Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Post 500

Yes it's my 500th post on this blog, that seems quite a lot. Nothing much to report though, it's a funny old week really. The slapped cheek virus is lingering round our household, now that my son has got rid of it the girl has come down. I'm trying to stay good eating-wise even though everyone else in the household is eating pure evil food - chocolate Flake bars galore. Somehow I'm managing to keep on the straight and narrow, well at least to severly limit my intake of intoxicating deliciousness. I am having great lunchtime sandwiches though - crammed with tomato, cucumber and lettuce with Paul Newman's Italian dressing drizzled in. Absolutely gorgeous!

The weather has improved, last week it was bitterly cold and windy but it's just grey and drizzly but not so cold now. Well that was a boring weather report wasn't it?

Is there no way I can liven up my 500th post? I could mention that Shilpa Shetty won Celebrity Big Brother on Sunday. I either wanted her or Dirk Benedict to win. I watched the few episodes and thought it was good but then when Jade Goody and her family went in I turned off, couldn't be less interested in the twiddle twoddle they talk about. From the pieces of footage I've seen I can't believe how someone can get so angry and wound up over something so petty and to be honest I can't quite believe someone so stupid exists. Then again I've not been confined to a house with ego-maniac celebrities before. But the thing that I find most annoying is that they get PAID to go in there! But putting even that aside, I hope C4 have learned their lesson about putting people who haven't really earned their celebrity centre stage like that. Well, that's my tuppence worth on the subject.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A perfect egg morning

Oh yes! I've cracked it on my second attempt at the microwave egg cooker. Here's how:

  • use a medium sized egg
  • with an 800 watt microwave
  • set power to 50%
  • set time to 1 and a half minutes
  • break egg into one half
  • take a cocktail stick and pierce the yolk and white lots of times (but don't mix it up)
  • add 3 tablespoons of water to the empty half

Friday, January 26, 2007

Wireless and Wired

I've had 3 annoying days where I couldn't log into two of my favourites - Blogger and My Space - and my wife couldn't get her favourite online newspaper. The problem was since installing an adsl wireless modem/router to replace our usb modem. I'm glad to report that things are looking up and I think I've got to the bottom of the trouble - I had to change personal firewall software. It was getting out of date and needed to be changed anyway, I would have liked to have found the answer sooner though. Now though, I can work upstairs and my wife can share the connection downstairs at the same time. I might also try networking my PS2 but I need a rest first! All that troubleshooting and looking on tech forums really does my head in.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tuesday Telling

Eggs are a great breakfast food aren't they? It's a pity about the cholesterol but they are pretty tasty to have now and again. I like the Egg McMuffin because of the round chunk of egg inside them, I like soft boiled eggs and dipping my toast soldiers into the golden yoke and I like the allure of the poached egg with its yoke veiled in a long white dress. Going back to the McMuffin, how do they get the egg perfect like that everytime? Is it that they buy them frozen like that and just reheat them or are they actually cooked on the premises? I don't know. Well, now you know I like eggs but I also like gadgets. OK, so now put the two together and you have Egg-Gadgets, that's right and I'm up for a cheap gagdet now and then. So here it is: I said to my wife as she left the house recently, "See if they have those egg cookers for the microwave, find out how much they are". Little did I know hours later that I would be blessed with my own microwaveable egg cooker. My wife unsportingly used it first I'm sorry to say and I wasn't around to oversee her (that's my metaphor for her telling me to get out of the kitchen). So I heard about the aftermath - explosions and all. Well, I kept the instruction on the card and put the device away until I required an egg next. Not for several weeks I have to say and by that time (this evening) I'm sorry to say that the instructions were nowhere to be found. "I have it!" I shout, running like a man possessed to the computer "t'net will 'ave it" (for suddenly I've adopted a Northern accent) and into Google I do type "microwave egg poacher instructions" and there I do find some instructions. 4.5 minutes on a 600 watt microwave at 50 per cent power. My stomach is rumbling well bad because last time I ate was lunchtime and it's gone 8pm now - I spent the early evening sorting out my mother in-laws computer around her house. So now I'm well up for some egg to go with the fries I'm cooking in the oven (that are just almost cooked). So I make some quick calculations in my head: we have an 800 watt oven. I have no idea what formula I should use to calculate this but like every good man I authoritatively dial in the first number that comes into my head (3mins 30 sec) pretending there is some scientific pretext. My wife stands back. I stand proud. On goes the light, round goes the turntable and my stomach shouts "FOOD!". I think to get a plate, take the fries out of the oven and arrange them (leaving a nice round shape for my lovely well-formed egg disk to go into). "I think I'll just..." BOOM KAPOW! Oh no! Egg disaster! Egg Alert. Egg Alert. Egg Alert. We have an egg down. Repeat. We have an egg down. Well not so much down as spread, all over the inside of the microwave. I reach into the blast zone and retrieve a fragment of yoke "Do you think it'll be edible?" I ask my wife, who has that raised eyebrow that says "I told you so". I did eat some egg at least. Shame about the timing. I've got to get that right. Many eggs may be lost in the struggle but I'm gonna do it, damn it!

