however, is a stark contrast to what I think about the smell of eggs boiling. I like boiled eggs but I dislike the odour that permeates the building while they are boiling; it is not at all appetising to me and I don't like that the smell lasts almost as long as that generated by pizza. I'm not really sure how to describe the smell...bland yet unpleasant?

These are only two examples; I'd provide more but none are coming to mind at this moment. What foods do you like or dislike the smell of while they cook?

Friday, 22 November 2013

"Graduation (Friends Forever)" - Vitamin C

I love this song:

It's "Graduation (Friends Forever)"; it's by Vitamin C and it's the third single from her self-titled debut album. The song was released in 2000 but the earliest I recall hearing it was either in 2005 or 2006 on the Open House Party.

Unfortunately, at present Vitamin C is almost a one-hit wonder. I say "almost" because the single "The Itch" from her second album, More, was successful in Australia, performed fairly well in New Zealand and peaked at #45 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. Still, I hope we'll see the return of Vitamin C one day; she shouldn't have to be confined to being a very early 2000s hit, even if her single has the distinction of being the theme song for graduating high school students across the globe.

The last time I heard "Graduation (Friends Forever)" on the radio was on the Open House Party during one of my family's final weeks in the United States. I was surprised to learn that I hadn't written about the song until now.

Thursday, 21 November 2013


I don't like the motion pads that are native to laptops, but they are sufficient when I don't have another mouse available. The type of mouse I use is a trackball; it looks similar to this:

I really like my trackball mouse; I've been using trackball mice for several years now. I prefer them to regular mice for two reasons: 1. It's easier to direct the cursor with the ball rather than by having to move the whole device; I've never liked regular mice because of that. 2. Since trackballs are larger than regular mice, they do not cause cramp in my hands.

The main problem with the trackballs is that they are more expensive than regular mice, which isn't surprising. In addition, sometimes dirt gets inside the area where the ball rests and blocks the ball's movement, but this can be rectified by removing the ball and gently removing any detritus. Besides these two issues, trackballs are excellent.

If you are looking for a new mouse and have a little bit of money to spare, I recommend a trackball (not just the one in the link above; there are different makers).

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The phone call (2)

Back in September, I expressed my feelings of delight that President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had spoken to each other over the telephone. It was the first direct conversation between an American president and an Iranian president since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Last night, I was pleased to read that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, recently spoke to Mr. Rouhani:

Mr. Cameron is the first British prime minister to call an Iranian president in over ten years. They agreed to improve relations between the two nations and they discussed Iran's nuclear programme. It might not seem like much but it's a huge improvement compared to threats and grandstanding.

By speaking to the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Rouhani has achieved more for improving Iran's international relations in three months than his predecessor did in eight years. I did not expect him to magically fix everything overnight but so far he has kept his campaign promise to mend ties with other nations and work with them.

I'd also like to add that Israel, which considers Iran to be its primary enemy, has expressed its concerns about any deal between Iran and the West; I think that Israel is very much welcome to have concerns but I also think that any deal that emerges stands to benefit Israel as much as it does Iran. After all, the average Israeli doesn't want war any more than the average Iranian, Briton or American does. It would be great if, once a deal finally does come to light, relations between those two countries can begin to heal. I think we'd all like that outcome.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The purple house

Would you live in this house or one like it?

I was told about this house in the past couple of days. Even though purple is my favourite colour, when the house was described to me I was expecting the interior to be a hideous and eye-hurting shade of purple rather than one that's remarkably soft on a person's vision. Well, it appears that way in the pictures to me, anyway. I quite like it.

If you could live in a house with the same or similar paintwork as the one above, either in purple or another colour, would you? Imagine that resale value isn't a concern, too (although the purple house might be okay in that respect).

Monday, 18 November 2013

Fan with a hat

Okay, yes, I know they're silly but...another hat post!

This is my bedroom fan wearing my Jubilee hat. The hat is not the only item that my fan is wearing: can you spot a left over Christmas decoration from last year?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

"Everybody in Love" - JLS

This is "Everybody in Love" by British band JLS:

This is the first song of theirs that I ever heard. It was released in the United States in early 2010 but I recall hearing it in late-2009 on the Open House Party. I really liked the song and looked forward to hearing more of JLS on the radio once we had moved to the United Kingdom.

