Saturday, March 28, 2015

Easter Break

I finished work yesterday for a week, I'm so glad. I've fallen asleep a few times in the middle of doing stuff at home yesterday and today, I must be run down and tired. Either that or the Budweiser beer I have been drinking with meals makes me sleepy! Hopefully the break will revitalise me. I return to work on Tuesday 7th April.
The clocks go forward tomorrow morning, which will be another good thing, despite hating the loss of an hour. I do like it when the evenings are lighter.

Meredith Kercher murder

For several years now I have followed with some interest the Meredith Kercher murder trial in Italy. Personally, I have always believed that Amanda Knox, the US student, was innocent. She served 4 years of her life in Italy before the prosecution was squashed on appeal. In the last twist of the tale the appeal was questioned and a ruling was required about whether the squashing of the prosecution should be upheld or whether Amanda Knox should stand trial again with her former boyfriend. Well, this week the appeal that squashed the conviction was itself squashed, meaning poor Amanda Knox can get on with her life. As I say, it is my belief/opinion that she is innocent. Some people may disagree with me but that is my view. I am sad for Meredith but I don't think you make it right by hurting another innocent person.

Horus Heresy

Again, another good find from a charity shop. Today I picked up no less than six of the Horus Heresy novels. I look forward to reading the history of the Warhammer 40K. A while back, I was interested in following up my reading of a series of short stories set in the Warhammer 40K universe. I went into a Games Workshop store and one of the assistants was telling me about the novels. At the time I felt he was being a bit too pushy and when we were interrupted I made a break for it and left the shop. My daughter thought the shop was full of weirdos, which made me laugh afterwards. I have been looking for the other books in the Seeds of Earth trilogy by Michael Cobley but these will do nicely for now. They were £2 each and are in excellent condition. A bargain.

Richard Dawkins'

I don't know anything much about Richard Dawkins, other than he is featured on the new Nightwish album that is about to be released (I have pre-ordered it so hope to receive my copy in the new few days). I believe he is an atheist and a professor who can communicate about science in a popular way. I have seen his book The God Delusion quite often and today my wife handed me a copy of another of his books The Greatest Show on Earth whilst we were in a charity shop. I do believe there is a certain similarity in the book and CD covers between The Greatest Show on Earth and the Nightwish album Endless Forms Most Beautiful. So I shall dip into the book with interest.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Road to Number 10

The General Election campaign trail is just about to kick off at full speed next week. I think we'll see some good news stories over the next few weeks. I like the time of a general election, I like how the government changes regularly here. It would be awful if it didn't ever change. My optimism usually gives was to pessimism though with politicians.
I watched a TV programme this week that featured David Cameron and Ed Millband being quizzed and challenged hard by Jeremy Paxman. Paxman gave them both hard times but I felt some of the question to Ed Milliband crossed a line. Then again, the Prime Minister is a difficult job and as a country we can't afford to have a man in charge that crumbles. I don't think either crumbled but Cameron has been in power and that must give him an advantage. I don't particularly think that Cameron answered the questions as he should have, he has a way of disagreeing that annoys me "I don't accept that..." he will sometimes say. As if just saying that is enough.
In the interest of balance I should also say that Milliband's "Hell yes! I'm tough..." annoyed me, as if anyone will believe it just because he used the mildest form of swear word infront of it. Who says "Hell yes!" these days anyway?
It will be interesting to see who gets in this time, I feel it is very open and that is dangerous in some ways. We shall see what happens in May.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hot Cross Buns

Easter is approaching and with it the smell of spiciness is in the air. Yep, it's the season of Cadbury's eggs and Hot Cross Buns. I like hot cross buns, especially when toasted and the butter melts into them nicely. They are a nice treat, they have some cinnamon and some orange zest in them that gives them that special occasion flavour. I don't have many but I do normally get a couple of packets around Easter time, on a cold day a toasted hot cross bun and cup of tea goes down very well.

Texas Hold'em Poker

Last weekend I was in a local charity shop and saw a Texas Hold'em Poker set for £2.50. I've not thought about playing poker for a while but have in the past had some desire to learn how to play the game. Well, I thought the set was a good buy at that price but at the time I didn't buy it and later regretted it. Here is what it might have contained...

But I left it a week and when I went back it had been bought by someone else. I have been thinking about it for the whole week however, so I decided to get a set of poker chips anyway. I bought a nice set of 300 chips that come in a smart aluminium case. I have read the rules and think I can get by but I am just beginning to explore the game. There does seem to be a lot of language in it that I find myself needing to learn, like the Small Blind, the Big Blindthe Pre-Flop, the Flop, the Turn or Fourth Street and the River or Fifth Street (among others). I also need to learn the order of the scoring.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Eclipse

I stepped out my back door this morning at 9:30am to go and see the moon pass before the sun. It wasn't a perfect totality where we live but it was an interesting site nonetheless. I put my sunglasses on to see it, there was a lot of cloud cover and it wasn't too bad to look at it with my naked eyes squinting. The light didn't diminish as much as I was expecting though, it didn't go as dark as night time and that was slightly disappointing. I didn't take any photographs but there are a lot of photos of eclipses on the web already.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Jeans

