Monday, February 27, 2006

Tomorrow is Pancake Day!

I love pancake day. It's the only day some years that we make pancakes, crazy but true. Crazy because I love pancakes so much. I always used to put lemon juice and sugar sprinkled on them but actually my wife showed me how to make them even better by using the juice of an orange instead of a lemon. I will endeavour to photograph my efforts tomorrow.

Anway, I mention this because I picked up my daughter from school. The first thing she couldn't wait to tell me was that she was giving up chocolate and Macdonalds for four weeks because they weren't very good for her! She gets Macdonalds once a week on a Wednesday because we're all usually late home and the kids have been doing gym and stuff and are really tired and hungry and it's easy and quick. (how many Ands can I get in a sentence? I probably haven't used that many since I was at primary school myself!) And she gets chocolate even less, except in December when she gets a little everyday. Well, I told her that I was very pleased and that she reminded me we needed to get the mix for some pancakes tomorrow. But before I said anything else she had me agreeing to giving up chocolate and Macdonalds too. Well, OK I'm not usually back early enough for Maccy D's on a Wednesday anyway so I can live without a Big Mac but CHOCOLATE? FOUR WEEKS? I don't think I've ever done that. That means I'll have to gorge myself on all the chocolate I bought at the weekend (to last me a week) tomorrow. We call it Shrove Tuesday but I'm so ignorant and not generally very religious I don't know if it's called that across the pond.

Here's a strange coincidence: in the story below I never knew Olney was famous for this and it's not that far from us, though I've never been there. Wikipedia tells me that although it has a Milton Keynes postcode it has a Bedford dialling code! What crap you can sometimes find!

Going for gold in the pancake olympics

One of the most famous pancake races is held at Olney in Buckinghamshire over a 415 yard course. The rules are strict; contestants have to toss their pancake at both the start and the finish, as well as wearing an apron and a scarf. The race is followed by a church service.

Since 1950 Olney has competed with Liberal in Kansas, which holds an identical race, to see which town can produce the fastest competitor. After the 2000 race, Liberal was leading with 26 wins to Olney's 24.

Kinga and Kemal?

I read this story today about Kinga and Kemal from Big Brother 6 being an item and my flabber has never been so gasted. He was the campest, skinniest little drama queen who liked to wear heels (and pretty much nothing else) and talk at one hundred miles an hour about nothing but his feelings. I found Kinga attractive at first sight but her personality soon put me off, she was outrageous and I remember one drunken night when she pretended to masturbate with a bottle - how classy! The only thing I can remember them having in common was their ability to take their clothes off and prance around. Another match made in heaven.

My wife called me in to watch this roller coaster, man I was shaking just looking at the thing! It's at a place called Cedar Point in Ohio. This particular roller coaster is the Top Thrill Dragster, my wife would go on this. Me? No chance. I hate 'em. Check out these photos and scroll down to the bottom pic to see what I'd look like if I went on this. Posted by Picasa

I thought this log looked more like a wooden Chinese puzzle - as though it had to be assembled by putting all the blocks together in the right sequence. Posted by Picasa

We went for a family walk in a country park on Sunday. It has a lake and some wildlife! These birds standing in line amused me. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Missy Elliott

I felt inclined to state here that I love Missy Elliott's album This is NOT a Test. It's a work of pure genious in my opinion.

I woke this morning and instantly had in mind two cartoons which I penned down. I have to work out a way of putting them on the web but I will do that and display them here. They were quite surreal but I found them funny. That probably means nobody else will!

This is the version I generated from this link off Tara, thanks! Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 24, 2006

TFI Friday

It's been a hard going week this one. I'm glad Friday is actually here and I can enjoy a brief hiatus from work. Although having said that, I'm doing some work for my mother-in-law for her business - so will be doing work of a sorts.

I've mused before that I'm not totally happy with the title of this blog, Pickings was meant to refer to top picks from my browsing of the web - but it's hardly that any more. I've been meaning to post something about my bad habit and thinking about the word 'Pickings' leads nicely into it.

Ever since I can remember I've had an apparently nervous habit of biting and picking the skin on my fingers. It is something that I do. I never considered it too much, the compulsion to do it is usually so strong that I don't know I'm doing it until its too late. The results are pretty horrible, really, when I think about it. Right now I have 6 fingers out of 10 with some skin removed. Most often I have a little tag of skin by the side of a nail that I pull off, we call them 'quicks' but I don't know where the name comes from. Other times I bite skin and then pull it off in a chunk, usually my right thumb or index finger. I do it when I'm anxious or am stressed. The severity changes and some weeks I'm fine. But it turns out that I'm not alone. My parents, especially my dad, were always telling me off for biting my nails. It looks like this doesn't really help. So, now I've got a clicker I'm going to put it to good use and try to count the number of times I bite or pick the skin on my fingers and will use this info to try and reduce it.