Today, they released their final single, "Billion Lights". Back in April, JLS announced that they would split up once their last tour, The Greatest Hits Tour, has concluded. Still, there is always the possibility that this split will only be temporary and that they'll be back together again one day. We'll just have to see.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The replacement

When my computer was having its "issues" two weeks ago, another device went haywire at the time: Dad's phone.

One evening, his phone inexplicably failed on him. When Dad turned it on, it flashed its usual introduction screen; however, when it arrived at the lock screen the display went black, only showing the time. He attempted rebooting the phone and removing its battery but they had no effect. Some research into the problem suggested that he contact his provider for help.

Dad contacted his phone provider over a week ago; they asked him to send it to them to evaluate whether it needed repairing or replacing. He did just that and we did not hear anything more from them, which was to be expected. Then, just this morning, the mailman delivered a package. This packaged contained a replacement phone, as the previous one was irreparable.

Dad and I spent an hour this morning setting his new phone up with the same settings as the one he had before. They're both the same model, of course, so we didn't have to learn how to use a different phone.

I'm glad that Dad was able to replace his phone and receive the replacement in a timely manner. It's a shame that the old one had a defect that caused it to fail, inconveniencing Dad in the process; this new device should be okay.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Orange orb and droplets

This is a surprisingly well-shot picture of mine; at least in my opinion it is, anyway:

It's a zoomed view of one of my house's front windows, taken at night from the inside looking out. I took this image sometime during the past few weeks and forgot about it; I found it tonight and thought it would be worth posting. The raindrops on the window are quite clear, as is the outside trellis, but what I really like is the streetlamp off to the left. It almost looks like the sun!

What do you think? Opinions are welcome, as always!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Last Briton from the 19th century

Grace Jones, the last remaining Briton born in the 19th century, has died:

Jones died in hospital today, following a fall she sustained a few weeks ago. According to her local Member of Parliament, Simon Hughes, her body had been deteriorating but he said that her "memory and intellect were undimmed."

Jones worked as a seamstress, both during and after World War II, and remained in that profession until her retirement, which was around fifty years ago. She outlived all of her family and friends, and regarded her neighbours as her family.

There are very, very few people left from the 19th century, with the last of the World War I veterans having died in the past year. The oldest verified living person is Misao Okawa of Japan, who will be 116 next March.

To think that when I was born, the youngest of the 19th century people alive at that time were older than ninety. I'm honoured that some of those people are still around today.

Grace Adelaide Jones 
7 December 1899 – 14 November 2013

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Vandalism with traffic cones

I came across this article today, which highlighted a bizarre form of vandalism that I'd never heard of before: putting traffic cones on statues.

While I do not condone nor encourage this behaviour, I would prefer that vandals only "decorate" statues with traffic cones rather than destroy them; I hate it when people purposely damage statues. It's needlessly destructive and wastes other people's time and money to make repairs.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Height of the One World Trade Center

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, which is an international organization dealing with matters related to tall buildings, has officially declared One World Trade Center in New York City the tallest building in the United States. The height from the ground to the roof of the top floor is 1,368 feet but when including the spire, which the council has done, it brings it to 1,776 — the year the United States declared independence from Britain.

One World Trade Center surpassed the height of the Empire State Building in April 2012, topped out in August of that year and the last part of the spire was installed in May of this year. It takes the title of tallest building in the United States away from the Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago, which had held this record since its completion in 1973.

I am satisfied with this decision. One World Trade Center is a magnificent building and a worthy successor to the original World Trade Center; it's a shame that the loss of life couldn't be replaced just as easily. The city has come a long way since the events of September 11, 2001; it's great that it once again has a building with the title of the tallest in America.

Monday, 11 November 2013

"Don't Stop Believin'" - Journey

I think that most people are familiar with this song, but I'll post it anyway; it's "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey:

I love this track. It's one of those songs that can really help lift you out of a sour mood. I think that this is the 2009 version of the song; the track found at this link sounds different to the aforementioned version, which is what I'm most familiar with.

