Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Incoming...

22:29 Yep, not a blog entry, just a marker of the terrifyingly inexorable passage of time.

So what's happened in 2010? Well, plenty of stuff as you've probably read. Lots of it good, lots of it bad, and lots of it fondly remembered with a rosy-hued drunken haze.

As time counts down to 2011, what have I been up to? Well, tidying up mostly, helping my nephew find the latest in a long line of missing bits of lego, and drinking surprising quantities of Earl Grey, even though it gives me a headache. I think I'm acquiring a taste for it.

Soon I'm going to stick Knightmare on, and watch that with my lovable nephew (he likes it cos it has dungeons and stuff in, I like it cos I used to like it when I was tiny), eating delicious pork crunch that my brother did get me (it's become a miniature tradition - watch Knightmare with pork crunch).

22:42: Well, my ickle nephew is demanding my attention, so I'm going to stick Knightmare on, drink nice cold cider, nice hot tea, and listening to the fireworks.

Back later, maybe. If not, see you next year. I won't be going anywhere in the meantime :-).

23:55 Right: Off downstairs with the family. See you next year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day 2010!

01:07: So I'm sitting here in a nice fresh clean bed with delicious Xmas beer, watching Dilbert on my iPod, relaxing and generally being cheerful. The only way things could be better is if I wasn't full of cold, but even that seems to be receding.
Ahh, I bet the lil dude is having a hard time sleeping hehe. I'm gonna sleep soon, but for now, I'm happy just to chill out.

08:57: Well, after a couple of false starts, I've finally been shouted awake, as the family have started arriving.
For my part I've downed a couple of flu plus, and I'm hoping they'll stave off this rather annoying headache of mine, for the rest of what is hopefully going to be a lovely day filled with cool gadgets, gizmos, and happy family members :-).
Now, to get dressed...

12:56: Well, that's all the pressies done with. I'll go into more detail soon cos I'm kinda busy enjoying a nice family Christmas at the minute. I've got plenty of cool stuff to go on about which I'll do later.
Looks like we're getting ready for dinner so I'd best get on with that.

21:10: Well, the day is finally beginning to wind down.
Sooo, what happened?

Well, from the me point of view, I got some really cool stuff. One of the first presents I opened, appeared to be something like a large sweater or some other item of superfluous clothing, only to turn into a humongous and very cool multipack of pork crunch, made of only the best win and caek. Or something like that.

I also got a really shiny 72mm polariser, which is pretty awesome.

One other gift that definitely got my attention this year, was a lovely cheerful happy little gift for all those lovable scamps with a sense of humour, an electric shock pen.
Basically, it's a rather cheerful device that's disguised as a pen, and when some fool presses down on the clicker, it gives them an electric shock.
Now I'm generally reluctant to have anything to do with electric shocks, but nonetheless, I reasoned, to have the moral authority to subject other (admittedly unwilling and uninformed) people to its various voltages, I should at least be aware of what the device itself did. So I picked up the pen, and pressed the clicker, expecting something like a mild/moderate tingle.

The effect, much to my surprise, felt more like being thumped in the shoulder really really hard. The shock travelled from my hand, up my wrist, up to my shoulder, before travelling down my left-hand side, and disappearing sideways up the tent pole. 20 minutes later I was still feeling the after effects.

I also got some other cool stuff, including a Game gift-certificate-card thingie which will get me £20 off Formula 1 2010, Toblerone, Terry's Chocolate Orange, some very amusing books (indeed one was so good, I received two copies of it!), and some truly sensationally coloured socks, that I have admitted I might one day wear, provided I wear a second pair of socks on top. Also included was plenty of smelly stuff which is always good cos I've been running out.

I also got some awesomely comfortable new slippers, and an awesomely awesome new bath robe dressing gown thing (cos both of the old ones were falling to bits) which cheered me up too. I also got a lovely football shirt from my sister :-).

But yeah, christmas this year really is the christmas of identical presents: My mum and my bro both got Monopoly Revolution, and my mum and I got three copies of "A simples life" between us.
But it's all good fun.

We had dinner after a while, which was incredibly yummy, and the soup was excellent as always. The day was really nice all in all, so yeah.

I have to admit to being more than a little sleepy though, which is why this whole thing might read as being a little vague or whatever. I didn't sleep particularly well this morning - something I hope to rectify later tonight. So yeah, sorry the whole entry is a bit perfunctory, I've been busy all day in one sense or another and now I'm sitting here more or less too tired to do anything.
I think I'll have a lovely bottle of Hoegaarden, and some yummy Pork Crunch! I think I can stretch to wearing a paper hat at the same time :-).

In the meantime, here are some nice pickatures. I'll prolly elaborate on this more after I've had some sleep. Hope you all had a good christmas :-).

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve!

06:02: Well, after waking up for the final time, ending a period of sleep that was not so much broken as shattered (It was like this: Sleep, wake up, roll over, cough violently, sleep again - repeat ad infinitum), I've finally decided to get out of bed so that we can get the next part of Christmas to a start :-). I admit, I feel better than I thought I would.
I'm still not sure which supermarket we're going to (generic boring one vs christmassy one that looks like a castle) but I guess I'll find out soon.
After we get back, I've got all my bedclothes to wash, 4 final pressies to wrap, and I need to take the lil guy to see Father Christmas, give him his special Christmas surprise, and put him to bed :-).