My last thought for tonight is that I've seen news reports here in the UK about 'Happy Slapping' where someone, usually a teenager, is set-up to get hit in the head by someone while another gang member films it on a videophone. This isn't new, I've heard about it before and wondered whether it was really a 'real' thing or whether it was an urban myth that was being manufactured by the media. It seems to be quite real. Well, what a sad twisted fucking world this is that someone would get their kicks this way. Even sadder that it stems from the younger generation, who learn behaviour from the adults.

I also heard that kids in the US are trying out a variant of this where they open car doors as they're moving to try and knock cyclists off their bikes. Jesus Christ! (apologies) But how stupid can some people be??? There's a video file doing the rounds at work I saw this week wher someone actually leans out the car doing this but falls out instead and gets his head knocked by the bumper of a car going in the opposite direction- Ouch! In a way though, I hope it acts as a deterrent to anyone who contemplates doing something so deadly stupid. I hope the police come down hard on people they catch doing this.

I need to calm down now, so I'll go and watch my TV a bit.

At last I'll be able to watch Sin City this weekend, my wife borrowed it for me to watch. I It never actually appeared at the local cinema. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 23, 2006

MP3 Man Strikes Again

I love the Eurovision Song Contest and I saw this today:

Even though 160 million viewers watch Eurovision, British media and BBC suits still sneer at it. Americans are not so stupid. Plans have just been made to create Americavision, based on our Song Contest, and NBC executives expect it to be so big it'll blow American Idol out of the water. The competition will involve each American state choosing a band or artist to compete in a huge prime-time final.

I wonder if it will work in the US?

Today I bought a new MP3 player, see photo below. It's got eight and a half times more memory than my last one and cost the same price. It also has some nice 'simple but useful' features like shuffle play, voice recording, a battery indicator, track and artist info ticker (all new for me). It'll hold more music than I can listen to in a single trip. The process of buying it was a little harder than it should have been, I got quite a mature checkout assistant and she ran it through the till twice because she was having trouble with the security tag. I can sympathize, the design of those security studs must be quite bad because they never seem to come off anything I buy very easily. So my poor, shiny new MP3 player was getting bashed a bit and she handed it to the checkout assistant next to her who bashed it too. When it came back to her she swiped it again. Hence it totalled double what it should have. So, I then had to follow her to Customer Service who had to credit my credit card with half the amount. It was early and the store was empty - otherwise I might have been more annoyed. My brother is a massive audiophile and he would sneer at my little player I'm sure. But hey, in my book, if it works and is simple to use I'll get just as much pleasure from it than he would from one costing a hundred times as much.

Today, I got tagged for the first time by Tara. Here's the score...
List seven songs you are into right now, no matter what the genre. It does not matter whether they have words, or what decade they're from. The only requirement is that they must be songs you’re really enjoying right now.

Post these instructions on your blog along with your seven song choices. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.
Here's mine then, in no particular order:
1. Black Eyed Peas - Hey Mama
2. Osmonds - Crazy Horses
3. Lemar - I Believe In A Thing Called Love
4. Schnappi - Das Kleine Krokodil
5. Crazy Frog - Axel F
6. Mud - Tiger Feet
7. Ray Charles - Shake Your Tailfeather

Apart from the 1st and 2nd, these aren't the kind of songs I'd be listening to if I didn't have a family who like this kind of stuff. I can get into it though and enjoy it just as much as they do. A little embarrasingly, I'm not acquainted with 7 other bloggers yet - so thanks T ;-) I guess that's my homework!

I got a new mp3 player today, more about that in a minute. I took a picture of it with my cameraphone, it was a bit boring so I've tinkered with it, I kind of like this image. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Back in the saddle

I didn't see the BAFTA awards ceremony this year, I think this is probably the glitziest British awards ceremony - it's posher than The Brits music awards. You can get a taste from these videos on the web, the presenter Stephen Fry has his own unique style and you can tell he likes words.

My business trip is over and I'm exhausted. It was nice to get home and get back to the family. It's when you're away that you really appreciate what you have in having a family. Four hours on the train up and back was boring, I'm glad I stayed overnight otherwise it would have been a killer - especially having to travel again today. My MP3 player seems to have died too, which makes the journey even more boring - though the train has radios inbetween the seats that you can plug you're headphones into. I listened to a radio drama serial called The Archers, there are people who listen to this show religiously. I just think it's a bit naff, a snooty person's version of Eastenders. Maybe I'm exagerrating.