This song also holds special significance for me because it was one of the songs I listened to during my family's flight from the United States to the United Kingdom. The Open House Party on KIFS (107.5 FM) had also been playing the song in the weeks up to our flight.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Captain Janeway's comments on coffee

As a humorous follow-up to both my post about giving coffee to children and to some discussions I had with fellow coffee-drinkers, I'd like to link to this video I found of a couple of relevant Star Trek: Voyager clips:

Yes, Captain Janeway is fictional, but her reactions — and description of coffee — aren't exaggerated: I know a few people who "need" their morning coffee before they have to deal with the day's problems. They're quite grouchy and difficult to reason with unless they get their cup of Joe.

Of course, one should be mindful not to drink too much coffee; Captain Janeway has some words for that, as well:

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Jar with a hat

Time for another "hat" post.

It's the penny jar, wearing my Jubilee hat. While the penny jar is stored in my room, the coins it stores aren't mine; we use it to keep all the 1 pence and 2 pence coins that we collect. We've had various penny jars over the years.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Coffee and children

About a week ago, I listened to a segment on the radio about a father who took his son into a coffee shop. Naturally, the dad had a coffee; then, his child asked if he could have a coffee, too. This supposedly attracted stares and mutterings from many of the other customers and the dad was mortified, lost for words.

This attracted a debate on the radio station and its website about whether or not children should be allowed to have coffee. I was surprised by how many people stated that they would not give their children coffee; after all, I've been drinking coffee since before I became a teenager and never considered any parent(s) being opposed to letting their kids have coffee.

Coffee is not alcohol, so there are no legal ramifications to be concerned about. That being said, coffee does contain caffeine, which can cause hyperactivity in children, although on that note, any parent who objects to their children having coffee should also refuse them sodas and sugary drinks, given that they are far more unhealthful. If anyone is concerned about kids having coffee, perhaps teaching them to consume it in moderation is in order, as with any food or drink.

Finally, returning to the aforementioned incident in the first paragraph, if the dad was bothered about his son having coffee, he shouldn't have been in a coffee shop in the first place. In addition, as coffee isn't an age restricted drink, nobody had any business staring at the father and his son as though they were engaging in some sort of socially unacceptable behaviour.

What about you? How do you feel about children drinking coffee?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

"Spotlight" - Jennifer Hudson

This is "Spotlight" by Jennifer Hudson, taken from her self-titled debut album:

I love this song. It was popular in the United States and the United Kingdom in 2008 and part of 2009: Heart played the song a few nights ago. I was delighted to hear Hudson again; she has such a beautiful voice. I was pleased to read that her second album, which was released in 2011, peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 album chart in the United States.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Using my computer again

My computer was returned to me today and it's been running well. None of the problems that were affecting it over the past weekend are present anymore. Assuming it holds, I'll begin installing additional programs and copying my data back to it this weekend.

Unless it messes up again, this is the last post about my computer's recent troubles. I decided to use a different title this rather than merely change the bracketed number again! Back to regular posts tomorrow.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Computer issues (4)

All being well, I should be back in full control of my computer again tomorrow; it has been stable all day and my most relevant programs have all been re-installed (not the old antivirus). I'm pleased that the problem appears to have been caused by a piece of software, rather than from any hardware failing.

I'm sorry for the fourth post in a row about my laptop's problems; I haven't really though much about blogging over the past few days. I'm looking forward to using my own computer again!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Computer issues (3)

While I don't want to celebrate too early, my computer might be okay. The issues have appeared every time an installation of a certain piece of software: the antivirus scanner. I've had a different antivirus on my computer to the other computers in the house and every time this software has been installed the problems showed up immediately after.

Coincidence? What about when this problem began the other day? Well, it's possible that the software's most recent update caused it. Today, my brother install the antivirus that's on his computer and so far my laptop has been fine; the most stable it's been since the 1st, in fact. Still, we'll see how it goes after a few days; at any rate, I'd rather it be that a piece of software that caused the problem than my hard drive failing...it's better to have to re-install everything than buy new equipment!

