Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year's Eve 2015

In slightly over three hours, 2015 will reach its conclusion and, obviously, 2016 will emerge in its place. I'm not sure what to make of this year - it has contained many awesome moments but certain events...well, I wish they had never happened. The stark contrast in emotions has been unimaginable.

Here's hoping for an improved 2016. Happy New Year's Eve, everyone.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Northampton visit December 2015

I travelled to Northampton this morning on the bus to visit a friend. I photographed a few places while out:

This is near the centre of a town along the route. I had anticipated a driver changeover at this point but there was none here nor later on the journey.

This is an unknown and unfamiliar (to me) street and shopping row within Northampton. There were some familiar parts of Northampton when my friend drove me around later but on the bus, I did not recognise anything.

This is the North Gate bus station. It opened in early 2014 to replace the old Greyfriars bus station, which was demolished earlier this year. My bus did not park in its intended bay because another bus was already there; instead, it parked around the side.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Surprise game win redux

To follow up on my post about my surprise second-place score in an Easter Egg "mini-game" within the phone game Designer City, this evening I received my reward.

This was the image I sent to Sphere Game Studios, the developer, as evidence of my score:

They responded that I hadn't won but that I was second place and would be receiving a "tiny bag of gold". At this time, I was the highest scorer on the leaderboard.

That "tiny bag of gold" consisted of 150 in-game gold bars, which I can use to expand my city. My city already generates gold bars but it takes a couple of days or so to obtain 150.

As an aside, my intent was to use my phablet to take its own screenshots but instead I had to use my S3 to photograph it to keep these records. A little crude but the job was still completed.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Pulled a neck muscle (2)

To follow up on yesterday's post, my neck is still mildly sore but it no longer severely hurts to move it or my head. When I woke up this morning and discovered that the pain remained consistent from when I went to bed, I was concerned that I hadn't healed at all but after an extra morning nap and being careful throughout the day, much of the pain has alleviated. If I sleep carefully tonight I should be okay tomorrow.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Pulled a neck muscle

This evening, for the first time ever, I pulled a muscle in my neck and caused myself significant pain. I think I either looked up or around too fast and one of my muscles wasn't impressed, hence the current stiffness in my neck.

The pain worried me at first, for until today this was not something I had ever experienced and not being able to move my neck without major discomfort was extremely concerning. Fortunately, after lying down and keeping my neck still for half an hour followed by a warm shower, much of the pain dissipated.

I still have pain in my neck and right shoulder but I expect this to ease further overnight. In future, I'll have to be more careful not to swing my head around too fast, lest this happen again.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Light in the dark

In the mid-evening, during the last minutes of my walk, I photographed this street light:

It's a light in the dark. Always keep close the people who are the metaphorical lights in the dark.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Bloggers Blog Party - November 2015

Thought it best to create November 2015's Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party post a few days before the end of the month rather than at the last minute:

Sunday 1st November: On my way back to Nottingham after the first half-term, I photographed this sweeping view of foggy landscape in Leicestershire. Thick fog covered South Nottinghamshire itself that evening.

Monday 2nd November: The left row of ceiling lights on this Villager 1 bus have fallen into the habit of flickering out at a certain point of my return journey. This became a source of discussion between the "Charity Night Lady" and me, and has contributed to our newfound friendship.

Sunday 8th November: At twenty minutes past midnight on this day, I found these jigsaw pieces on the ground. I'm not sure which will appear more strange: the jigsaw pieces or my being out past midnight.

Tuesday 10th November: Just a random fall day on Maid Marian Way.

Wednesday 11th November: My friend and fellow blogger Jessica sent me a Grumpy-cat themed card and an attached picture of the Magic Gardens in Philadelphia for my birthday. Thanks, Jessica!

Sunday 15th November: This is a souvenir I was given when I attended an open event at Nottingham Trent University on the previous day.

Also on the 15th, this was the day when I rode Red Arrow to Derby. I took this picture when my Red Arrow was pulling into the bus station.