I sometimes go though this churchyard in the old part of town, those gravestones are like 150 years old or must be weird to live there, with your bedroom window having a view moonlit of them! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Impending Overnighter

I've got some travelling to do for work tomorrow and Tuesday. I'll be away from home, staying in a hotel. I don't like being away from my family but there is something nice about hotels. I think it's the TV being on when you enter the room, having your own little bathroom and the tiny kettle and cups. I especially like the en suite bathroom and I wish we had one at home, instead we have the Shower From Hell. It zips from boiling to sub-zero in seconds, it's not as it there is any power in the water, if it was a normal shower the water would probably be just right - but because it just trickles out it must get-like super-hot on the way. But then there are days when it is bearable, I don't mean it's powerful because that is the one thing it never is, just that some days you can stand underneath and it doesn't remove the first layer of skin. I swear though that one day, I'll rip that fucking thing off the wall. It usually turns freezing just when you're washing your hair and the shampoo is in your eyes so you can't open them to see where you're stepping. That got that out of my system.

But hotels, everyone has something to say about hotels. I think they're fun but I don't stay more than about a couple of weeks worth of days a year in them - if that. If I was always on the road and had to stay regularly, I think they would lose their charm. Breakfast in hotels is good, eat as much as you like and get free coffee refills. Some people I know at work look up the hotel in advance just to check there is a pool, but for me I'm like "You went to the pool? When?" because we might break at 5 or 5.30pm and then have dinner at 7pm. They use that couple of hours to go to the pool. Me, I'm relaxing with my work suit off and the TV on. I phone the family, make a beverage with the tiny kettle, maybe wank into the toilet (hope there's no hidden camera!), have a poop and take a nice hot shower and a shave before dinner but I'm definitely NOT in the pool. I don't understand how they have the time. I think, deep down, they're doing that just to impress or be superior. It doesn't wash with me though, I know they still look for pens and notepad freebies on the desk before they leave.

Hotels bedrooms are sometimes too hot. The windows can be a bit tricky to open. At least one time I couldn't sleep it was so hot and I couldn't open the window because it seemed lke it was jammed. I stayed up most of the night practically in tears I was so tired. Ironically, in the morning I found out how to open the windows!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I snapped this today, the churchyard on the way to town has these streetlamps. My 3yr old son recognised it instantly as the streetlamp in Narnia. Posted by Picasa

My wife and daughter are now seriously addicted to this little critter, they have one each and with the IR they swap virtual presents. Good grief! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Brits 2006

I watched The Brit Awards show tonight, it seems like a long time since I watched the TV - I watch more DVDs than TV these days. Anyhow, here's my thoughts on the stars -

  • Prince played, doing the thing he does with guitar.
  • I thought Kelly Clarkson sang with spirit, don't know who she is, but her singing was all over the place as she was jumping and running around a lot.
  • Kanye West did a number, but I missed a lot of it, lots of scantily clad females on stage with him apparently.
  • The Kaiser Chiefs won a few awards but I can't explain why.
  • Coldplay likewise.
  • James Blunt, first time I heard the song "You're beautiful" I thought it was nice - my 6 year old daughter loves it - but when you've heard it for the 3rd time you just want to turn it off. His talking voice is very like his singing voice, kind of high and a bit wierd.
  • I liked what Madonna said about British music, so glad she got an award.
  • Glad too Green Day got something.
  • Jack Johnson, whoever he is, performed an acoustic song I thought sounded alright.
  • It was good to see Beck was nominated in the 'international male solo artist' category, I like his stuff but he didn't win it, I think Kanye West did
  • I heard a quick snatch of a song from the Black Eyed Peas I thought sounded great, I think I'll get some of their stuff I like what I've heard on the radio
  • Madonna beat Mariah to 'international female solo artist', though Missy Elliot was in same category and would have been my choice
  • Gorillaz sounded good, infact they were probably my highlight.
  • Paul Weller finished the evening off with some songs and the deserved lifetime achievement award.

For some reason it looked like it was shot on film, this made it slightly disconcerting for me as I'm used to TV awards shows looking like they were filmed just for TV. I thought Chris Evans was a shit host, he's definitely lost the X factor he had as a presenter for me. Boy George gave him a murderous look when he made some comment about having a ton of drugs under the bed in the hotel and calling the NYPD. Boy George didn't have his black neck tonight. I heard he paints that black neck to hide the fat hanging under his chin. It just looks like a desperate attempt to stay young to me, nothing wrong with that but when it just makes you look like an idiot it's time to stop isn't it?