I don't post very often about clothes, but there is something I want to say on the subject. I'm not a follower of fashion but like most people, I would like to imagine that people aren't saying horrible things about the clothes I wear. I don't know what the truth is. Maybe they do. But I don't think I wear clothes that are wildly too young or too old for me nor do I wear clothes that represent some kind of fashion margin. Most of the clothes I wear, in fact, all of them are from mainstream outlets.
Clothes which come from certain brands can be very expensive. I choose not to wear branded clothes for this reason. But by brand I mean expensive, the clothes I wear do have a brand but they are clothes from places like Tesco, Asda, Matalan, Primark or Peacocks. Occasionally, I might buy a suit from Fosters Menswear or a shirt from Next but either only because I need to for an event or because I want to look smart for work. I have looked at the racks in TK Maxx, where branded clothes can be found, and they are very expensive. I'd rather spend my money on films, music, video games, comics and food. Now, a comparison would be useful because what's expensive to me might be cheap to someone else.

T shirts: I consider these as something that should generally be cheap, like less than £10. I have bought more expensive official fan ones which have the name of a game or a band on them, these can be expensive but nice to wear. So for the official ones, I'd consider paying up to about £18.

Jeans: I have paid over £30 for these but I feel this is too much, so less than £20 would be reasonable.

OK, that was a general quick look at a couple of examples. I've just looked at the TK Maxx site and see that a plain green Ralph Lauren polo short costs £35. A pair of Super Dry jeans costs £60 and a white T shirt with a printed picture on the front sells for £15. These aren't expensive items but you can clearly see the differences in cost. The Super Dry label is a really expensive one. I don't know how people can afford to shop there.

I have just bought a couple of new pairs of jeans from Matalan. I looked at branded jeans like Lee and Wrangler but I could afford two pairs from the Easy brand for the same price as one pair. The branded jeans might be hardier and last longer, that's the main difference. In the past I've bought jeans from Peacocks in town, I do prefer Matalan though because of the two Peacocks jeans both have had stitching come undone or I have worn through them, the photo below shows what happened to the arse of the jeans from Peacocks. I shall be throwing these away and wearing my new Matalan jeans instead.


Death Proof

This is the fifth film by Quentin Tarantino, alleged to be his worst film - even he himself has apparently been quoted saying this. There are effects applied to the film to make it look like some kind of cheaply made exploitation film of the 1970s. It was originally packaged as half of a two-film cinema experience called Grindhouse, I don't know what the other film was but I read that Tarantino's half was the better of the two.

All that said, I thought it was a highly enjoyable film. A psychopath stunt man uses his car to crash himself and deliberately kill people, usually young attractive women. The film sort of breaks into two stories, the first story shows how he operates and the second story shows him operating but with the twist that the young attractive women he picks are stunt women themselves. He has chosen the wrong victims and we get to see the results. I won't spoil it.
I'd never heard of the film before but the cover was vaguely familiar, I think possibly because the design has been used on some other film - the film Vanishing Point is referenced several times during the movie and perhaps the cover is similar? If I were a film student I would research this and find out.
It's not a film I'd watch often but it is very entertaining and I'd like to see the extras. The version I bought was from a charity shop and was dirt cheap but it is a two disk edition. The female cast are all beautiful women, so plenty of eye candy on display. The psychopath is played by Kurt Russell, who does an outstanding job.

UK entry for Eurovision 2015

Last night the UK entry for this year's contest in Vienna was announced. I'm not sure where the news was announced, I just saw it on the web but it might have been on the National Lottery programme, they have done something more elaborate in the past where the contest entry was chosen in part by the public vote - that seems to have been disapproved of by someone in charge because of the general lack of success and poor quality of the songs. The songs may have improved in recent years (arguably) but not the end result on the leaderboard - hence a lot of people saying it's not a song contest at all but a political voting contest. It's interesting though from a human geography and cultural perspective.
So this year's entry is from a duo called Electric Velvet, a name that sounds manufactured to me and one that doesn't inspire my confidence. I've heard the song itself only once so I can't say whether it is catchy or not yet, it has a fairly quick 1920s style feel to it with an update to make it electro-pop. I don't want to be negative about it, so I'll leave it at that. I hope it does well. I much prefer the Scandinavian style symphonic rock style of entry but sadly there haven't been many of those in recent years.



