Sunday, December 14, 2014

Outdoor reindeer lights

Walking through the Milton Keynes shopping centre on Saturday evening, my son and I came across the concrete cows in the centre of an outdoor circle. the cows have been joined by some reindeer, these ones are not real (very like the cows) but they actually light up (unlike the cows). So, without further ado here are the electric reindeer as I have christened them - or rather, here is one of them.

Christmas tree

Last year I posted a photograph of our Christmas tree. Last year we used coloured lights. My wife didn't like the coloured lights too much, she found them a bit garish. This year, she bought two ropes of white lights from Costco, they flash in lots of different ways but she likes them steady on. So this year's tree is more in keeping with how she wanted it. So here it is, our tree with the white lights.

Milton Keynes cinema

Here are a couple of photos I took yesterday of the two cinemas in Milton Keynes. I think The Point was the first multiplex cinema in the UK, it opened in 1985. The architecture and shape is quite dramatic. It is no longer a cinema.
Xscape is a huge building on the landscape and is reminiscent of a large aircraft hanger. There are lots of restaurants and entertainments in the building. Lots of rock climbing and other sports related shops.
The Point in Milton Keynes, the UK's first multiplex cinema in 1985

Xscape in Milton Keynes


I just made this word up but I thought I'd share a few photos I took this week with my new smartphone, the Motorola Moto E. The camera is a fixed focus 5 megapixel camera. I have used the editing software on the phone itself, which isn't too bad actually and can give you some creative options. The photos below were taken on Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th December.

Birmingham Central Library with moon

Birmingham early morning, moon over Central Library

Early morning in Milton Keynes Central

December sunrise from the train

The Hobbit: battle of the five armies

Yesterday my son and I caught the train over to Milton Keynes to go to the Cineworld cinema and watch this film. I had seen the second film at the cinema with my son locally. I can't remember whether I went to the cinema to see the first film in the trilogy but as I don't remember, I probably didn't.
My expectations were probably higher for the final film than they were for the second. I felt the second film disappointed me. The latest and final film in the trilogy doesn't disappoint though. I was expecting a flashback to the ending of the second film but no, it was straight in to pick up from where the second film ended and I'm glad that it was the case. I didn't feel that the film was to long, unlike the second. I was glad that there was only a casual few moments for the Stephen Fry character, I didn't really like that character. The battle scenes were good and it was a treat to hear the voice of Billy Connolly as Thorin's cousin. I felt it was a great film, up to the same standard as the first film and probably helps to redeem the series as whole to worthy of watchable repeat viewings, much like the Lord of the Rings films. The ending was lovely but I won't spoil it. The hand drawn illustrations of the characters as the credits rolled were excellent and I thought they were very good, I would like to know who the artist was. The music was, as ever, excellent and atmospheric too. I loved how when Bilbo handled his ring that the familiar lilt and theme from the Lord of the Rings played, with subtle differences. The CGI effects were very good too, believable and not over-used. A great return to form.

Dark Matter, Redshift Press

Last weekend, I went down to my local comic shop because the proprietor Mark was hosting a book signing for a friend who has published a comic book. It is an anthology of nine stories, illustrated by seven different artists. Each of the stories are relatively dark and have the claim that there are no happy endings. It's true. The stories are interesting and complete in their own right. There is no relationship between the different stories. I enjoyed the book and enjoyed seeing the different artworks. I spoke to the writer and a few of the artists. They were a really nice bunch of people.

Christmas feeling?

Every year I hear people complaining about the shops getting their Christmas stock on the shelves earlier and earlier. This year, I personally didn't notice that. Infact, for me anyway, the build up to Christmas feels very late. I went into the loft and retrieved all of the decorations and our two trees on the last weekend of November. Usually, my wife has bought chocolate coins or a Lego advent calendar that we can use to populate our two big wooden calendars. But this year, maybe a sign our kids are growing up, we didn't put the calendars out until the last half of the first week in December - very tardy. We put our Christmas tree up last weekend. It's nice having a tree up in the house, we haven't got the second tree up in the dining room yet though. It all points to the fact that we just don't feel like it's Christmas yet. Maybe the feeling will come when we break up from work on Friday? We have friends coming round to dinner, so I hope that is the moment when it all starts to feel real.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


It's eventually got me. I've survived for so long without a cold this year but now I've succumbed to one. The night before last I was sweating in bed really heavily. Last night wasn't too bad but I had to sit up slightly in bed to help with breathing. I really want just to return to my bed but unfortunately I have to work. At least I don't have to travel today. I suppose the other thing is that at least I have caught it now and it's before Christmas, so hopefully by the holidays I will be free of it.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Moving to Android