My older brother turned 45 today, fuck! I was reflecting in the shower this morning that I've spent most of my thirties looking after my babies and young children. I'll spend my forties looking after my children as teenagers and my fifties will be almost over before my children have flown the coup to set up their own lives. It was all a bit of a shock. Another frightening thought was that in 1980 I was already 12 and a lot of today's footballers weren't even born then. Sobering thoughts.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

OK, so I have to put a picture on the web to put it in my Blogger profile, so this is it. I drew me. Posted by Picasa


It seems that Film Four is coming to Freeview, yahoo!

There is a now a new smoking ban on smoking in all enclosed public spaces that will take effect next summer. I don't smoke, never smoked and because I have asthma I'm glad I never did try it. I did used to find smoking sexy though, so it never put me off someone if they were a smoker. So, I've never been an anti-smoker it's just that it has never appealed. Most of my friends who used to smoke have stopped or only smoke an occasional fag once in a blue moon. My wife was a big smoker, until she met me and then she stopped. Funnily enough her stopping has made me more of an anti-smoker now than I've ever been. So, I'm glad that pubs and clubs are going to become smoke-free but, like mobile phones in phone free train carriages, how are they going to police it? I can't see some pubs ever being smoke free completely.

Last week I sat on the train opposite a young lady. It was going to be nearly two hours for me and I was a bit bored. For about half an hour I sat wondering what I could talk about and whether it was silly to start a conversation with a stranger. Would she think I was mad? Would she prefer to be left alone. The mind goes round in circles and plays its tricks. In the end I did start the conversation, a simple observation about not being able to fall asleep on the nice, cosy, warm train despite having gotten woken up at 4am by the kids. And boy could she talk! I think I new more about her than a close friend by the end of it. I was glad to be able to say goodbye when my station came up. I suppose it was good in a human-spirit kind of way. It just shows that you think there is nothing to talk about and this massive amount of material just surges forth, a bit like owning a blog sometimes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine

I was up late last night working. When I finally turned off the light, it was nearly 2am and I found it difficult to get to sleep. I hate it when my mind is so restless that I can't sleep. So today, I've been tired and my head has felt a little woolly.

I got my wife roses and a card this morning, about an hour and a half after receiving my card from her as soon as I woke up. She didn't seem to mind, which was lucky. As far as I remember we aren't a couple who spend much time celebrating Valentine's day. It has never been a special day for me, I'm sure there must be some people who really love it but my wife was talking about how she saw some desperate men hunting for flowers in Tesco's as she was picking up some wine tonight. Poor bastards.

The one glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for me is that the Eurovision Song Contest is getting closer as each day passes. What can I tell you about this? I love it. Countries of Europe send singers or groups to compete against each other to win the contest. Whichever country wins gets to host the following year's competition. The big thing is, after all the songs have been performed each country is visited in turn and asked for their scores. This takes an absolute age, honestly you'll want to slit your own throat by the end of it. But eventually someone wins and they can all go home. Now here are the things I love about this contest:
  • the short videos introducing each country
  • the German entry (usually some bonkers guy with a moustache and a big shirt)
  • when pop singers are dressed up as rock chicks or goths to sing a slightly rockier song
  • the UK entry (usually good for a laugh, I wish Jordan had performed last year - pregnant in a skintight pink leather jumpsuit)
  • the scandalously political voting where countries give the highest points to their nearest neighbours
  • downloading the scoring sheet and marking acts on various aspects of their performance and comparing my own scores with the votes (very sad I know, you should hear the abuse I get for this)
Well, that's about what I love about the comp, a lovely night in in my books. A beer or two usually helps as well.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Saturday evening thoughts

I'm eating a Swedish Fish as I write this, it'a a sort of fish-shaped chewy jelly sweet that my wife buys from Ikea. Fortunately, it doesn't taste of fish but then it doesn't really taste of anything else either - apart from sugar.

Congratulations go to Steve Fossett who has flown further continuously than any human ever. A crazy daring thrilling end to a great story, the man is a hero. He's no spring chicken yet he managed to stay awake for over 70 hours and concentrate making decisions all the time and fly his plane around the whole globe. A great achievement.

From an achievement to a disaster. West Brom lost today to Fulham. I mean LOST big time. It was a sickening defeat. I'm not happy.

I've not been feeling very well today, but I've not complained, I've soldiered on regardless but its getting the better of me a bit now. I think I might have to lie on the sofa and watch TV with a blanket over me. Nooooo mustn't give in to it!

I can start painting the model I've been building for my kids tomorrow :-) it will be good to make some progress. I started it last year but it got put in the loft. I got it out a few weeks ago and made a start again. They're going to love playing with it when its ready. I might even post a picture of it. How's that for generosity?

