Tuesday, 30 April 2013

This year's magnolia

Our magnolia tree's flowering has been stunted this year by the extended winter; however, a few of its buds have managed to withstand the weather and produce beautiful flowers:

I took these with my main camera; I'm delighted with how they turned out!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Grass cutting and car washing season 2013

We have entered 2013's grass-cutting season, which has begun over month later than its 2012 equivalent; I had wondered, with all the weather we have had, when I would need to start cutting the grass this year. Some people, however, are already in the habit of mowing their lawn once a week whether it's needed or not.

Unsurprisingly, the excessive car washing season began simultaneously with the grass cutting. I stand by what I've said in the past that I think washing a car every single week is a waste of water and effort, although I think it's mildly amusing to observe some people obsessively clean their cars.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The unexplored region

My brother and I ventured to the northern part of our town this morning. The northern side is the area of the town that I am the least familiar with, primarily because it's more awkward to access than the other areas, and also because it isn't up-to-date on Google Maps. The latter is a fairly minor reason not to go someplace local, as people used to explore without consulting a map, but I like to see an aerial perspective of where I've travelled.

I thought I'd take a picture of some British houses; I have an abundance of nature images on my blog, and while nature is wonderful, sometimes buildings make a pleasant change.

When we walked through the woodlands of the northern region, it brought back memories of Southern Oregon; the terrain was reminiscent of the mountain ridge on our property back there.

This is a small "valley". We passed through here a short time before we were walking on concrete again; once my brother and I were back on the hard paths, we took separate ways back home.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

The fly up close

Flowers are a delight to photograph; not only for their beauty, but also for how other forms of life use them. I was pleased to make these two captures of a fly on a daffodil:

The fly attended its business for around a minute before it flew away, which was more than enough time for me to photograph it. Its rare to receive the chance to take pictures of insects on flowers: they usually fly away when I'm as close to them as I was when I took these.

Friday, 26 April 2013

The crushed daffodils

I photographed this trio of daffodils yesterday afternoon; that one at the back there, despite being close to the ground, was a healthy flower:

They're pretty, aren't they? There's no need to harm them. Now here are the same three daffodils this afternoon:

Someone stomped on them. At first I thought the hail had smashed the trio (we had a hailstorm appear this morning, unleash its massive load and then disappear as quickly as it had appeared), but as all the other daffodils were intact and these three were the only daffodils with any damage, it became clear that an individual had taken it upon themselves to stamp them down.

What a waste.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The second answer to "Who's On Heart" 2013

I noticed a massive increase in views to my post about the first answer to "Who's On Heart" 2013. After a little research, I discovered that the second voice on the competition has been identified...today; according to a couple of sites and comments, including this blog post, the next voice is Jamie Bell and was guessed by a man named Phil.

I had never heard of Jamie Bell before today; when I looked them up, there were two notable people with this name. The first was an English actor and the second was a member of a defunct boyband; I think it's safe to assume it's the former because the latter would be incredibly obscure. In addition, this second guess was worth £20,000. Congratulations, Phil.

I wasn't listening to Heart at the time of the guess and am basing this post on the bits of information I've found online. In the event I am wrong, I will update this post accordingly as to not give incorrect information to my readers.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Calves and cows

I'm on a small roll of photographing baby animals; here are some calves and their mothers enjoying the Sun:

In my observations, cows lie down on their stomachs more than horses lie on theirs and I think it's amusing to see a cow lie slumped across the ground on her side! Each cow was content with her spot in the field: not one of them showed any interest in coming to the gate to attempt to obtain food from me. When you're having a lovely time in the Sun, why move?

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The long-lasting batteries

On average use, my main camera depletes its batteries every 2-3 months, which causes an irritating albeit minor expense whenever the batteries need replacing. A few months ago, Dad bought a set of rechargeable AA batteries for my camera; these batteries were more expensive than the standard ones but they would pay for themselves after six months.

The most recent set of standard batteries had already been in my camera for three months when Dad bought the new batteries, and so I assumed I wouldn't have long to wait to use the rechargeable set. A week, perhaps, maybe two? How about three...months?