I've been an iPhone 4 user for a few years. It has probably been 3 years now. That's a fair length of time for a mobile these days. I was very happy with the iPhone when I got it as a gift back in 2011. However, the cost of the contract and the availability of cheaper alternatives has driven me away to an Android phone as my new cell phone. I've gone for an inexpensive Android phone, the Motorola Moto E. It's the cheaper end of the market than many phones I see people at work using. However, it seems responsive while browsing and playing videos on wifi. I can't tell what the performance as a phone is like yet because the number is in the process of transferring. I will have 14 days to either accept or reject this but at the moment I am not seeing a downside. Well, not strictly true, the ONLY downside I can see at the moment is that the camera is not as good as the iPhone camera. BUT my Panasonic camera is way better than my iPhone anyway so I would normally use that for shooting. So far so good with my new phone, the other advantage is that the whole family has the same phone. We have a family deal. I wonder what shape we'll be in after two more years of this contract? At least the monthly cost is cheaper than a single brand new iPhone model. I still don't understand why people spend that amount of money but maybe I never will.

I've transferred important information to the new phone but one app on iPhone I had and liked was a journal app called Day One. I wanted to keep it, so looked for an Android version but there wasn't one. I looked up some alternatives and have gone for an app called Diaro. The cool thing was that I was able to set up my iPhone to sync with my Dropbox account. I then signed in to the Diaro website and sync that also to my Dropbox account. I was then able to move my Day One Dropbox folder to my Diaro Dropbox folder. Then in the Diaro website I chose to import my Day One journal, selecting the replace all option (because I had no content in Diaro) and it worked. I had to close the app on my phone and start it again but then the content appeared. Great, the data I wanted to transfer was transferred. Now I can use my phone to continue my journal as before.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Christmas is just around the corner

It's that time of year again when the shops are selling Christmas goods openly. The shopkeepers are hoping for a good turnout. I always think of shopping at night at Christmas time. I do like when the towns are all being lit up with Christmas lights. I enjoy the hustle and bustle of shopping days. I don't like the crush of crowds very much but if I'm not in a hurry to get somewhere then it's okay. The best place to be at Christmas is either at home or at the pub I reckon. Nothing quite like being warm and drinking wine or beer in the company of friends and loved ones. It's better if you're safe in the knowledge that you have got your loved ones all of their presents. I don't like the stress of buying presents just for the sake of it. Despite all the talk of shopping, I love the food and the smells of Christmas. I even love the fact that the weather is usually terrible. It makes me happier to be indoors at home. At the end of the month we have some friends over and we'll go watch the turning on of the Christmas lights in town, they do a fireworks display as well that is quite good. Looking forward to it. I will also be seeing the Christmas market when I go to Manchester. That's usually very good as well. I love the fact that there are so many food and drink stalls.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bletchley Park

This afternoon my son and I visited the secret wartime code breaking location of Bletchley Park. I knew quite a bit of the story before going, as it is one I do find fascinating. But I picked up things even I had not known or had forgotten. The tireless way the people worked there and the production line like nature of the code breaking is only something you can appreciate by going. It's incredible to think what teams of linguists, mathematicians, scientists and engineers can do when they work together. It's a great place to visit, the funding they have had has really helped make it an attraction that's worth visiting.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tasty supper for a cold day

Last night I had a walk around and decided to eat at one of those places I like to go once in a while. It's a restaurant that specialises in pies called Pieminster (in Manchester). The food is great and arrives really fast to the table, the beer was great bottled beer too. Here's a photo of my supper, yummy! This particular dish is called Kate & Sidney and I had mine with minted mushy peas and cheese, a combo they call the Mothership. It also has a pouring of rich red wine gravy on the creamy mashed potato.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Bonfire Night 2014

It was our local fireworks display last night. My wife was in London at the theatre with a friend so I went with my children and a couple of other families. The fireworks were pretty good, they usually are. Here is the video that my son shot, he wanted this particular music for it - Carmen Overture.

We Remember Them

Very poignant Remembrance services were held today across the country. It is 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall too. I took the photo below of a section of the wall that is outside of the Imperial War Museum.
So many men and women have fallen in battle for the sake of our country and our freedoms. It is hard for subsequent generations to truly recognise the sacrifice they made. The war poetry and poignancy of the ceremonies helps us all to mourn and remember them. Even though we may not appreciate the ways that they all fell, the day to day gritty nature of life in wartime. Few can truly remember what it was like, our soldiers of today have perhaps the best chance at this. But even though it is hard, it is important to think and reflect on how awful life would be if our freedoms had not been fought so hard and so valiantly for.