In the meantime, I've been using Dad's laptop rather than my brother's. It's a faster device than my computer but I'd like mine to pull through.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Computer issues (2)

The problems with my computer persist; we're still not sure what its exact problem is, although the hard drive is still the leading contender, for a major scandisk found multiple bad sectors on it. Unfortunately, this did not fix the issues, nor did reformatting the entire system; we'll try again tomorrow.

I'm still writing from my brother's computer, so my access and time online are both limited, hence why I haven't approved any comments nor responded to any e-mails. I will catch up soon.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Computer issues

I've been offline for much of the day, as my computer has been having "issues". My brother, father and I currently think that its hard drive is failing; if this is the case, the hard drive is replaceable but it would mean that it would be a few days before I'm back on my computer again. I'm writing this from my brother's laptop and I can't spend too much time on it; I'm hoping I won't have to borrow his computer for too long.

I recently wrote about backing up files. This is one of those occasions when I'm glad I back my computer up!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Bloggers Blog Party - October 2013

My October 2013 pictures for the Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party; this post only has four images:

Thursday, 10th October: I found these coins hidden in the same place where I keep my Sacagawea dollar. The coin at the top is an Oregon quarter, the middle coins are British (two pennies and 20 pence) and I think the bottom coin is Japanese (I'm not sure, to be honest). Ironically, when I first obtained the British coins several years ago, I considered them to be foreign currency; now, I spend these, although I intend to keep these particular coins.

Wednesday, 9th October: A bag of jelly babies. My brother bought a few of these when we all came down with a cold; jelly babies help to soothe sore throats, even though they're not actually supposed to be medicinal.

Tuesday, 15th October: The tiny battery on the left is a 28L 6v Duracell lithium battery. I was intrigued by the small Duracell, as I don't ever recall seeing one until that day. I had to take a picture of the 28L being compared to an AA and a D.

Wednesday, 23rd October: Dad found this horse chestnut, more commonly known as a buckeye or a conker. He said that it's not uncommon to find them at this time of year; since I took this picture, he found another!

I did not take any worthwhile pictures from Monday, October 28th to Thursday, October 31st, hence why there are only four in this post.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Halloween 2013

This Halloween has not been as active as last year's, as that was the week when I was in the East of England. On the bright side, the East Coast of the United States is currently not being affected by a major hurricane, unlike this time a year ago. I'm glad that the vast majority of the damage from Hurricane Sandy has been repaired, although the loss of life cannot be replaced.

Here is a suitable song for Halloween: Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters". Back in Oregon, KIFS (107.5 FM) would play this song at Halloween, as do some radio stations here:

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


I find the discovery of this "lava world" fascinating:

Kepler-78b is an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star Kepler-78, located 400 light-years away. Its distance from its sun is a hundredth of Earth's distance from the Sun, with temperatures reaching 2800C (5072F) . Astronomers have theorised that the planet is tidally locked, with the side facing the star being moltee, giving it "lava world" status. Kepler-78b can be considered a lifeless planet, as the day side is obviously too hot to support life and the night side's temperatures are unknown but are unlikely to be any more hospitable.

Regardless of Kepler-78b's ability to support life, the discovery of planets outside the Solar System has always fascinated me. Countless Earth-sized worlds have been discovered but no Earth-like plants have been found yet. It's just a matter of time before we find a world similar to our own out there.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

"'C'Mon" - Kesha

This is "C'Mon" by Kesha:

"C'Mon", taken from Kesha's second studio album, Warrior, was released back in January. Its success in the United Kingdom was fairly moderate at best and we heard it on the radio consistently for about a month. I think it's a shame, for "C'Mon" runs a close race with "We R Who We R" as my favorite Kesha song; I love the melody of both tracks and her vocals in them. They have fairly colorful music videos, too.

In my post about Auto-Tune from January 2012, Kesha was one of the artists I highlighted as a decent user of the voice processing technology. While I was slightly taken aback when I initially heard her first single, "Tik Tok", and its Auto-Tuning, I soon came to appreciate Kesha's music.