My camera's standard batteries depleted yesterday, giving them an overall life in the camera of around six months. I was not expecting the batteries to last for that long, especially since I have been taking a great amount of pictures with the camera in that timeframe despite the weather. On the one occasion when I wanted batteries to drain as quickly as possible, they kept on going!

When I finally tested the rechargeable batteries in the camera today, they worked exactly the same as the normal ones did. I'm looking forward to seeing how long they last!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Another foal

I might not have been able to take a picture of the foal from a few days ago, but I did photograph another mother and foal elsewhere in the town:

The mother was teaching her offspring bad habits: of all the horses in the field, only these two approached, obviously seeking food. Not wanting to encourage them further, I stood away from the gate which obstructs the view of the horses.

The mother soon realised that I wasn't there to feed her or her offspring, and so she walked off to find something more interesting; however, the foal watched me until I walked away.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Someone else's phone

I don't understand the mentality of people who think that when you hand them your phone to show them a picture, they are entitled to looking at other pictures you store on the device or worse, to see your contacts or what programs you have installed. Since when did I give permission to do anything beyond view that one picture?

One might say "well, you gave them your phone, therefore that's consent for them to peruse it" or "it's your fault! You handed it to them!". No. The latter blames the person giving their trust rather than puts the onus on the person who shouldn't have violated the trust in the first place. As for the former, let's say I'm in the kitchen with someone and I offer them a piece of fruit: would that be inviting them to take whatever they want from the cupboards? What if I let someone read one of my books; is that giving them carte blanche to use my bookshelf as their new personal library? In both instances, the answer is no and the same goes for my phone; I'm giving the person permission to look at that picture, and only that picture.

If someone wants to see my phone programs or other pictures, nine times out of ten I'm likely to say yes with the caveat that they keep out of the contacts and correspondence, mainly for the privacy of the people I talk to with the device. I have nothing offensive or overly personal in my pictures and the programs I've installed aren't something I keep secret; my objections stem from the person inferring that the one picture I allowed them to see gave them permission to look at more.

While writing this post I discovered this article, which goes into further detail about what I've covered here

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The horse at the fence

As I expected, some of the horses were moved to another field, including the foal. It was still worth bringing my main camera with me on my walk, as I took these pictures of another one of the horses. I think it hoped I was bringing food:

The horse stood there looking up at me until it realised I was not there to feed it.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The foal

Another local field home to horses; this one, however, contains a foal:

Prior to seeing this one, it had been a long time since I last saw a foal. It stood for a few minutes before it became tired and laid back down again.

Both pictures were taken with my phone, hence why I didn't zoom in on the foal. I'll have to go for another walk by this field soon to photograph the horses and the foal with my main camera: they are frequently moved around.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

"Goodbye" - Kristinia DeBarge

In the spring into the summer of 2009, one of my favorite songs on the radio was "Goodbye" by Kristinia DeBarge; it is the first single from DeBarge's debut album, Exposed. "Goodbye" received frequent airplay for a couple of months before almost vanishing entirely from my local radio station and its programs; Debarge herself has vanished, too, as she is supposed to be releasing a second album, but I've read little about it and she is hardly mentioned in any news sources.

I'll be glad when she releases a second album, but for now we can enjoy this track:

"Goodbye" is also a song I listened to (twice) on the flight from Portland to Amsterdam, although the sentiment expressed by DeBarge in "Goodbye" is not how I felt about leaving the United States!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


I posted this elsewhere today:

"I remember a time when wishing harm or death upon the President of the United States was unthinkable; I think it's both sad and disgusting that it has reached the point where some people are disappointed when the president wasn't harmed by something."

It was in response to a friend of mine who was disgusted when observing some people's reactions to the ricin letter sent to President Barack Obama which was intercepted; she was horrified to read about people expressing frustration that the letter did not reach Mr. Obama and kill him. This attitude towards the president is as disturbing as it is saddening: Everyone expects the president to receive criticism, regardless of their political party, but a few years and another president ago, a desire for the President of the United States to die would have been, as I said in my text above, unthinkable.