Monday, January 22, 2007

My Dream Holiday

Rachel's post on this got me wandering what my dream holiday would be. I have two versions: on one level, a dream holiday would be where my family are all together on a hot sunny beach enjoying spending the days playing together. Eating great barbecue food and never getting burned by the sun or getting sand in our sandwiches AND never arguing once. There would be a creche to allow me and my wife to go visiting museums and art galleries. In the evening, we'd both be free for Love Duty.

The other version is where we go and visit Iceland and the Scandinavian countries because they always look so beautiful in the photographs I've seen and I've always wondered what they were like. Following that, we'd go to Germany for a beer festival and have a merry old time eating and drinking.
I've never been skiing, so that would be my next 3 destinations: France, Switzerland and Austria.

After that I'd like to visit Russia because of the architecture and the history. Next on my tour would be Turkey where I would indulge in the food and warm up after all of those coler countries. Italy would be next for a bit of clothes shopping and wine drinking.

Japan is a place that intrigues me too, I'd like to visit that country to meditate in a Buddhist temple and experience a completely different culture to the West. I'd probably round off my tour with a trip to New Zealand. I'm sure there are loads of places I'd like to visit that I've missed off this list.

I was looking at jobs in Canada just the other day. I didn't see one but I would consider living near Toronto. It must be beautiful in Canada near all those enormous lakes. I'd live in the USA too, the food is just amazing and so plentiful.

If you've never seen Google Earth, its really fun way to zoom around the world and look at places you've never been to. All of the above countries can be visited in less than 5 minutes and it's probably closer than I'll ever get otherwise.

2 Years Anniversary

This day marks the 2 year anniversary of this blog. I feel like it is in need of a makeover, so I'm going to investigating all of that stuff. Expect to see some changes to the appearance over the coming weeks.
When I started this I didn't really know what I was doing or where it was going. Today, I'm probably still not clear on either of those things but I do know it has allowed me to share some thoughts with people whom I never would have met otherwise, so I think it is a positive thing to be doing. So thanks to every visitor who drops in and leaves a comment, your comments are truly appreciated!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Mix of Stuff

It's been a very windy day here in the UK and several people had their deaths attributed to the weather. The power of nature is a frightening thing, especially driving on motorways with rain, wind and heavy lorries passing. I always think about what could easily happen to cause my own death...

...maybe death by strange natural forces is on my mind because I've recently seen Final Destination 2 and 3 recently. I'm sure everyone has seen the Final Destination film and there are no big differences between all three films, they are and remain hugely enjoyable shock horror films. Worth a look if you've never seen them. I found myself chuckling while watching because I knew what was coming but first time around I must admit I was a bit scared. They have great replay value and are still entertaining.

The other thing I've got into recently has been re-runs of a TV game show popular at the end of 80s and start of the 90s called The Crystal Maze. It was adults running around a TV studio with four different sets styled as Futuristic, Aztec, Medievil and Industrial. They contained a series of rooms where one contestant from a group of six had to enter and solve a puzzle or perform a task to try and win a crystal that is traded for 10 seconds in the big crystal at the end of the show. This big crystal had a fan that blew gold and silver foil chits and the contestants had to try and capture as many gold chits as they could, any silver chits mixed in with the gold collected are deducted from the final score. I think it's a great show and I really miss this kind of TV.

The other TV game show I really liked was an earlier show called Treasure hunt. It involved two studio contestants talking to a "skyrunner" in outside broadcast who travelled by helicopter to find clues aided by the studio contestants. An adjudicator in the studio made sure everyone played by the rules. I liked the variety of locations and I admit I liked watching Anneka in the tight jumpsuit, the camera viewpoint sort of concentrated on her bottom as she ran infront: at least that's my recollection.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Behind glass

My last post mentioned the scene modes on our new camera. There is a scene mode called Museum and my wife used it recently on a visit to the Museum of London. There is also a mode called Behind Glass. Here are a couple of shots she took, they illustrate how well the behind the glass mode worked (click on the images for a larger version).