But that's a good 15 or so hours away.
Ciao for now :-).

06:13: My nephew's cutest Christmas-ism of the day: "If you open all of the windows on your advent calendar early, is it Christmas before Christmas?" Hehe, cute.

10:09: Well, we went to the "supermarket that looks like a castle" which was a pleasant surprise; that part of Christmas had looked to be under threat for a while until I pointed out how much my nephew loves going. Of course, I'm a great stickler for tradition too.

The lil dude went up and down the travelators, and we had a fairly cheerful time buying yummy tastyness and whatnot. I even managed to find some "buenos" (lil chocolate bars) for the lil guy, and, figuring that a nice huge drink of very cold orange juice might help my poorly throat, I went and got some of that too.

We disappeared afterwards into the cafe for a bit of a sit and some toast, before heading home.

I've not been in long, just got back from delivering the Christmas cards :-). Now I'm going to have a nice nap.

16:00: Shouting comes from downstairs "Don't get another quiche!"
Yep, my mum has produced, as is traditional, a load of lovely quiches filled with the traditional lovely christmas gloop, which seems to include mushrooms, bacon and possibly onion. And as usual, people seem to be eating them more or less as they come out of the oven. She definitely makes good quiches, my mum.

Well, I managed to have a nice sleep, and got pretty relaxed laying about watching Dilbert on my ipod and generally recovering from my Christmas cold, thanks to some rather clever (and expensive!) stuff.

Later on - not much later on, actually (!), we've got to take the lil' guy to see Father Christmas on his sleigh, and after that, he's going to spend the might at his dad's, which gives me the opportunity to tidy my room, put clean bedding on my bed, wrap those last couple of presents (now the 2 missing ones have finally arrived!), and have a nice bath. After I've done that, I think I'll relax with my nice Christmas beer, a couple of mince pies, and my nice chilli chocolate that I bought at Gainsborough.
And maybe a quiche or two. More to follow :-).

16:45: Well, there are about half a dozen people in the queue to see Father Christmas. We're getting changed to go down now.

17:22: Well, the queue expanded pretty quickly, with people queueing almost all the way to the entrance to the park. It didn't take too long for my nephew to get to the front of it though, and once there, he was given a lovely mini fudge bar.
On the way back we exchanged Xmas pleasantries with our neighbours.

The way things are going, Rudolph isn't going to be the only one with a red nose this year. I hope this medicine works as advertised heh.

Well, onto more Christmassy things.

20:55: Well, the uncle and cousin have just disappeared after coming round to catch up on old times. Nice to see em, as their visit is always part of Christmas.
I've got a few pressies to wrap up, then I'm gonna make my bed, have a nice bath, and relax with my nice Christmassy beer, a couple of mince pies, and maybe a nice ice cream. At some point, I need to get the presents down from the loft too. But hey, it's all falling into place.

23:47: Well, the pressies are down from the loft. They've all been sorted into their awesome christmassy paper bag things, and we've worked out a kind of seating arrangement for tomorrow's festivities. All that's left for me to do now, is to make my bed with nice clean sheets, and to have a lovely bath.
And drink my lovely Christmas beer, of course. I'll have an ice cream with it. I'll skip the quiches though, had five already and it's not even Christmas Day yet.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmassy Goings-On...

Well, as a result of the traditional Christmas Cold, which at least one of our family must have at Christmas, I abandoned last night's Christmas beering and had an early night instead.
After waking up about 3714 times during the night, I was finally roused from my (not that long, actually) sleep, by my mum blasting very loud Christmas music around the house.

Looking out of the window, the first thing I see is a lovely load of Christmassy snow! Snoe! Snow! Sneau etc etc, yep, it's back again just in time for christmas, mum is hard at work downstairs assembling various quiches, dad is in his office doing whatever he does in there, my ickle nephew is in his room surrounded by Lego, and I'm sat here considering going to the shops for some nice ice creams for my throat.

Apart from the three sat on top of my wardrobe, all the presents have been wrapped (even though two of them have yet to arrive :-\), and are chilling out in lovely festive present bags in the loft waiting for Father Christmas to arrange them in the living room. We did the Christmas Pudding last night, and it's merrilly simmering away in the big huge cauldrony thingie that only ever gets used to do the Christmas Pudding :-).

Part Two: Yesterday Was Nice

Yesterday had to attend an appointment in a building that was part of the "Supermarket that looks like a castle" complex (which I would link to but wiki is being crap again), which seems to be my ickle nephew's favourite supermarket. After said appointment, I had a little wander round inside the place, bought a few essential things (like cheese and nuts), and had a cheerful time.

See, we only go in that particular supermarket at Christmas, and so through years of doing this, visiting on a cold Christmas Eve morning seems to be as much a part of the Christmas experience as any other part, so there I was, cheerfully wandering round, listening to the beeps of the checkouts as people did their Christmas shopping, and to the cheerful Christmassy brass band, playing traditional Christmas tunes (as they always do there, over Christmas), and I have to admit, it definitely cheered me up.

The Human mind is weird like that.