My friend disclosed that she voted for another person in the 2012 election; despite this, she opposes wishing harm on the president. Why? Because, as she said, Mr. Obama is a human being and he has a family; she also doesn't agree with killing people because they don't share her — or anyone else's — views. I agree with her: I was vehemently against Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy last year and I have friends with different politics to me, but I do not wish for death and despair to befall them and their families. 

What makes this behavior worse is that it comes at a time when the United States is still in shock over the Boston Marathon bombings. It is beyond inappropriate to wish for someone's death at the best of times, but doing it at a time of national tragedy when the nation needs to heal? And against the president? It's grotesque and should not be tolerated — I support the 1st Amendment and I welcome people sharing their views, but there is a chasm between valid criticism and hate speech.

I wrote a piece relating to this subject a month prior to the 2012 election. I am disappointed that my concerns in the first sentence of that post's last paragraph were warranted.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

2013's daffodils

At long last, the daffodils are blooming; I went down to a local park specifically to take some pictures of them:

These daffodils are about a month overdue. I'll keep my eyes out for more flowers as the weather improves.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Pigeon on a post

This morning, I made these captures of a pigeon resting on top of a fence post in our back yard; pigeons often perch on the post, but they rarely lie down as this one did:

I love the lower picture. I know I took both images, but still, I can pick favourites from my own work, and I like that second one! Both are main camera shots.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Pinkish sunset

I took these pictures of this evening's sunset; they were shot with my main camera through a window:

Unfortunately, the dirt on the window dulls the sunset, which was more impressive when seen through the naked eye.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Thwarted barbecue

Dad was looking forward to this weekend: he was going do his first barbecue for 2013. The weather had been fairly decent all week and the weather was expected to be pleasant for Saturday and Sunday. Today started out a fairly bright warm and day, with minor winds and only a few clouds in the sky...perfect for a barbecue!

By midday, clouds had enveloped the sky, and by the mid-afternoon, it had started to rain. Dad thought he would still be able to perform a barbecue, as the rain wasn't heavy and he has an abundance of tools available to cover objects against rain; however, the winds picked up, leading Dad to make the decision to delay the first barbecue of the year for another day. The chicken, sausages and the salmon (yes, salmon can be barbecued...it's tastier that way!) all had to be cooked in the oven.

It's a shame: Dad was delighted about the prospect of a barbecue, especially after the busy week he's had, and because we'd already had a barbecue by this time in 2012. On the positive side, the rain makes a welcome change from all the snow we've endured.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Missing 30 St Mary Axe and The Shard

In April 2011, my family and I visited the counties of Surrey and Hampshire, the former of which borders London. I then visited London in June 2012, and, as I wrote about recently, I went to London again in March 2013. On only one of those occasions did I spot the iconic and infamous 30 St Mary Axe ("The Gherkin"), and on none did I see The Shard; furthermore, I never saw 30 St Mary Axe on the two times I was in the city: I glimpsed it for about two seconds when we were on the motorway to Surrey.

Why is this notable? Well, because both buildings help define the London skyline: 30 St Mary Axe because of its unique shape and The Shard because it is the tallest building in the United Kingdom and the second-tallest in Europe. Despite their highlights, I missed spotting these two prominent towers...and on my recent visit I was actively looking out for them, too, but my view was obscured by other structures. Seriously, I missed them both!

I am an admirer of both towers; I'll have to have another go at spotting them on my next trip to London!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

More bad ways to break up

I have written two posts on douchey ways to end a relationship. Thanks to a segment on the radio today about breaking up, here's my third installment on the subject.

The first way involved someone posting a link to Kelly Clarkson's "Already Gone" on their partner's Facebook profile (I love Kelly Clarkson, but I wouldn't use her to break up with someone). This was a short and deeply unkind split, with unhappy emoticons and unfriending — on and offline — being the consequences. Yes, this is another break up over the Internet, but it's important for reasons that I'll expand upon later.