Monday, 28 October 2013

On selfies

With personal cameras being widespread, with the most common type being phone cameras, people can take more pictures now than at any other point in history. Everything is photographed: natural landscapes, buildings, food, animals, disasters, random objects, odd objects...everything. Obviously humans are photographed, too, but many people like to take pictures of themselves, not others. All over the Internet, "selfies" are in abundance

There are a variety of ways that these selfies are achieved, but the three common types of selfies are:

1. Mirror shot
The person aims their camera/phone camera towards a mirror and takes a picture of their reflection. If one didn't know better, it could be assumed that some people have a fascination with bathroom mirrors and what to share that interest or are trying to show others what their camera or phone looks like...without the use of another camera.

2. Arm extended
This involves someone holding a camera/phone with an extended arm and pointing it back towards themselves. If aimed correctly (it's not possible to see the viewfinder), this method will take a picture of the person rather than their reflection but often the arm that they're using to hold the camera gets caught in photograph.

3. Phone front camera
Specific to phones, this is similar to "Arm extended" in that it requires the person holding the device at arm's length; however, the person utilises the front camera of their phone, which provides them with better aim as they can see the phone's screen and thus, can direct the lens accordingly.

My opinion? If people want to take selfies and share them, that's completely their decision; besides, I know some people who are skilled at taking selfies! I'm only not keen on the selfies that involve the person pulling stupid faces or giving obscene gestures: they're tedious and not at all funny nor clever. I rarely take selfies (I use option 3. when I do) and none of the ones I've taken are online. I prefer having someone else take a picture of me, as those photographs of me look better than any I've taken.

What do you think? Do you like taking selfies? All viewpoints on this subject are welcome!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Brooke Greenberg memorial

Back in January, I wrote a brief piece to draw attention to the condition that afflicted Brooke Greenberg. She had a condition titled "Syndrome X", which stopped her growth and kept her in body of a five-year-old and with the mind of a nine-month-old. I'm sorry to say that she has died:

In my post, I expressed my hope that a cure would one day be found for Greenberg. It's upsetting that this won't come to be. I wish her family the best.

Additionally, I'm surprised by the lack of reporting on her death. It's possible that little has been said because of her family maintaining their privacy but I thought, given the extreme scarcity of her condition, that her death would be given wider coverage.

Brooke Greenberg
January 8th, 1993 - October 24th, 2013

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A bridge

My last post about the park we visited two days ago involves a picture of this bridge:

The bridge crosses a stream located near the bulls. The stream is narrow and looks as though it could easily be jumped over if someone didn't want to use the bridge. The bridge makes a slightly disconcerting clunking sound when you step onto it; because of this, I'm glad the drop from the bridge into the stream is very low!

This picture, plus the four taken in the previous two posts, were all done with my phone. As this was in a shaded area, my phone's camera had some trouble in the lower light.

Friday, 25 October 2013

More bulls

Just outside the park we visited yesterday is this field of bulls:

There were around twelve of them in the field (not all are pictured). All of them glanced at me and my brother but most were more interested in eating, given that they're used to people walking alongside their field each day and two more humans going past isn't particularly remarkable. Still, couple were curious:

These two (plus one off-camera to the left) seemed intent on following our movement. When I crouched down to take a picture from this level they watched to see what I was up to. They were far more focused on me than the previous bulls I encountered. This black bull seemed to be the only one without any horns (and yes, he was a bull, given his lack of udders).

It wouldn't surprise me, however, if the bulls...including the uninterested ones...were up by the fence seeking food from humans. After all, they had a huge field where they could roam yet they bunched up by the fence by the path. On the other hand, they might just enjoy the attention they receive when people walk past; I've met horses who loved it when people's focus was on them and there's no reason to think why bulls would be any different.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The light moss

My family and I went to a local park this afternoon. I took these pictures of a tree within that park; note how the light layer of moss gives its bark a light green tint:

I love the colour and how it's enhanced by the sunlight. The bottom of the tree has thicker moss, as can be seen in the next picture, but the overall green tint remains:

These shots were taken in the mid-afternoon, although from the light and the temperature it felt as though it were still the morning.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Weevil loaf

A few days ago, I wrote about the loaf the breadmaker created with expired bread mix, causing the loaf to never rise. While the loaf was fairly dense and difficult to chew, it was nonetheless edible. At least we were able to make a loaf out of that bread mix and it wasn't wasted.