Your mission Jim, should you decide to accept it, is to illustrate your blog with a photograph that shows off a feature of your camera (or just post any photo you think is good!). This tape will self destruct in 5 seconds....

Hill top panorama (sort of)

We took our new camera when we went for a walk on Saturday, it had been raining and threatened to rain again. So it was soggy and muddy underfoot but even so, it's good to get out for a bit of fresh air.

I've stitched 3 photos together below, not seriously trying to make a panorama when I shot the photos but I thought they could almost make one so I've had a go, see what you think.

Here's our camera, the Olympus SP-310. I thought it was kind of odd-looking when I first saw it but looking at the spec I was impressed. I was also very surprised by the price too, very very reasonable and just the bracket we were looking at. It's the first Olympus camera I've owned but I've used Olympus digital cameras at work and have been happy with the results. It's not very often we get to buy a camera so I did my research and looked at a few for comparison but this one had so many scene modes and gave the possibility of so much control that I decided to go for it and I haven't been disappointed so far.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Musing on a thought provoking post

Rachel posted a deeply personal and thought provoking article last week and its been on my mind ever since I read it. This post isn't about Rachel though, I should make that clear. There are 30,000 deaths in the UK due to obesity and 1 in 5 are obese, this is due to increase to 1 in 3 within 5 years. Scary figures but like early anti-smoking campaigns the figures alone don't stop you from feeling hungry and when there are so many fast food outlets that offer cheap and tasty (but fatty) food, it just doesn't help. I struggle with food myself, every day I think about what I'm going to do in relation to the food I want to eat - this is my primary driver. As I've got older I find it easier to put weight on, I'm overweight now and am trying to lose more than I've ever needed to before. If I restrict my fat intake I know I'll lose the weight, I haven't been overweight all my life: I was very thin and skinny well into my twenties. As a child I remember my mom worrying and asking the doctor about my lack of appetite. I didn't like vegetables very much, I'm glad I've grown out of that. I eat food for comfort, it helps to know where I can find a burger or a sausage roll in a hurry. Eating between meals is tough too, whether it's biscuits someone brings into work or just helping myself to a bag of crisps or a piece of chocolate that goes nicely with a cup of tea. Nothing goes as well with tea as a nice chocolate biscuit. I love cheese too: melted cheese, tomatoes, pizzas you name it and anywhere you can have cheese I love it (except in pizza crust or inside sausages! yuk). All the marketing images you can imagine apply to me, I love food. These food connections have been implanted in my head since childhood. Every time I see an ad featuring someone reclining with a cuppa and a chocolate bar a spark jumps between synapses in my brain, reinforcing the memory that I need something chocolatey with my cuppa to give me comfort. This kind of subliminal message has been reinforced a trillion times over the course of my life, much more so than any healthy eating message. I think if we're going to tackle obesity as a society, its a responsibility that has to be shared. We have to make healthy food cheaper than fatty equivalents (the opposite of now) and better ways of supporting people who want to lose weight are needed, to make it easy for them rather than leaving people to feel alone and isolated in their struggle against what's in their own cupboard. Or to help us all walk past a fast food outlet without feeling the pull and the need for a quick and cheap meal every single time we happen by.
I don't know if I'm right in any of this though, sometimes too much society can be a dangerous thing. People should be allowed to do stuff they want, I'm not advocating laws to control us as individuals. I just think we need new types of help to tackle new kinds of problems and that includes tackling some of the subliminal ways that patterns are formed. I don't think there is a quick and easy way to do this for my generation but I hope it starts now for a new generation.
As for the lovely Rachel, I don't know her but she strikes me as being an intelligent, beautiful and brave person to write on the topic as she has. I wish her every success in what she decides to do and when, and in the meantime I'll continue reading her wonderful writing.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Furtive's Fruity Friday

Over at Eclectic Spaghetti it's Buy a CD from an artist you never heard of before day and I just thought I'd mention my weekly podshow pick of independent artists over at Furtive Wangler's Playlist - if you're looking for some good music and want to support musical creativity you could do worse than giving one of the artists I've included in my shows a shot. Let me know if you go for it!