There was an interesting event in Germany's choice of song, the public voted and chose an entry but he decided he didn't want to do it, the reasoning is a mystery to me, and he wanted to pass it on to another contestant. So, this was allowed (again the reasoning behind this is unknown but I suspect it was a great moment of stress and embarrassment to the TV producers) and the young female is now Germany's entry.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

RIP Leonard Nimoy

I was saddened to hear the news that the actor Leonard Nimoy passed away yesterday. The last time I saw him on screen was his performance in Into Darkness. He was so closely associated with Spock from Star Trek that it was hard to think of him as a human and not some alien! That sounds strange but he will forever be Spock in the eyes of many people in the world. I don't think that this is a bad legacy, Spock has many good attributes.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hotdog Heaven

I've got today off from work and it feels rather like a boys day does, when the girls in the family are doing their thing leaving the boys to have a day on their own to do stuff like play videogames or Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic The Gathering. I knew that we had a few hotdogs in the fridge that needed eating because I bought and opened the packet last weekend when the boys did have a day to themselves. So, having to go out and get a few supplies from the shops anyway, I decided to get some rolls and dried onions. The onions are very cheap and you just have to put them in boiling water and simmer them for 5 minutes. Slice the rolls and when the hotdogs are also ready (I put them in the same water), just drain the water away from the saucepan and get a fork and just push a few forkfuls of onion into the roll before placing the hotdog in there on the top. This works best otherwise if you put the hot dog in first the onions just drop out when you eat them. I've found this out through  experience and watching the professionals vending hotdogs.
The other slightly mad thing I like to do is make my children really annoyed by bellowing "Boiled onions!" at the top of my voice. If I get it right and very annoying, I can make them cry. I don't advise doing this however, just that sometimes it can be funny.

I love hotdogs, they are one of my favourite things in the world. I've loved them ever since I was a kid. I love them more than beefburgers. I used to buy tinned ones but since we have had children and feed them pasta and frankfurters we always buy Herta ones now. On the packet they look horrid with that lettuce and tomato on there, you don't need to complicate the flavour with a frankfurter like that. With some food the simplest you can make it the better and frankfurters are a good example in my book.
Now then, on to my frankfurters today. I like to have French's American mustard with mine and either ketchup or brown sauce. My usual brown sauce is HP but at the moment I am trying out a variety that my parents always buy, Daddies. My frankfurters photographs are below. I enjoyed them very much, with one of them I used two frankfurters to use them all up. After a while if you have too many rolls you just get full because of the bread.









Defiance

I picked up season one of the SyFy series Defiance a couple of weeks ago. I've watched a few episodes and I have to say I like it a lot. It reminds me of Firefly because it has a strong central male character but strong female characters around him as well. But more than that it has a Wild West feel about it, a town called Defiance needs a lawman and someone to help ordinary citizens (of a variety of alien species, known collectively as Votans, and humans) muster a defence force to protect the town from the Volge. There are lots of internal politics between the different Votan species and this is what makes it so interesting. I'm looking forwards to watching more episodes.

Farscape

After being aware of FarScape for a long time I have started to watch season one via Netflix. It is a well produced series with a good strong cast and good storylines so far. I'm not far into season one but I can say that I'm enjoying the show so far.
A human test pilot named Crichton is catapulted into the future via a form of travel known as a slipstream. He ends up on board a living space ship called Moya, a Leviathan, who is controlled by a character called Pilot who is not biologically part of Moya but even so has a large part of his body (not visible) connected to her. Crichton is accompanied by a cast of other central characters who all have their own backstories and personality defects. It is a series with very strong characterisation and I like that. I also think the makeup and clothes are pretty special too.
FarScape creates a world where you can disappear to and forget reality. I don't think you can say any better than that about a sci-fi series.

Cheese bagel breakfast

I'm not a great fan of eating vey close to waking up. My taste buds have to have some time to get going in a morning. I rarely eat before at least having a cup of coffee. Coffee is usually the first substance I imbibe of a morning. So, after my cup of coffee I usually prefer something hot for breakfast, I can eat some cereals but I'm not a giant fan of cold breakfasts. Toast is ok but it can get a bit boring, same with porridge. The disadvantage with bread is that it can go mouldy. So, here is my solution to the breakfast conundrum. First, buy a bag of bagels.

 
 
These will do, they are from Tesco. Next, buy some cheese slices, these are great because they are so quick and easy and they taste good when slightly melted.

Now, you might not want this breakfast every day of the week, I'd suggest I have it once or twice a week to be fair, if that. I am the only one in our family who likes bagels, my daughter doesn't mind eating them but I really like them more than anyone, so being able to freeze them is ideal because I don't have to eat them all before they go off. They tend to keep better than sliced bread anyway to be honest.
So, the next part is what to do when you want a cheese bagel breakfast, this is easy, just put the frozen bagel in the microwave on defrost for a minute and it is ready to slice into two: cut along the bagel horizontally so that each half has an intact hole in the middle. Then put the two halves in a toaster. When the bagel pops up from the toaster, spread some butter on both sides and place one cheese slice in it covering the hole and then put the top on. That's really all there is to it, you cut leave it whole or cut in half. It's a tasty treat and a lot cheaper than a McDonalds breakfast bagel.

You can add egg to it as well or even add some sliced meat or perhaps some sausage but that requires a lot more time and preparation. My cheese bagel is quick and easy and tasty.