Yesterday, Mum decided to use the freshest packet of bread mix; she was surprised to find it filled with weevils feasting on the contents. Mum ended up disposing of the mix, given that it was unusable; fortunately, none of the other packs were contaminated. Think of the irony! The old and expired pack still gave us a loaf while the newest was infested.

As for the flat loaf, Mum turned it into breadcrumbs. It will be ideal for when we next make burgers or meatloaf.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

"Bulletproof" - La Roux

I wasn't intending to do a music post for today but I seem to have run out of ideas at this moment in time. This is "Bulletproof" by La Roux, a British synthpop band:

This song became popular in the United States in the first half of 2010. Knowing that we would be moving in June of that year, we figured that it would serve as an introduction to music that we'd hear in the United Kingdom once we arrived there. Ironically, we've hardly heard "Bulletproof" on the radio since we've been back; I doubt that we've heard it any more than five times on the radio here.

We associate this song with our last three months in the United States.

Monday, 21 October 2013

The importance of backups

You've heard the story before. Someone stores all their pictures and their music on their phone; several months worth of memories and purchases are on the device. None of the data is backed up on another hard drive, yet the person is certain that it's all safe and sound. They won't lose any of it!

Then, the unthinkable happens: their phone is either damaged or stolen and all of that data is lost to them. They bemoan their loss...all those personal pictures and that bought music! Memories lost and money wasted! What on earth could they have done to have prevented this tragedy from occurring?

Well, they could have backed up their data. How? The simplest solution would have been for them to have kept a copy of their files on their computer. It's incredibly easy to transfer files from a phone to a computer: using a USB is the standard way while using a cloud storage app like Dropbox is another method. Given this simplicity, there is no excuse for not backing-up

This doesn't just apply to phones: It's also important to back up your computer. A computer less likely to get damaged or stolen as with a phone, but the hard drives can fail; if that data isn't backed up, you could lose it. Some people have lost years of work for not backing any of it up on another device.

Always back up your files; you won't regret it.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Phone pouch

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my phone's bumpers. Today, I'd like to write about my phone's pouch:

Whenever I carry my phone around, I place it in this pouch, with the device still being held inside its tyre bumper. I don't like having the phone bounce around the inside of my pockets, where it could get damaged, especially on its camera; the handset wasn't cheap...I'm happy to invest a little in its safekeeping!

I was inspired to write about this because, yesterday, my brother got caught in a massive and sudden downpour, and he wasn't wearing a waterproof jacket. His clothes were soaked but his pouch, which is a thicker pouch that the one for my phone, protected his phone from the water. Granted, the pouch wouldn't be much good if he jumped in a pool but it was adequate for the burst of rain. He was soaked!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The never-risen bread

This happened today:

It's a loaf of homemade bread that failed to rise in the breadmaker. Mum used a packet of bread mix that was past its expiry date; the yeast had gone off, causing the bread to remain flat. Despite this, the bread is still edible, albeit hard, although it might be used for breadcrumbs to put in burgers or meatloaves.

This is the second time we've ended up with something made in the breadmaker end up this way. Several years ago when Mum regularly put each ingredient in manually, there was one time when she forgot to add the yeast; the cake (it makes cakes) turned out flat.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Lamp with a hat

Another one of my "hat" posts. This is a lamp with a hat:

My grandfather gave me and my brother this lamp but it stays in my room, essentially making me its de facto owner. I love how the flash has almost made the lamp appear as though it's on! Unless I intend to photograph it on another object, I'll keep the hat on the lamp, as it keeps it off my desk.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

"Welcome to My Life" - Simple Plan

One of the first songs my brother and I heard when we regularly started listening to the radio was this:

It's "Welcome to My Life" by Simple Plan, a Canadian band. It was released in 2004 and comes from their album Still Not Getting Any. Listening to this song reminds me of when I was discovering radio/pop music.