Friday 20th November: A new food court, which features several new restaurants, opened up in the Victoria Centre. The building has undergone various construction projects over the past year, from what I have observed.

Sunday 23rd November: My grandfather burnt his steamer by accident. He has since cleaned it.

Saturday 28th November: A huge fleet of pigeons amassed near the Victoria Centre bus station. I am unsure as to why they chose this place to gather; there weren't any obvious food or heat sources nearby - it appeared as though they randomly picked the spot. Only they know!

Sunday 29th November: On the day of the class re-union/gathering for my English teacher/celebration of my 25th birthday, one of my classmates, who is also a close friend, had this lovely surprise for me - a homemade chocolate cake! The cake was pleasing in both its aesthetics and flavour - a definite culinary masterpiece.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Surprise game win

On my phone, I play a game called Designer City. In a nutshell, it is a city-building game for mobile devices; thanks to SimCity 2000 years ago, I do enjoy playing city-building games and Designer City is one that I've found that has an easy interface and isn't time-consuming, which is ideal for a touchscreen.

In the past day or so, the developers - Sphere Game Studios - released an update to the game, which included an "Easter Egg" that consisted of a hidden "mini-game" within the game, as a part of an extra activity for the holiday season. The mini-game was also a competition, in which the first person to finish it and post a screenshot to the developer's Facebook page or e-mail address would result in an in-game reward.

I found the mini-game and played it without any expectations. To my surprise, I not only completed it but my score of 503 became the highest on the leaderboard (and it still is, as of this writing). I photographed the score and sent it to Sphere Game Studios in case I might have won; shortly afterwards, I received a reply, which stated that while someone else had already come ahead of me, I was second place and would still receive an in-game reward for my achievement.

I am happy about this result. I played the mini-game without the intent to win anything but when I completed it, which was a surprise in itself, I thought it might be early enough to e-mail the developer and see what would happen. Second place in a competition where theoretically anyone in the world with an Android or Apple device could play is an achievement, even if it's only in a computer game.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

"Air Balloon" - Lily Allen

This song popped into my head for no clear reason today:

It's "Air Balloon" and it's by Lily Allen, a British singer known for songs such as "Smile", "The Fear" and "Hard out Here". "Air Balloon" was released in early 2014 from her third studio album, Sheezus. I recall hearing the song on the radio for a few weeks before it appeared to vanish from the airwaves, which I thought was disappointing because I like Lily Allen and I enjoyed hearing her music on the radio again.

I previously wrote about Lily Allen in this post and briefly mentioned her here. I'm pleased "Air Balloon" materialised in my head earlier because it caused me to seek out and listen to the song; I cannot remember the last time I heard it.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The thoughtful gift

Yesterday morning, I received a lovely gift from my friend and fellow blogger Jessica. I had been expecting a card from her during the Christmas break, as she had informed me that such a card was on the way and wanted to know once I received it; however, Jessica also mentioned that she was sending something else, although I wasn't sure what it was. I cheekily expected something related to Grumpy Cat, given our mutual appreciation for the Internet meme.

I received this instead:

It's Honeymoon, the most recent studio album from Lana Del Rey. Sometime in the past couple of months, Jessica and I talked about Lana Del Rey; during the conversation, I think I mentioned that I only have one Del Rey album (Born to Die: The Paradise Edition). As Honeymoon was released in September, this is the newest album by release date I have in my CD collection.

Thank you so much, Jessica! I love Lana Del Rey and it is incredibly thoughtful and kind of Jessica to have purchased Honeymoon for me and sent it across the Atlantic. It was a delightful surprise and I am looking forward to playing the album.

I have something for Jessica, too; on the morning I received Honeymoon, my mother the mailed the card I bought. With any luck, Jessica will receive it soon.

Monday, 21 December 2015

"Strictly Come Dancing" result 2015

To follow up on my recent post about Anita Rani and Strictly Come Dancing, the season finale of the show occurred last Saturday and the winner was Jay McGuinness, who was a member of a band called The Wanted. While in the final his position in the leaderboard was third, with 110 points, he won the competition because the public voted for him.