Last night, we finally got the house nice and clean, and the very last little bits of the decorations went up. Now the house looks wonderful.

And now, I think I'm off to lay on my bed and try to feel ill and cheerful at the same time, if that's possible.
Talk soon!

16:55: Yep, in 24 hours, assuming the snow holds off, Father Christmas will be round on his sleigh to distrubute small fun-sized confectionery to happy and excited kids :-).
Also, my final two missing Christmas Presents have finally turned up in the mail. Great stuff!!

21:44: Well, I'm retiring to my bed fairly early, for three reasons. One, I feel a bit crappy still. Two, I have to be up at 6 tomorrow to go to do our traditional Christms Eve shopping, and three, I can't wait until Christmas day :-).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Extra-ness (the sign goes up)

I'll be honest, I wasn't really planning on writing another entry right now, but hey, here we go. It's only a short one, mind.

Yep, the sign that indicates Santa's imminent return to these parts upon his Toyota Hilux-driven sleigh, is merrily tethered to the lamp-post, gently soaking up the lovely december rain.
Yeah, halfway through december, a week or so after snow brought the country to a halt, and it's piddling down with rain, and there's no snow or ice to be seen.

But not for long apparently, yep, we're told that we're due some incredibubbly heavy snow later this week, which apparently will take us all the way through to Christmas. Which is a bit of a bugger, because half of my Xmas shopping remains to be done, and some presents that I HAVE ordered, have yet to arrive.

I finally caved into the christmas spirit and bought the ickle dude a bigger submarine to go with his ickle submarine. Admittedly this was my plan all along (no, really!), and it goes with the even bigger submarine I strongly hope his dad has bought him.

So um.

Well, the majority of the Christmas lights are up, the tree is standing proudly and shinily (although slightly leaningly) in the living room, and we have only uh, four more sets of lights to put up. The first in the hall, now that my mum has bizarrely and unilaterally changed the entire layout of the Christmas illumations in the hall... Er, the retina-burningly bright neon blue lights that seem to have become all the rage in the past ten years, that need to go up in the living room, some lovely good old fashioned bulb lights that need to be wrapped around the tinsel on top of the wall unit (30 metres of lights around a 12 metre rope of tinsel, not impossible but bloody difficult to arrange!), and the lovely shiny colourful stars that go in the front window.

But still, there's plenty of time to get it done, and we hope to have the house all decorated and finished for this Friday. Which is the weekend before Christmas eve.

One week to go, more or less!
What the heck! Where did this come from?! Christmas has always been a far away thing and it's skipped "approaching" and "nearly here", going straight to "RIGHT NOW!"

Still, assuming there are no major ballsups, I should be ready in time.

I leave you with some cheerful tunes from an artist I have recently discovered (and by that I mean some dude credited them for the music in one of his youtube vids and I thought "I like that", and seemed to find quite a lot more of their stuff on the interwebs. 1 (angry), 2 (dramatically eerie), 3 (cheerfully awesome).

PS: Bloody hell, you know what?
I think Blogger might have finally got the hang of tables! [Hahaha, I just reviewed the entry - it's still as clueless as ever hehe].

PS PS: Something I feel I should mention, assuming any readers (assuming I have readers) out there have ickle kids, my nephew got a rather wonderful and personal video message from Santa Claus himself.
I wasn't lucky enough to see him the first time he saw it, but apparently no one has ever seen him so wide-eyed with excitement before. I suppose for a six year old to receive a personal message from Father Christmas, must be akin to some kind of religious experience.

Here is the link, go here, make your own. I hope it makes your kids' Christmas like it seems to be helping to make the lil dude's, here.

I guess I'll be in touch before the big day. Merry Christmas all the same :-).

Super PS: I also ordered a new sound egg a few days ago. It arrived in the post today.
It's nice to have awesome sound back, since the bastards at Bassingbourn blew up my old one by playing it too loud, the arses.

Turbo PS: (This was a normal paragraph until I dared blogger to let me put it in a logical order).
And here are the aforementioned pickatures. In no particular or logical order whatsoever. Among them are my nephew's awesome supper, the awesome shiny snapperons I ordered the lil dude, the shiny cool book I got my mum from amazon, a few pretty snow pictures, the lil party we had together after his original christmas party was cancelled, and a rather pleasing picture of a rather angry looking sky.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Down come the Decorations...

15:00 I'm in a rush and didn't want to sit about for ages thinking of a cool title.
Well, I've just put the hatch back on the loft, having got all our shiny and sparkly christmas decorations down. And so far, with the exception of mine(!), they all seem to be working quite happily.

Why am I in a rush? Because I've lost my bank card. Yep, I went to the shops with it a few days ago in huge piles of snow, bought something (A ham and cheese sandwich and a can of monster lo-carb, if you're curious), and didn't come back with it. So now every time I want to buy something, I have to walk to the bank and take some money out at the counter. Which is tantamount to a load of old crappiness, actually.

Once that's done, I've got to make sense of these weird christmas decorations, decide how I'm going to wrap up the Armouron Snapperons that have just arrived thanks to the beleaguered postman who apparently nearly/actually fell on his butt thanks to huge amounts of Ice earlier, and I've got to tidy up the place too. And find bulbs for my non-working candle arch. Bugger!