"Welcome to My Life" was their last major hit for several years; I didn't think I would ever hear Simple Plan on the radio again until the emergence of their single "Summer Paradise" last year. The international version of the song features Sean Paul and became their biggest hit here. I haven't heard "Summer Paradise" on the radio for a year now but it was good to hear Simple Plan again during the single's run. Still, "Welcome to My Life" is the more significant song, as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Leaving children at a toy store

I watched another of the Primetime: What Would You Do clip on YouTube, which was where my post about LGBT parenting was inspired by:

While the video is just as an act to test people's reactions, I was shocked to learn that there are parents who have left their children at a toy store, a bookstore, a fast-food restaurant or a mall. Why? For those places to fill the role of a babysitter. Until I watched the above video, I had never heard about this happening.

I've heard of a variety of stupid things that people have done...but this? How can anyone rationalise leaving their kid(s) at a toy store or a mall? It's beyond irresponsible. Young children should never be left unattended: there should always be a parent, guardian or other trusted adult around them at all time while out in public.

Leaving children at the aforementioned places puts strain on the employees and customers, as it forces them to have to deal with a situation they shouldn't have to face, i.e. having to look after someone else's kids. Also, unless you visit a place frequently and know the people there, there's no reason to trust any of them with your kids; I shouldn't have to add that it makes it easier for those who abduct children.

Thoughts on this? I'm both alarmed and disgusted about it.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Inside the Ancient Egypt kit

In the comments section for my previous post about my Ancient Egypt kit, my friend and fellow blogger Jessica recommended that I post pictures if I decided to explore the kit.

The contents, going counter-clockwise from the top left, are: a short book about Ancient Egypt, a wall-poster map of Ancient Egypt and some of the surrounding regions, a piece of parchment, a pair of tweezers; in the bag are some left over decorations for the necklace; above the bag, the small rubber ink hieroglyph stamps with a large one underneath them and above them is the ink pad. The ink pad, as I mentioned in the previous post, leaked, hence why it's wrapped up in paper.

The kit can be locked. I would guess that this lock is there to secure the latch rather than to protect the contents of the box; after all, it's not as though there are any valuables in there!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Mobile gaming

When I bought a better phone back in September 2012, I was introduced to mobile gaming. This style of gaming quickly appealed to me because most mobile games are designed for around 5-15 minutes of play at a time, providing a short but satisfactory burst of entertainment. They're not too time-consuming.

The first mobile game I played (and still occasionally play) was Glow Hockey; I like this game because it's pong-like and is suitable on a touchscreen device. I have board games such as Reversi/Othello and chess on my phone, puzzles like Lazors and Candy Crush Saga, and a couple of racing apps. I also enjoy running games like Temple Run 2; they're simple yet fun, even if only for a quarter of an hour at a time.

I tend to play the games when I'm alone; I'm either waiting for something or am playing merely because I want to. I do not play any games on my phone when I am in a social situation; I'm not a hypocrite — I don't blog about people using their phones when in the company of other people and then engage in the behaviour that I've criticised!

Are there any mobile games that you enjoy?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Ancient Egypt kit

Just to follow up on my Egyptian-style necklace, here is a picture of the kit it came from:

I'm not actually sure what's still in the kit, as I haven't opened it for a long time; the kit can be locked but I don't think I sealed it. When I first opened the kit when we unpacked it two years ago, some of the ink for the hieroglyph ink stamps had leaked all over the insides; fortunately, nothing of consequence was ruined. I'll have a look inside.

I'm also not sure what I'll ultimately end up doing with this kit, along with some of my other belongings that are unused-but-nice-to-have. It currently serves as a decoration.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The USB light

In my recent searches through my various hidden belongings, I found this:

It looks like an ordinary keyring light. It's not particularly remarkable, other than the incredibly bright light that it generates. But wait...

The light is charged via USB! The battery had been drained when I activated the device a few days ago but after a few hours of being plugged into my computer it was brightly shining again.

Believe it or not, I hadn't seen one of these before my grandfather gave it to me, so I was fascinated. The novelty has since worn off but it's still a pretty neat gadget. I haven't put ite away, though; I've attached it to my Dish Network keyring, giving it a second light!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Black and white cat

My brother noticed this local black and white cat; I took a quick picture:

While I've posted a few cat pictures here in the past and don't mind cats coming into our yards, I'm in two minds about outdoor cats: on one hand, them being outside does give them freedom to roam, which cats are suited for. On the other, domestic cats have longer lives when they live indoors; after all, both of our cats were indoor cats and they live past 12 years of age.

