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

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Egyptian-style necklace

In the same place where I keep my Sacagawea dollar is my Egyptian-style necklace:

My Egyptian-style necklace comes from an Egyptian "kit" Mum bought for me and my brother over a decade ago at Barnes & Noble; we used to have a fascination with Ancient Egypt. In the kit was a "build your own necklace" package; I helped assemble this necklace.

The same picture from before, just zoomed-in on the sarcophagus. I still have the kit; perhaps I'll take a picture of it at some point, too!

With all the pictures of my belongings that I've been posting recently, one could assume that I keep loads of useless trinkets out on display, taking up a lot of space! In reality, most of my small possessions are stored in a handful of former chocolate tins and are kept out of the way.

Friday, 4 October 2013

A lesser-known effect of the United States federal government shutdown

One of my first blog posts was about the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, which is located near Madingley, Cambridgeshire. As I think we're all aware, the United States federal government has been shut down, with all non-essential services ceasing operations and nearly a million personnel furloughed. Places such as national parks, museums and national have closed down; unfortunately, this also means that the Cambridge American Cemetary and memorial has been closed:

The cemetery is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), which is one of the areas of government affected by the shutdown. Without any funding, the commission cannot keep its 24 overseas military cemeteries and 26 monuments open to the public. These places, along with the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, will re-open once the government has been restored, but at present there is no immediate end to the shutdown in sight. The current inability to pay respects to those who are buried in those cemeteries is an inconvenience to most people and heartbreaking to those who are family of the dead or served alongside them.

Too many people think that a government shutdown means that Congress is out of a job. They could not be more wrong, as Congress is not only still active but its members are still being paid. The overwhelming majority of the people who have been furloughed are ordinary folks; the fact that they happen to work for the government, in itself, does not change that. They have families and most are not rich; it's deeply unfair and inhumane to celebrate their suffering.

The ABMC is a small and relatively unknown government agency, yet its current closure has had a profound effect. Now think about how many people are being affected from furloughs in the larger agencies...and that's not including how many people not working for the government are being affected by the disruption.

Some other consequences of the shutdown can be found here.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Sacagawea dollar

When, yet again, looking through some of my belongings, I found this:

It's a Sacagawea dollar and one of the first of its kind. The Sacagawea dollars were introduced in 2000, initially suggested as a replacement for the Susan B. Anthony dollar, which was one of the most unpopular coins in American history. In December 1997, then-President Bill Clinton signed the 50 States Commemorative Coin Program Act, which contained a section in its writing giving the United States Mint permission to create a new coin. That new coin became the Sacagawea dollar.

The Sacagawea dollar underwent a change in 2007 when then-President George W. Bush signed the Native American $1 Coin Act, which required the reverse side of the coin to undergo an annual redesign. The purpose? To celebrate and honor American Indians by featuring different images highlighting their cultures, achievements and contributions to the United States.

American Indians rarely get the respect and honor they deserve, which is why I find it disappointing that the Sacagawea dollar, as with the Susan B. Anthony dollar, is unpopular. Unlike too many other portrayals of American Indians, this coin respects them rather than uses them for comic relief.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The helicopter baby

Remember a post of mine from several months ago where I wrote about a train baby? Well, here's a similar story...the Royal Navy rescue helicopter baby:

I love reading about the birth of a baby; it makes a pleasant change from the endless supply of bad news.

As a side note, I briefly misread the article as "Isle of Sicily" rather than "Isles of Scilly". Sicily is an island and a major region of Italy, whereas the Isles of Scilly are an archipelago off the coast of Cornwall (Cornwall is a county in South West England). Before I read the title again, I wondered why there was a Royal Navy rescue helicopter in Italy delivering babies!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Bloggers Blog Party - September 2013

Here is my September 2013 batch of pictures for the Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party:

Friday, 6th September: My mother and brother spent the two previous days engaging in some major gardening in our back yard. They dealt with the blackspot-afflicted roses (don't worry...the rose plants are still there!) and removed the dying plants/tress. This weed escaped them.

Tuesday, 10th September: In a packet of jelly beans, I found this bizarre double-bean. They are not two beans that stuck together but rather, two beans that formed as one. It's not uncommon to find doubles in packets of jelly beans.

Sunday, 22nd September: This was the day of Dad's most recent barbecue. Lots of these little emerald-green flies were hanging around on the house wall, drawn in by the cooking meat. Needless to say, they didn't fly near the barbecue itself, given its heat, and even if they had they would have been swatted away.

Wednesday, 25th September: This is a burst boiled egg. Mum boils eggs on a regular basis but this was the first one to explode. My brother put it down to the egg having a thinner than usual shell.

Monday, September 30th: I went to a local store to buy a box of chocolates that I wanted to share; unfortunately, they were out of the particular type that I wanted! I bought this cheap £1 Galaxy Cookie Crumble instead, as I didn't want to end up going around the store carrying a basket and then leave without buying anything!