The second resembled the first in that it used music: it involved a woman singing Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" down the phone to her boyfriend, thereby ending their relationship. I have a modicum of respect for the creativity of this one, but it was wrong for two reasons: 1. the breakup wasn't done face-to-face, but if he was a jerk then this is irrelevant. 2. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" isn't even about breaking up...it's about not wanting to get back together, hence the name! I do understand the message, though.

I will grant the third one the honour of being clever, but it was still douchey. The person told their partner that their exes were beautiful; the bemused partner asked "Which one?", only to be told "Me!". It was done over the telephone.

The consensus on the segment was that the best method to end a relationship was over the Internet, which angered me. What is it with these people who think breaking up with someone over the Internet is acceptable? I hope in every one of these cases the relationship wasn't serious: I think it would be disgusting and cowardly to end a deep relationship in such a manner. In be fair, the people contacting the programme were all young (in their teens), so I'm hoping it was a case of collective youthful ignorance and that they will all mature.

Coincidentally, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" played at one point while I was writing this.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The dried dirt

I took some pictures of where water had flowed through a field, leaving behind the path on which the liquid had travelled and cracked dirt; here are a couple of those images:

I love the desert-like appearance of the dirt in this photograph; it's a fertile field and the grass isn't far away, yet it resembles barren terrain where a river once meandered.

Proof that grass is indeed growing by the field; look at that contrast between the green and the brown!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The accent

I received a powerful compliment this afternoon. I was introduced to a new neighbour; after talking to them for a short time they said the following:

"You have an American accent!"

It was not said with any sort of hostility; rather, it was said with enthusiastic surprise, as the person expected me to speak with a much stronger British accent. I thanked them in a tone that clearly displayed my pleasure at their statement.

I know I do have a British accent, but it's not that strong and, unsurprisingly, I frequently speak in American English and use American terms despite writing in British English. I consider it a compliment when someone notices that my accent is different; I was having a fairly miserable day until that moment.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher

I'm going to keep this short, mainly due to the large amount of current coverage about the death of Baroness and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher — and because I'm not seeking a discussion over her premiership — but I wanted to post an excerpt from President Barack Obama's tribute to Thatcher:

 "As a grocer’s daughter who rose to become Britain’s first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered."

Regardless of one's politics, it cannot be denied that Thatcher's ascension to Prime Minister was an important milestone for women. While no woman has been Prime Minister since Thatcher, the 2010 election delivered a record number of female MPs to Parliament and more women continue to get involved with politics every day; I think it's only a matter of time before we have another woman as head of government.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

First times on the Internet

My first use of the Internet was when I was seven years old. With my mother's supervision, I visited a Christmas-themed website to play a few simple games; nothing too intensive. My first time on the Internet unattended was a couple of years later...and I was using it without permission, which, at the time, I had to seek to be able to use it. What did I do? Other than use it without my parents' knowledge, nothing wrong: I wanted to look up my then-favourite computer game, Frogger.

The Internet was much simpler in those days, and I was using dial-up then because that was all we had. I didn't start using high-speed Internet until late 2006; by then, I had long been using the Internet without the need for parental supervision. When I began using the Internet, I never imagined that I'd one day meet people through it or keep a blog: I thought it would only be used for checking news, playing a few games and doing a little shopping.

When did you start using the Internet? Did you ever envision using it the way you do now?

(On another note, sorry for two posts in a row that present you with questions!)

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Early songs

Any there any particular songs, or even an individual song, that you associate with your early childhood? The first two songs I can recall hearing are Enya's "Orinoco Flow" ("sail away, sail away, sail away!" and The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star".

Around the time I was born, Dad bought a CD player and two of Enya's CDs; he later bought a Buggles album which contained their aforementioned song. Those albums were played frequently enough for me to recognise both songs, single them out and enjoy them from an early age. Whenever I listen to them now, I am reminded of when I was around 3-4 years of age and had my first taste of music; however, most of the returning memories are of loving those songs when I was that age: I recall little else. Still, it is a wonderful feeling to listen to songs that I associate with being a young child, and it does bring back some of the few memories I have of my pre-United States life.