Still, this black and white cat is beautiful; I hope it returns to a good home every night.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Defending LGBT parents

The events that transpired in this video impressed me:

By "impressed", I am referring to the people who challenged the bigot (an actress, of course, as it's a show that tests the general public's reaction to various unpleasant scenarios) and stood up for the family. What adds to the excellence is that those events took place in Texas, which isn't exactly known for its hospitality towards LGBT people, as least not from its government, anyway.

As I've previously written about in greater length, I support marriage equality and I support gay parenting. Someone's sexuality does not determine how good a parent they would be; I've known gay people who would have made great parents and I've met straight people who were terrible.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

"SuperLove" - Charli XCX

Recently, YouTube recommended to me this track:

It's "SuperLove" by Charli XCX. While I had already heard of Charli XCX from her being featured on Icona Pop's hit song "I Love It", which she co-wrote, I hadn't bothered to listen to any of her music until I saw her name pop up in the YouTube side bar. I'm glad I become curious enough to listen, as I consider "SuperLove" to be an excellent introduction to Charli XCX's music; I like the song and think it has a colourful video.

Charli XCX has two studio albums, 14 and True Romance; however, 14 was never commercially released, making True Romance her first major-label studio album. The music video for "SuperLove" was released on the 26th of September but the single itself will not be released until December.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Unwell (2)

A proper night's sleep was exactly what I needed. My throat is much better and I no longer have any headaches but I'm coughing and I still have some nose issues. Mum is feeling worse than she did before but her symptoms developed a little later than mine did, so her recovery is slightly behind.

Mum spoke to Dad earlier; I'm pleased to say that he is well. As I wrote yesterday, he's currently away on business and it would be awful if he were sick. His week is tiring enough as it is without adding illness into the picture.

This will be my last post about this cold; I feel great in comparison to yesterday and another good night's sleep should clear many of the remaining symptoms.

Monday, 7 October 2013


I've been ill since yesterday. My brother was suffering from a cold all of last week; my mother, father and I all thought that we had managed to escape his infection, but unfortunately we started coming down with symptoms yesterday.

Out of all of us, Dad is suffering the least, which is good because he is away on business; it would be awful if he had a sore throat, blocked nose, temperature fluctuations and headaches like I have. I'm annoyed that I've had a fairly unproductive day; the worst part about being sick (besides the "being sick" aspect) is the boredom stemming from the lethargy.

I'm hoping to get a better night's sleep tonight; I was awake for much of the night and only got a couple of hours of rest before I had to get up. I hope to be better tomorrow!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Floyd Hawkins

Just this morning, my Dad visited the website for our local newspaper back in Southern Oregon, the Mail Tribune. Upon viewing the obituaries section he learnt that a friend and former neighbor of ours, Floyd Hawkins, died last month at the age of 91.

Floyd was a significant figure in his little corner of the world. He once almost exclusively owned the valley we lived in while we were in Oregon; the government awarded him over one hundred acres of land for his service in World War II. He sold much of his land over the years and other people moved into the valley.

When we first moved to Oregon, Floyd was still active and working: He helped out on buses for disabled children, and he helped in the garden that he and Sharon (his wife, who was always "Mrs. Hawkins" to me) maintained. He also seemed happy with his adult stepson, Lloyd (who, sadly, died in 2004), living with him and Sharon. While we knew Sharon more than we knew Floyd himself, he was always friendly during our interactions him; between me and my immediate family, it was Dad who knew him best.

During our last years there, however, Floyd had to be placed in a nursing home. While there was a 15-year age gap between them, Sharon found it increasingly difficult to look after Floyd due to his increasing needs associated with old age, her own age and because she was still working. Dad assisted Sharon out somewhat but this was not a viable long-term solution; Floyd had to leave the valley he'd lived in for many decades.

It has been several years since I last saw or spoke to Floyd, but I cannot help feeling somewhat down from hearing about his death. He lived a long and meaningful life and, from what I understand, his passing was peaceful. I hope that his family — Sharon especially — are coping well with their loss.

Floyd Sherman Hawkins
January 23rd, 1922 - September 20th, 2013