17:48: Right, I'm back now. Actually I've been back a good hour or so, helping my dad put away a truly sensational (£305!) amount of shopping, including various goodies such as all the ingredients for the yummy Christmas Pudding. My sis has also come over to visit which is nice.

I had a rather cheerful wander through the park to the bank, where I took out just enough to buy something to guzzle, something to munch, and something chocolatey for bedtime. I also had occasion to nearly fall on my ass in front of a group of schoolkids, and had just enough time - between going from walking upright, to being a flurry of arms and legs, to being upright again - and them bursting out giggling hysterically, to put on a very confuzzled face, and shrug.

Yep, there's plenty of ice out there, inches thick in places, and where before it was lovely and snowy with 6, 8 or even 10 or 12 inches of deliciously snowy snow, it's now just bitterly cold, and every solid surface is covered in a layer of glasslike ice. I even took the opportunity to fall on my bum on the way back home, walking down a path down a hill through the park, the universe decided I'd benefit from a closer look at the ground.
I landed with a hugely satisfying crunch on my backpack (filled with super noodles (mild curry and southern fried chicken flavour)), and once up again, hurried to a bench to check that the two pressure vessels I was carrying (containing a volatile flammable liquid!), hadn't ruptured.
Fortunately they hadn't and they are now in the back garden, in the snow and ice, cooling down nicely :-).

And the Christmas decorations?
Ah well, turns out my mum's workplace is being inspected by its governing authority tomorrow, (basically an audit of employee competence and whatnot) so after the epic struggle of getting the decorations out of the sodding loft, the majority of them aren't going up tonight after all. Or tomorrow. Not unless I do them myself, which is one option I suppose.

So now I'm just sitting about, I may well try to put my own lights up. What I am going to do, which would be a bit cheeky if we weren't putting "ours" up another day, is to take a functioning lightbulb from the big candle arch, and substitute it for a nonfunctioning lightbulb from my little one. So at least we can get one room set up today :-).

So I think I may get on with that now (18:15).

18:20: Okay, the little candle arch doesn't have any defunct bulbs, what it does seem to have is a loose connection. Nothing the occasional gentle tap won't fix :-).

20:02: Well, after 56 minutes (I timed it - putting up lights always felt like it took forever so I wanted to see for myself hehe) of arsing about, my nephew attended the Grand-Turning-On-Of-The-Christmas-Lights and got to press the button (on my remote control plug sockets) himself :-). So now here I am sitting about in my nice sparkly christmassy room.
Having had a word with the lil guy's dad, it seems perfectly possible that we (the royal we, meaning him) may well be able to get the lil dude Spikes after all. That way the lil dude can pick and choose how to customise his awesome armour.

On a completely unrelated note, you may have noticed that blog entries about either the Kelham Island Christmas Fair or the local Christmas Concert [are noticable by their abscence], because both have in fact, been cancelled, due to the weather.
Yep, too much of a good thing (snow), really does leave one wanting less, it is a bit of a disappointment as both are generally cheerful and happy family occasions, but hey, at least we've had plenty of awesome snow to keep us occupied instead.

Not to worry though, now the roads are usable again, the various Xmas pressies I've bought should start arriving :-).

For now, I'm going to tidy my room, and have a nice relaxed night.
I'll post some pictures soon :-).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Or Yellowout, I guess. Good old sodium lamps.

Yeah, the weather in the past few days, has been vaguely disappointing verging on absolutely nuts. As reports of heavy snow bringing the country to a halt filled the news, I sat in my bedroom looking out on a street covered in half-melted slush, and rooftops dripping with water from melted frost, wondering what the big deal was.

But oh, no more folks. Nope. Nopers.
The weather has been pretty cold, though getting warmer (in part due to the presence of huge snow clouds over our heads I spose), and even while 12 hour old facebook status updates spoke gleefully of snow that never quite appeared, my ickle nephew and I looked to the skies. For different reasons.

See, the lil dude was due to go on a school trip today to one of the local football stadiums ("stadia" sounds crap) for a christmas party of some kind. He'd been watching the skies with apprehension, fearing, quite rightly that the snow would stop him from being able to attend.
For my part, I looked at the clouds cheerfully, because I love snow. Always have, ever since I was ickle. And even as I saw the snow coming down in huge falls of snow (what else?), I kinda felt sorry for the lil dude, but was awesomely cheerful to be able to look forward to the home version of a snow day.

However, all was not lost, as we had a contingency plan.
Today, my icke nephew went to school, only to reappear an hour later, with the news that the place was closed. Not to worry. We spent a day in the awesomely snowy park, where I built the most beautiful, smooth, and almost, but not quite, completely not round at all snowball about the size of a soccer ball. This snowball is currently sitting in the back garden, with a tiny tennis-ball sized "head" on top of it and a couple of sticks forlornly but heartwarmingly poking out of it.
I spose after all this snow it's not so spherical anymore. Cone-shaped would be a good guess.

As with last year, the ickle dude finally decided enough was enough and complaining of cold feet, we went home to have our "emergency party".
Yup, in leiu of a real party, we went up to the local store and bought all manner of tasty goodies, and had an impromptu substute party at our house.

The rest of the evening was taken up with him watching me drive Argos trucks around on UK Truck Simulator, pretending we were driving Christmas Presents about. The snow picked up about the same time.