Naturally, I found the result unsatisfying, given my initial desire for Anita Rani to win and after her loss, my decision to want Kellie Bright to win. In fact, Bright held the top position in the leaderboard with 119 points (one short of the perfect 120 Caroline Flack achieved last year); however, the public vote is what decides the competition, not the judges' scores, so well done to McGuinness for winning.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

"Happy Holidays!"

One tedious "debate" that is re-hashed every year is "Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas". For some bizarre reason, there is a segment of society that takes offence to the greeting "Happy Holidays" while simultaneously accusing other people of being offended by the greeting "Merry Christmas".

This dispute makes no sense to me whatsoever. I have never encountered anyone take offence from being wished a pleasant Christmastime. "Merry Christmas" is just a greeting and a wish for the receiver to have a good time during the Christmas season; nobody takes offence from it - they say "thank you" and reciprocate the phrase; however, there are people who seem to think that Christmas is "under attack" and that "Happy Holidays" is the main weapon of a war against it.

I am confident that the vast majority of people who say "Happy Holidays" do so because it's a synonym of "Merry Christmas", as is "Season's Greetings". They're saying it to be friendly and by using several phrases to convey the same message they are avoiding repetitive language. They are not saying it because they support the abolition of an event celebrated by millions - if not billions - of people around the world.

If someone gives me any of the above greetings or another, my response is to thank them and give it to them in return. That's all that needs to be done; the outrage over "Happy Holidays" is ridiculous and immature.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Northamptonshire December 2015

So, for the Christmas break I'm back at my family's home in Northamptonshire. I'll be back in Nottinghamshire on the second or third day of 2016, as my next college term begins in the first full week of that year.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Fuddle and end of first term

As today was the end of the first term and the last official day of college for this year, the Sociology lesson consisted of the fuddle I mentioned yesterday. Everyone brought something to the fuddle and all the brownies I brought were either consumed or taken away for later by classmates and my Sociology teacher. I still had seven brownies left and so I offered them to reception, where a member of the staff there took one, and then I offered the rest to the library staff, who eagerly accepted them.

Afterwards, more than half the class and I went to the pub, where we remained for several hours. Later, I went to a burger restaurant with three friends (a classmate from last year, her sister and a mutual friend of the three of us) for an end-of-term/end-of-year meal. It was good to see my friends having a great time.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

"Baking Bad" for the "Friday Fuddle"

Okay, so I haven't really been "baking bad" but I certainly have been baking this evening and there is most definitely a fuddle taking place tomorrow (a fuddle is a Nottingham word for a pot luck). Friday is the last day of the first term of this academic year and while some still have their Psychology presentations to finish, tomorrow will be a lighter day to celebrate the end of the year and the term.

I baked brownies and I put two large bars of Cadbury Daily Milk chocolate bars in them. My grandparents eagerly taste tested my brownies and approved of them; I'm hoping my college class will, too.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

"United State of Pop 2015 (50 Shades of Pop)" - DJ Earworm

DJ Earworm has released his annual mashup of the biggest hits:

I am familiar with most of the songs in this mashup but there are a few that I haven't heard; I have not been listening to the radio in 2015 as much as I have done in past years. In fact, the last time I listened to it was (I think) one evening back in October. Regardless, DJ Earworm has once again performed a good job with mashing up the year's hits.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Psychology presentation redux

Yesterday, I received the result of the Psychology presentation I performed last Tuesday. I received a Merit, which is lower than a Distinction but higher than the Pass grade I was expecting. A close classmate and friend in my group, however, received a Distinction for her presentation, which both pleased and surprised her and brought her several well-deserved congratulations.

I am pleased and surprised with my result, too. After I thought my presentation performance was subpar, I had almost dismissed the possibility of receiving anything higher than a Pass. According to my Psychology teacher, my presentation was comprehensive enough to warrant a Merit and it was because I had not expanded on a few points - likely due to nerves - that kept me from earning a Distinction.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Anita Rani

As I have mentioned in previous posts (here, here and here), I have watched Strictly Come Dancing with my grandmother. This year, I chose to watch just the results show at the end of each week rather than both them and the main programme. My favoured contestant to win was Anita Rani, who is usually a presenter on Countryfile and several other TV shows.