Classic Rock Of The Month

It's that time again, when I play a video of a band that I consider to be classic rock. This time it's Ten Years After, I still think their Stonedhenge is a record everyone should have in their collection. Enjoy the rock!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Important question of the day (ish)

Well not really all that important but I've just ordered 3 DVDs that are from the bargain sale bin at my usual online store for these things - I went for the cheaper non-special versions. My question relates to DVDs that are badged with "Special Edition" or "2 Disk Edition" and it is this: is the second disk worth the extra money or do you usually go for the single edition to save a few pennies? (Bear in mind we've got a 21" fairly cheap, standard TV - no widescreen, stereo or 5.1 surround sound to speak of - ah, shame).

Now, my answer is I would usually buy just the single disk edition but occasionally I've gone for a two disk edition only when it's on sale and my reaction at first has been "Oh great! I've even got the 2 disk edition for the same price as the standard" or words to that effect, only later on to realise that actually I never usually watch more than just the film anyway. Isn't life just too short to go through character bios, directors analyses, original trailors? I'm not a film student for cripes sake! Sometimes the blooper reels can be worth it - if they're extensive, but usually they just last 5 mins anyway.

It's not a world beating question of our times I know but I thought I'd pose it to get a few opinions on whether I did the right thing.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Are you more Yin or Yang?

You Are More Yin


Hey, just call me Mr Yin.

Over the weekend I watched the anime film Ninja Scroll and really enjoyed it. It made me want to go and play the Playstation game Tenchu: Stealth Assassins. That would be the only way I could be a Ninja. I need to lose a few stones if I'm ever likely to walk on rice paper without leaving a mark. Although, I don't think my diet is going badly, its just that there are too many temptations in the house after Christmas - too much chocolate left lying around. Maybe I should have purged the house of all temptations? But then, there is temptation all around in town anyway. I have at least been having healthy lunches but tomorrow I'll have to eat lunch out. Not sure how I'm going to handle that at the moment.

It's been a really windy day today. No, I'm not referring to a gastric problem. It's just been very blowy and breezy. I even wore my silly woolly hat to take my daughter to school. I forgot to put it on in the afternoon though when I picked her up, my hair was a right mess when I got home - I looked like a freakin' scarecrow.

Have a good Wednesday tomorrow all!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The New FW Mobile

We picked up our new (secondhand) car yesterday. A Toyota Corolla VVTi GS. It's my wife's car really so I haven't really driven it apart from the test drive. I love getting a new car and buying new car mats and accessories. You have to "move in" to a new car and make it your own don't you? Rather like moving into a new apartment or house I think. We're still working out the stereo and all the lights and seat adjustments. But we like this car, its nice and simple to drive and has a good boot size. For the last six months my wife has not had a clock on the dash that worked, so just the little improvements like a dashboard clock, a boot light, levers that open the boot and petrol cap and we're "Wow!". It's great fun!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Beer/Alcohol Appreciation Day

This is a smooth glass of Irish cream liqueur in honour of today's holiday from Tara. I have a small glass of this and it warms me up. It is so smooth and creamy, it's lovely and puts me in the comfort zone. It was my treat to myself for Christmas (as well as the port!).

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Look Forward

Celebrity Big Brother starts tomorrow and it's going to be disaster TV again, so I'll probably find myself watching it despite my gut feeling that it is completely pointless. The rumours of who the celebrities are this year are:
one of the stars of Starsky and Hutch
one of the A-Team
a former Miss Great Britain beauty contest winner
a member of the Jackson Five
a former Darkness member
a TV presenter who was once an MP
a woman who was formerly a man
and a Bollywood actress
I also heard that Jade Goody and her family were going in but this might just be press speculation, it would raise the watchability factor if true but only because she is so awful.

I'm looking forward already to Eurovision 2007, it usually happens in May so there is still plenty of time to get excited.

I'd like to get away on more holidays this year than last, I've had to get a passport renewal and found out the price went up in October! Typical!

I'm looking forward to picking up our new (used) car later this week and going to visit new places in it, I took a test drive today and put down a deposit. My wife is going to be the main driver but I'll drive it too. I'll try to post some photos when it's ours.

I'm looking forward to making my way through all the books stacked up under my bed waiting to be read. I got a couple more for Christmas and I feel guilty because I can't read them straight away as I like to read sequentially.

I'm looking forward to more blogging and podcasting in 2007, as I've found so many nice people out there!

I'm looking forward to doing more work in 2007, it may sound strange but I do enjoy my job despite the routine and the stresses at times.

I'm looking forward to losing some weight that I've put on over the last few years. This sounds dangerously like a resolution so I want to make it clear that this weight-loss will be an attempt via force of will rather than a diet fad thing.

I'm looking forward to doing more drawing.

I'm looking forward to collecting this DVD magazine series

I'm looking forward to listening to more great music.

What are you looking forward to?