Wandering to the shop for christmas essentials, alone, in the snow, was a kinda weird experience. Save for the odd set of hour old footprints, their outlines softened by the dirt - ahem, now softened by snow, the place was completely silent, no people, no cars, and the snow only increased in intensity.
I got back with some general grocery type stuff, and have since been sitting inside watching a snowstorm rage outside that goes from being merely "heavy" to full-blown "insane".

And so end the last minutes of November. Heavy snowfall, awesomely christmassy weather. Even the car drivers (who I have affectionately dubbed "carfags") driving up and down the road no longer leave dirty great tyre marks, no, the snow just crunches under their tyres.
Awesome stuff :-).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Cold Snap: Take Three... (Real Gainsborough)

Well, I eventually got tired of watching the snow and decided that I'd see what the results were in the morning.
I was woken up at half 7 in the morning by my mum telling me that it had been snowing (really?) and that we had better set off early just to be on the safe side. I'd managed to write our traditional christmas music album to CD the night before, so after a cup of tea etc, we grabbed that and headed out to the car.
As it turned out, despite the inch and a half of snow, troad conditions weren't really a problem, and we made our way to a local petrol station, where I reinflated the car's tyres (always me that does it, never the car's owner, ever) while my mum got us a couple of sausage sandwiches.

A quick drive round the houses (well, round Wentworth) and we eventually passed over the M18 and into the countryside, noting that some public buildings in Maltby already had Christmas lights up. A nice drive through a couple of towns later, and we arrived in Gainsborough, fnding a parking spot first time!

Instead of going straight to the hall, we spent some time walking around the market and shops etc, where my mum found an art shop. Being a big creative-type person, my mum had to go in, and I went along with it, finding some nice jars of coloured glitter/sand to make abstract photos of.

Eventually though, we wandered round the mostly-still-undisturbed snow to go round the Hall. Again, we met some familiar faces, bought some nice stuff, and as always, sat down in the great kitchen next to the fire, with mince pie and a huge (compared to last year's!) drink of fruit punch stuff.

Eventually we left, and wandered around the town again visiting the various shops, where I picked up some all-important pork crunch, as well as a cool lil' cartoon bedspread for the lil' dude to sleep under at Christmas time/Xmas eve, depending on arrangements for who's coming over and when, and whatnot. I also bought two inexpensive but "luxury" (funny how words like "Luxury" and "Professional" are used to denote products that generally aren't luxurious, and usually aren't useful for professionals, isn't it) hollow-fibre bed pillows, in a nice bulky plastic bag, which I vaguely considered using to bat annoying shoppers out of the way, to upgrade my cool bed, turning it into an awesome bed.

Eventually, we left Gainsborough and proceeded to the next stop on our little travel plan, Tickhill Garden Center, which as always, had a nice Christmas department (complete with 2 "dead" (until I put them back upright) illuminated reindeer) with various christmas lights and whatnot. I noted with annoyance and a tiny smidge of amusement, that rather than go and buy a real Christmas CD, this place was playing a horrible mixture of crappy cover versions (no doubt by obscure "who he?" artists), of songs that themselves weren't particularly festive. But no matter, I managed to get a cool pressie for my dad, and my mum bought some terribly bad (but quite inexpensive) chocolate/walnut praline thingies.
So there we were, driving round the countryside, listening to our nice Christmas CD, eating chocolate digestive biscuits, pork crunch, and crappy walnut chocolates.

Now remember I mentioned that my ickle nephew had become fascinated with a certain product he saw on TV, "this year's must-have toy for kids" apparently, well, I'd been searching online to find it cheapest, and discovered that while most places wanted £30/35 for it, good old awesome Toys'R'Us only wanted £25 for it.
Of course they also wanted £5 delivery, so we figured we'd drive there and save me £5. After a quick search, we managed to find the armour, "Reduced: Was £25, now £14.98". For a £35 product, wahey! So it was very quickly bought.
Realising also that the lil dude desperately wanted some shiny golden bits to stick on it (well, shiny silver bits - see below - , but we weren't given a choice (!)), and Toys'R'Us didn't have the accessory sets in stock, we drove even closer to home to pop into Argos, which did have them. However, bizarrely, you paid for an accessory set, and you didn't get to choose which one of the three you were given. Which is a shame cos out of Spikes (you don't get the gold things on the bottom), Flames, and Wings, I reckon Wings is (at least as far as the shoulder spines and shield spikes are concerned) probably the least good of the three.
On the other hand, the gold goes with the blue a lot better than silver would have, and the helmet crest looks awesome. The shield doesn't look that bad, so maybe it's just personal preference. My nephew was very definite about wanting Spikes, but later admitted he didn't really mind which set he got as long as he got a set.