Can you remember the earliest song(s) you ever heard, or have any songs that remind you of being just a few years old or younger?

Friday, 5 April 2013

On apologising

I read this article on the Daily Mail about a University of Queensland study claiming that refusing to apologise boosts a person's sense of self-worth and feeling of empowerment:

I consider studies like this to be disruptive: society is already rude enough as it is, and giving encouragement to uncivil people will only exacerbate the problem. Granted, it's only a small study (228 people) and it is the Daily Mail that is reporting it, but really, the world doesn't need any more arrogant people!

Fortunately, the majority of commenters on the article have dismissed the study, with the minuscule sample size being the primary reason for its rejection. Multiple people also thought that there are enough rude types around and/or had no interest in being friends or family with someone who has zero regard for the feelings of others; in my own experience, most people I've met would rather apologise for a wrongdoing than ignore what others think to strengthen their own self-importance.

If I make a mistake that requires an apology, I apologise. I don't receive any sort of satisfaction from refusing to give an apology; in fact, I feel awful when I haven't been able to give an apology to somebody when one was clearly required. On the other hand, I don't apologise excessively so that apologising becomes meaningless, but I'd rather have respect for someone else's feelings than be a jerk.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Snow alien

I took this picture of a small patch of snow out on our front lawn; Mum reckoned it looked like a "snow alien" because of the bits of branch positioned in the middle, which give it "eyes":

It also slightly resembles the United States and Canada or a fattened Greenland, too; well, at least it does to me, anyway!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Plants and water

I went down to a pond that I've photographed and written about here (1, 2, 3):

These are some daffodils near the pond. The ongoing cold weather has prevented the vast majority of the flowers from blooming; these daffodils have so far only managed to grow their stems.

The pond itself. The sun went behind some clouds just after I photographed the daffodils, hence why this picture of the pond is darker than the picture of the flowers. This is the cleanest I have ever seen the pond; it's usually covered with algae.

Another view of the pond, taken a little more close up. One of the best parts about the weather improving (albeit slowly) is being able to photograph bright scenery again.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

"Angels" - Robbie Williams

British music was something I was looking forward to while my family and I were in the process of moving back to the United Kingdom; I wasn't to be disappointed, as we've heard some great musicians since we've been back. One of my favourite British artists is Robbie Williams; this is his song "Angels", released in 1997 from his debut album Life thru a Lens:

I had heard of Williams when I was living in the United States but I had never listened to any of his music (I didn't have any interest, to be honest). Over here, I have heard several of his songs on Heart Cambridge and they're frequently played on Heart Northamptonshire.

"Angels" is also a song from which I can remember most of the lyrics.

Monday, 1 April 2013

A little on April Fools' Day

I'm not exactly one of the biggest fans of April Fools' Day. I think the best April Fools' jokes are the ones that are clever, simple and not disruptive or harmful; I dislike April Fools that hurt people or seriously embarrass them. For example, a couple of days ago I heard about a prank which involved replacing the jam in someone's doughnuts with chili; this bothered me — what if the recipient had choked because they were expecting jam, or worse yet, had an allergic reaction to the chili?

Such an occurrence would change a harmless prank into a dangerous situation; on the other hand, it's also possible that, since everyone has advance warning about jokes on April Fools' Day purely on the basis that it is April Fools' Day, the recipient would expect something in their doughnuts. It's also likely that the joker knew their audience, and this was a fairly mild joke by comparison (no pun intended), but even so, I couldn't help but wonder about people who use April Fools' Day as an excuse to pull nasty pranks.

I'm probably sounding boring and unfunny here! What about you? Do you like practical jokes with a potential to embarrass, do you prefer jokes that involve nothing beyond minimal discomfort/danger to others, or do you like both types provided that you know your audience?

At any rate, mini-rant over, and Happy April Fools' Day!