One last item, I'm catching up with Alias slowly. I got the 1st volume of the 2nd series dvd out of my local public library. I love the show! My wife got the 2nd season of 24 out at the same time - boy has she got some watching to do this week (like 4 hours a day!). She's enjoying it though.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Awaiting a delivery

I've decided I need a new phone (review) and now I'm awaiting delivery. We have two digital cameras but there are times when you just want to take a quick snap of something. The smaller the camera the better and combined with a phone, well it is just so appealing isn't it? How could Gadget Boy resist the temptation? Anyways, it was reconditioned and I got a good deal considering. One thing I did notice from a lot of phone reviews on the web was how damning people are of the technology they buy. I sometimes wonder where these high expectations have come from, I know things move fast but come on let's be real!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Today's score: 19

You're wandering what the score I'm talking about is aren't you? Well, my wife signed up to receive a free Lynx gift (Lynx as in the deodorants range) and it arrived last week. It's a shiny chrome clicker that counts from zero to 9999, it has a reset knob and a clicker that increments the readout by 1. But what am I counting? You yell at the screen. That's easy - I'm counting what it is intended for, all the pretty girls I see. So a score of 19 isn't bad at all. I did have to go to Birmingham today though, so that's why the count is so high. Normally, I'd say the count would be much closer to zero.

I noticed that when I left the house today at 7am, the sky was much lighter than it has been recently. It has also been getting slightly warmer over the last few days. I like it when it's lighter in the mornings, mainly because I hate driving in the dark. Especially narrow roads in the countryside.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Dawn and Drew Show

I download a few podcasts and listen to them on my extremely cheap and crappy Alba MP3 player (that only has 60MB). One of them is the Dawn and Drew show. I recommend a listen if you've got the time. They're talking about nothing really special but they're tangental take on life is quite sweet to listen to.

Not a lot happening with me, I just want to curl up and hibernate until the weather is warmer. I don't like cold, I thought I did once but now I know I don't. I can't imagine how hard life must be for the poor in third world countries who don't have proper shelter and go hungry.

I've been busy today building a model for my kids. It's just cardboard, tissue paper, newspaper and PVA glue. I don't know what it will turn out to be, it's got a bridge and lots of hand holes to put little cars in. I think they'll like it. They're really into the old Thunderbirds TV show, with the puppets at the moment. I loved those shows when I was a kid too.

I have been thinking about doing a weekly cartoon for this blog. I haven't got any material so it may take me a while to get going with the idea. Also, ideally I'd draw on paper and scan it in and manipulate that but our old scanner doesn't work with our new computer - apparently we need a USB scanner. So I'm not sure how I'm going to do it but watch this space.....just don't hold your breath.

Work for me at the moment is a long long string of petty, pedantic emails from bothersome creatures who should crawl under a rock and stay out of daylight. I work with a bunch of wankers. Note to self: change your job!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Travel by Train

I've heard of Bystander Apathy before. Usually, its where people become bystanders to a crime or ugly behaviour like bullying but they don't intervene. I'm not proud of myself when I've been a bystander sometimes but have not had the guts to put my head above the parapet. On the train today, I got into the mobile free carriage and sat down. I couldn't believe that someone a few seats down was playing a portable DVD player without headphones - he had the volume quite loud. Unfortunately it was playing Lee Evans live. I don't mind watching Lee Evans, nothing against him, he's one of those comedians that I have to be in the mood for - I can find him hilarious one day but another I can sit with a straight face and not even be tempted to smile. I guess today was one of those days. I wanted to tell the guy to put some headphones on, a lady asked him if he had any - I didn't see his response I guess it was no. But the whole carriage let him watch it at that volume, even though it contained bad language. I'm glad there were no young children around. I think I would have said something then.

On a related note I do think that sometimes people can't hear the noise their headphones make, especially if they're cheap and nasty ones - bad sound leakage can be really irritating. I was putting my bag into a coach luggage store once and the grumpiest coach driver in the world had a go at me for getting my Walkman out of it, the bastard. He obviously thought I would have it turned up to blast my ears and everyone else out without even giving me the benefit of the doubt.

But at least some people wear headphones. This bastard wasn't, he could have at least sat in another fucking carriage - like one without quite zone stickers on the windows. I can't believe the guard didn't say anything to him either. The guard fined someone 20 quid two seats away
for not buying a ticket before travelling. He should have fined the twat watching the DVD in my opinion.

Rant over. Now I'm tired and I want chocolate and the house is empty of it. Fuck!