The armour itself looks pretty cool (I had a peek before wrapping it all up), and is made, as you can see, of one million and one pieces of some sort of plastic foam, all joined together by special plastic clips called snapperons. The snapperons that join the majority of the armour are shiny black, but the box also points out with great enthusiasm that included with the set, are two "free" silver ones. Silver or Gold snapperons are available to purchase seperately, and I'm toying with the idea of getting some, purely to make his armour look even cooler. By and large though, the stuff looks extremely well designed, and to be honest, I wish I was 6 again just so I could get my own set, heh.
I have, as I mentioned, been spending most of today sitting on my awesomely upgraded bed, supervising my nephew, eating pork crunch, and wrapping Christmas presents (6 wrapped so far), and surfing for yet more presents. I didn't get the little guy a sword, mostly because no one who knows him trusts him not to run round hitting people/animals with it. Instead I was/am considering getting him this, on the strict condition that I will keep hold of the arrows for him, and he is to only ever use it in the park :-).

That's about it really. What's left of the snow is slowly turning to frozen puddles, the roads, while mostly snow-free are now covered in patches of glass-like pearlescent ice, and it is still, regardless of the insanely bright and surprisingly warm winter sunshine, brutally hand-burningly cold. It's quite cloudy tonight, as well as hugely cold, so hopefully tomorrow morning will see at least a few inches of fresh snow.

In the meantime, I'm going to sit about, look forward to sleeping on my awesome bed (now with 6 pillows!), daydream about Christmas, surf for presents, and look for food. I would have bolted this entry onto the bottom of the earlier one, but I was so sleepy yesterday that I really wasn't in the mood to do a big writeup, and instead just wanted to make up and try out my awesome upgraded bed :-).

Here are some shiny pictures :-). It was nice to go on a Christmas outing with snow on the ground, for once :-).

Mini Epilogue Bit (22:56):

Well, having done more reading online, it seems that I should really buy extra snapperons to attach the extra bits to the armour. So I have done - the lil' dude now has two addon packs of 6 gold snapperons to make his armour look even cooler :-).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Cold Snap: Take Two... (Gainsborough!)

Part One: The Night Before (Hopefully)

Well, as we speak, or rather, as I type, the snow outside my window is falling quite happily. About time too, every other bugger has got theirs. Now we have too :-).

Today (Friday) I woke at the uncharacteristically early time of 7:30, that's AM, not PM :-). I was going to rall over and go back to sleep but once I'd checked the news, read my emails etc etc, it was 9am and time to get up anyway.

So, what have I been up to? Spending 2 and a half hours going through my ickle nephew's lego, handful by handful, sorting out the broken lego, the new lego, the old lego, and the non-lego, of which there was a surprising amount.

I found a fair amount of "lost" playmobil, and oddly, about a dozen dice of curious polyhedral variety, which I suspect may be long-lost relics of my older brother's hobbies.

Non Sequitur:

Yikes, it is actually snowing pretty heavily now - I do hope we can get to Gainsborough "tomorrow", I've been looking forward to it for ages!

And now back to your regular programming:

Later in the afternoon my third Xmas present arrived, I ordered my fourth, and my ickle nephew turned up. We spent the evening relaxing, I played Walking Legs, he watched Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom, and after a few biscuits and an awesome supper, he went to bed to watch The Santa Clause 2.

As for me, I'm going to pop outside for a while to watch the snow come down personally, as opposed to watching it through a window, then I'm probably going to sleep fitfully, worrying about whether or not we will be able to get to tomorrow's lovely Christmas Market.

The awesomely snowy snow seems (rubbish, seemed, seemed!, snow's like that!) to be getting lighter, except now it's not, it's getting heavier!
Oh well, we might be able to go to Gainsborough on sunday.

Ciao for now, folks!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yikes! Earlier than last year!


...our region has its first "Snowww/snoeee" or whatever I called it last year. Okay, so at the minute it's kinda meandering downwards in a vaguely snow-like fashion, and sort of disappearing either before or immediately after touching the ground (Hard to do anything else I suppose), but I reckon if it's as cold overnight tonight as it was overnight last night, we'll have a few centimetres in the morning.

Now this could be a good thing AND a bad thing. A good thing because I love snow, and so does my ickle nephew, and bad, because as with last year, if it messes up transport, getting Christmas supplies in place could be a little difficult. Akward because I still have my entire christmas list - minus three presents - to buy.

My nephew's christmas list seems to be as long as it's ever been, in fact I think this one might even be longer than last years'. I have a few really cool ideas for things he might like, based on his fascinated and amazed reaction to an advert that popped up on some kid's cartoon channel (talk about targeted advertising!) a few days ago. Second opinions I've asked for seem to vary from "Looks expensive" to "looks amazing" and "Noooo it's encouraging him to fight". Huh, yeah, and taking him to karate lessons, letting him watch movies like spiderman (1,2 AND 3) and letting him watch Ben 10 which is all ABOUT fighting, didn't introduce him to the idea of fighting?

Besides, the beauty of this one is the red and the blue guys are on the same team, as part of the concept, so it's not like he's gonna find someone suited in red and start hammering the hell out of him. Not only is the armour really cool, but you can bolt extra bits on, kinda like a wearable version of X-mods I suppose. He made sure it went on his christmas list as soon as the advert was finished, and if I'm honest, I think the concept is so cool I'm happy to oblige. I was thinking about a NERF (pic is not nerf but a decent copy) gun to go with it, but the idea of every surface in the house including the dog's face, covered in those foam darts, kinda put me off.