Unfortunately, Rani was defeated in last night's results show for the semi-finals. The contestant who was victorious over her was Katie Derham, who is also a presenter and also a newscaster.

Now that Rani is out of the competition, I'm not really sure whom I want to win now. If Derham were to win, it would be the first time that Anton Du Beke, her professional dance partner, has ever won Strictly Come Dancing.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Twisted spire

When I visited Chesterfield yesterday, I ensured I photographed the spire of the Chesterfield Parish Church, all called the Church of St Mary and All Saints:

On all the other days when I've seen the spire, I've usually been sat in a car while passing through Chesterfield or when stuck in a traffic jam. It made a pleasant change viewing it from the base of the building.

Saturday, 12 December 2015


Today, I rode the Pronto bus route from Nottingham to Chesterfield. The Pronto service is operated by Trentbarton and another bus company, Stagecoach, and it usually runs between Nottingham and Mansfield but every half hour on weekdays and Saturdays, it continues to Chesterfield in Derbyshire. The journey lasts for about 1 hour and 40 minutes and in both directions the bus stops for several minutes at Mansfield's bus station.

The Pronto buses are pink and purple, and are Trentbarton in their outward design; here is the one that carried me to Chesterfield:

On the inside, they look like Stagecoach buses with some Trentbarton-like banners above the windows:

I previously mentioned Chesterfield in one of my posts about visiting Chatsworth House.

Friday, 11 December 2015

"The Tenth Doctor meets Holly from Red Dwarf"

Putting aside my opinions about the post-Paul McGann Doctors, I do think this is a clever video mashup of the Tenth Doctor with Holly from Red Dwarf:

While it's funny to me because I've watched Red Dwarf and Doctor Who, I think the scenes that were chosen for the mashup can be enjoyed by people who aren't familiar with either.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

"Hi, Billy Mays here"

The other day, I stumbled across this tribute video to Billy Mays:

I remember Billy Mays from the early/mid-2000s when he starred in infomercials promoting OxiClean. He promoted a whole range of products, such as Awesome Auger, Gopher and Zorbeez but he was most famous for his OxiClean promotions. He was also known for his booming voice, which became his trademark, along with his catchphase, "Hi, Billy Mays here".

Mays died in June 2009 of heart disease. I hadn't seen him on TV for a few years by then but I remembered him well and I recall being saddened by his death.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Out for this evening

I am currently on my third bus of the day, as I am spending this evening out. I will likely not have time to write a blog post when I return later so I though I'd write a "bus post" to explain why. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Psychology presentation

The Psychology presentations began today. Four other people and I were all randomly selected to go first, with me being the last of the five to present. The five who presented only did so to each other; no one else was allowed to stay in the room and they were free to return home if so desired.

Everyone thought that everyone else performed better than themselves. I stumbled near the beginning of my presentation in that I blanked; fortunately, since it was early on I was allowed to restart and once I did, I followed through with my presentation with only a few missteps but overall, I performed okay and I was my biggest critic. This is the only presentation the class is required to complete for this course.

Monday, 7 December 2015

First graded assignment

A few weeks ago, I had a graded assignment to complete and hand in for a Monday morning. Well, I handed in that assignment on time and today, I received my result: a Merit.

A Merit is a very good result. A "Pass" is the lowest successful grade for an essay whereas a "Distinction" is the highest. Since I ended up finishing the assignment in one weekend at the last minute, I had expected only a Pass at best but I was pleasantly surprised to have received a Merit. This is the first graded assignment I have completed so far, ever (the GCSEs used a different criteria).

Lower than a Pass is a referral, which is given if somebody has not reached all the grading criteria necessary to meet a Pass; however, it is possible to receive a referral, to go back and meet the criteria and still earn a Merit or a Distinction. A Fail is issued if someone does not do the work at all.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Jimmy Carter victorious

Back in August, former US President Jimmy Carter announced that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer and that the cancer had spread around his body. The prognosis for him appeared poor, given his age and the extent of the cancer.