So yeah, it makes a change from more soft toys/action figures/lego (not that there's anything wrong with lego, I've got him some remember :-)), and whatnot. I'm still figuring out what to buy other people. I kinda have an idea of a couple of things for my brother and another idea for my dad, but Nanodots are bloody expensive for what they are, AND the dog might try to eat them, so I don't know.

On another equally awesome note, my bro has now returned my lenses to me, which is kinda cool as my super ultimate camera bag of power now looks really shiny and sparkly.

As far as pressies are concerned, all helpful ideas are appreciated at this point. For now, I'm off to watch the "snow", which at the minute, is more like frozen fog than real snow - maybe that'll change overnight :-). We'll see.


Our snow never materialised. Everyone else has got theirs, all we've got is snow clouds. Meh, it's always the way of things. Oh well, maybe over the next couple of weeks we'll get some. Just enough to make everything fun without stopping me being able to buy Xmas pressies would be nice :-).

Monday, November 22, 2010

London Trip: "The Rain in Spain ..."

Is apparently not as cold as the Snow we're expecting at the end of this (*checks clock*), yes, this week. Now if last year's winter was anything to go by, we may well be in for some slippety slidy fun over the next couple of months. Already parts of the country are covered in snow, and snow is predicted to fall over the next couple of days over an area of the pennines, a mere 20 miles from here or so, before the white stuff reaches us (hopefully) on thursday/friday.

And as the runup (or countdown - maybe the two will meet in the middle in some sort of tinsel and turkey explosion) to Christmas goes, I've been kinda caught out by the very space-time continuum in which we live, itself. It's often commented on that as something approaches, the distance to it seems to decrease at a speed out of proportion to your speed of approach. Basically, christmas has spent most of the year being a far-off abstract concept, and now it seems to have a stark, colourfully-lit snow-crunchingly real reality to it, and all of a sudden it seems to be rushing up on us with not that many days to go.

Part One: Winter Wonderland

And of course, yesterday (Saturday is yesterday as far as I'm concerned as despite the fact that we're 84 minutes into Monday, I haven't been to bed yet, therefore it's still Sunday) we found ourselves on the coach on our way down to London. I sat cheerily for 3 and a half hours in front of two rugby fans who spent the trip discussing the match, alcohol, and the combination of the two, while merrily swigging cans of [what smelled like] cider. Still, they seemed quite friendly, so no problem there at all.
3 and a half hours managed to disappear pretty quickly, and we got off outside Marble Arch in London to find that in comparison to 2008, which was fairly wet and crappy, the weather, while cold, was overcast but clear, and without rain. And off we went, to Winter Wonderland, in Hyde Park. The German/European Christmas market thing that seems to be there each year. The place as we entered seemed to be fairly quiet, but it sure as heck didn't last, quickly becoming absolutely full of tourists from all over the world, judging by the accents. The place was packed with people. And the cameras!
See, I'd been hesitating whether or not to take the D90 to London, lest it get nicked by some light fingered loony who needs his drugs more than I need my camera, and yet while I walked around, I saw at least four or five D90s, one with a shiny 50 1.4 on it, a couple with the cool little 18-105 like the ones I just sold, and one dude who had the same lens as me :-). Other guys walked around with various canons of weird and wonderful descriptions, and one dude was even walking around with a D3.

There were a huge variety of market stalls, selling many various variations on a theme of European cuisine, mulled wine, Christmas decorations, Christmas gifts, all sorts of lovely and festive stuff, including, and I think this is awesome, instant snow. My experience with instant snow is limited to 60 seconds of playing with it, but the upshot of it is, it's soft, it's cold, it's fluffy, and it feels like real snow. It's really cool stuff. My mum bought some for my ickle nephew so he can get into trouble for sodding up the carpet or something. When my mum mentioned that I couldn't have any cos the dog would eat it, the guy selling it explained that it was non-toxic and that she'd just "swell up" (complete with mime of a dog swelling up) a little.

Now about halfway down, among the stalls selling stuff like beautiful hand carved knicknacks, hand-made jigsaw puzzles, hand-painted pictures, hand-shot photography, hand-blown glass, hand-burning candles, hand-eaten food etc etc, next to a set of tables laid out in an X shape, is a "cabin" with a sort of grill suspended over a pit of "coals", atop which sit about 10 of each variety of sausage, tended by two cheerful German guys.
The sausages are Frankfurters (I think), Bratwurst, and Krakauer. "Mit" or Ohne (aha!) Sauerkraut.
I don't know what the German guys are called or whether they come with sauerkraut or not.
I had a Krakauer (which regardless of its name seemed to be a spicy Bratwurst), in a proper roll of crunchy bread, such as you'd get with soup (which made a huge change for someone sadly accustomed to fluffy tasteless crappy poke-a-hole-right-through-it-with-your-finger crappy hot-dog rolls) as well as both Ketchup and German Mustard, and folks, it was the best Wurst in the world. So good in fact that after finishing my first while wandering around the market, I went and got another, which the guy cheerfully observed, should "keep you going until January". Nice guy, cheerful service. We like that.