Well, last month he said that his response to the treatment was going well and today he declared that the brain cancer is "gone". Carter has done it: he has defeated brain cancer. Even with the resources at his disposal being a former president, defeating cancer at 91-years-old is a tremendous feat.

Congratulations, Jimmy Carter; this is excellent news!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Nottingham buses in 1990

After a Google search to see what Nottingham looked like in 1990, I came across an article in the Nottingham Post that featured a video that showed what the buses in the city looked like in that year:

From that article I was linked to another, which showed Nottingham buses in 1994:

The major Nottingham City Transport and Trentbarton buses have drastically changed in appearance since the 1990s.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Whack a pomegranate

Tonight, my grandfather utilised a method of quickly extracting the edible seeds from a pomegranate. He cut the fruit in half, held each half over a bowl and whacked them with a wooden spoon, which caused the seeds to fall into the bowl. Within five minutes, the seeds were ready to eat; there was no need for him to spend ages picking the fruit apart.

My grandfather said that he had read years ago about this trick with pomegranates but had not used it before tonight. For years he thought it might have been a hoax but he mentioned that he checked again earlier and found sources that confirmed its existence:

Unless it's something you enjoy doing, no more picking pomegranates apart!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

"She's the One" - Robbie Williams

This is probably my second-favourite song by Robbie Williams, following "Angels":

It's "She's the One", taken from Williams' second studio album, I've Been Expecting You, and was included on The Ego Has Landed, which is his first compilation album. The song is often thought to be an original by Williams but a band called World Party wrote and composed the song initially; however, Williams' cover is definitely the most known version.

I wrote about "Angels" here and first mentioned Williams himself in an early post of mine. Both it and "She's the One" were the first of his songs I properly heard, not including anything he sang with the band Take That or any of its members or anything I heard in a film.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Good deed, sad end

I read this article about the good deed that Matthew Jackson performed for Jamie-Lynn Knighten:

Less than a day later, a car accident killed Jackson. I honestly don't understand it when people who are genuinely kind seem to die young whereas people who have been vile to others appear to live beyond the average life expectancy. This is a generalisation, of course, but it's a pattern I've noticed.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Feeling rude on the bus

My Villager bus to Nottingham this morning was half-full when I boarded, which was unusual because it's normally around a third full when I board in the mid/late morning but there were still plenty of seats left. As my bus continued its way through the town, it rapidly filled and before it reached the main stop, it had reached its carrying capacity and the driver had no choice but to drive past people wanting a ride.

I was in an aisle seat from the start and before the bus reached the town's main stop, the man next to me indicated that he wanted to move. I thought he wanted to get off the bus; as such, I moved out of the way and moved into where he was sitting before, as is the standard practice. Unfortunately for me, he wasn't departing: he had moved so others could sit in his place and, by extension, mine.

As such, when I realised this I immediately felt rude and like a douche. While I'm sure the man did not intend to guilt-trip me into moving so others could sit down, his actions had that exact effect and when the main stop arrived, I departed the bus right there and then - even though it was within the same town - rather than face an uncomfortable ride to Nottingham with the feeling of "sitting where I wasn't supposed to and knowing it". I do not know if anyone thought I had been rude but my leaving the bus meant others could sit down, which negated any accidental rudeness on my part, as far as I am concerned.

It could be argued that my leaving was cowardice on my part and that I should have surrendered the seat and stood; however, it could also be argued that I did not violate any rules and that I was fully entitled to move to the window seat after thinking the man wanted to leave. After all, the people who were standing directly next to me, while being significantly older, were not in desperate need of seats and no one else was bothering to give up theirs. At any rate, my leaving freed up space on the bus, so it could also be argued that I was willing to catch a later bus just for someone else's comfort, even if I was pressured into it.

I have offered to give my seat to others before but people rarely accept such offers unless they are truly in need of sitting.