Small Personal Recommendation
(It's not very often I advertise stuff on here, but this really was a lovely christmassy place to go which I enjoyed thoroughly, and it'd be nice if someone read this, went to visit, and ended up also enjoying it as a result :-)).
Now on the off chance that any of you are actually going to London before Christmas, Winter Wonderland [official website] is in Hyde Park, visible from more or less anywhere in the park (just look for the huge observation wheel (not the London Eye, which is nowhere near Hyde Park! (Though you can see either wheel from the other on a clear day)), on the side of the park closest to the Albert Memorial. Entry is free.
The German Hotdog place is about halfway down a big "street" of cabins past the "Bavarian Village" building and the ice rink, next to a set of tables in an X shape, within sight of (in front of, more or less) the Talking Moose. £4 for a hotdog might seem a bit steep, but these are big hotdogs and they taste awesome.

Ah yes, the Talking Moose.
For some reason, in the park, is an animatronic Moose's head mounted to the entrance to "Santa's Grotto". Now I forget the name of this Moose, but he's very talkative, and though he admits to being "a bit of a womaniser" (eh?), his intentions seem good, as he sings cheerful Christmas songs, and dispenses useful advice such as "Enjoy your day" and "Don't drink and drive".

Also in the huge lineup of stalls, is a lovely one crewed by two pleasant and friendly women, selling Austrian cheese, and something called "Speck". This stuff appears to be cured, spiced, smoked bacon, and smells absolutely awesome. It tastes very strongly like pepperami and is the chewiest thing this side of genuine fudge, which they also sell at the market.
It's also pretty expensive, being £5 for a chunk 4cm wide.

I think that we had a really great time at Winter Wonderland this year, and having rushed through it in 2008 due to the truly crappy weather, we were well rewarded this year for being able to take our time and enjoy it this time round. As I say above, highly recommended, great fun :-).

Part Two: Harrods

A short walk later past the lake (where my mum got harassed by a curious swan, and I got a few shots of squirrels that were so used to people that they'd scamper right up to your feet), we ended up at Harrods.

Harrods was a strange experience this time round. People say that perception defines reality as much as it is defined by it, and for some reason, the stuffy stuck-up atmosphere that I thought I noticed last time round, just wasn't there this time. Maybe it was because we'd taken our time getting there, having had a great time along the way, instead of hurrying there to get out of the rain that gave us a fresh look on the place, I dunno. This wasn't Harrods, the preserve of the rich, famous, talentless and pointless wastes of space that earn their living from being related to someone famous, or for doing 90 minutes work every other week, this was the "Everything for everyone" store filled with families, parents and kids, looking for something cool for Christmas.
The staff seemed pleasant and fun-loving enough with one member of staff in the toy department cheerfully flying an RC "gunship" in circles around his own (and a customer's) head, as a cheerful woman demonstrated some kind of art and craft set to a bunch of excited kids, as a father and his son (presumably) happily tossed a hoverdisk across the room to each other.
Walking further through the toy department, past a family of huge stuffed animals (a 6ft long plush hippopototamus for example), we passed through the Electronics department, past an £18,000 audio system, that looked quite shiny, but convinced me that I'm really not enough of an audiophile to need one, and some very sparkly and rather large HD TVs, to the Photography department, where I ogled a few lenses including the 80-400 (autofocus far too slow for my purposes), the 300mm 2.8 (Fixed length, not much use for anything really, why do people use these again?), and the exquisite 200mm Micro and the 80-200VR (both awesome but far out of my budget at this point). The guys seemed fairly knowledgable and friendly and made me feel not quite as unwelcome as I felt last time round heh.

My mum had to sit down to rest her tired legs though, and walking past a huge lemon citrine that looked as if it weighed a good 30 kilograms (and at £35,000, if it landed on your feet, the pain from your feet wouldn't be the half of it!), and we wound up at a rather upmarket cafe restaurant thing where a bottle of Sprite cost £3.50 (£1.65 in our local shop), but came with a glass, which, after emptying, I kept happily filled up with a litre bottle of water I had concealed in my jumper pocket.

Eventually though, we made our way out of that place, and got a taxi to Covent Garden, which despite the name is a fairly big market made up of two bits - one, a pair of sort of fairly nice covered mini-malls, and the other a fairly crappy formica-and-linoleum style indoor market. We bought a few things from there, and thankfully, didn't stay that long. Not to slur Covent Garden, which has been famous for centuries, but I don't do indoor markets, and I don't do crowds. It did have a Games Workshop though, and a huge Apple Store, as well as a rather amusingly named food place called Cafe Chutney, which had a nice Christmas tree outside.

Part Three: London Eye

A short walk through Charing Cross later, past a Canadian themed pub, an Australian themed shop, a TGI Friday themed restaurant, and a Law Enforcement themed Charing-Cross-Police-Station (more or less opposite my mum's old flat from when she was ickle like me), we caught a taxi to the London Eye (no we didn't. Not officially anyway. Officially we went to McDonalds).

While I wasn't there, I was careful not to take a few photos, we didn't hurry in and buy some tickets, and we didn't join the queue to board the Eye.
While queuing, I also didn't notice that for some weird reason, one of the pods had been stripped down to its metal frame, completely devoid of windows, ceiling and floor. Argh enough of this it's confusing me.

We got on the pod, and had a rather pleasant half-hour "flight" (as they call it) around the wheel. My calmest one to date, given that I'm terrified of heights, and that the wheel is 135 metres/442 feet high. My first trip around, I practically refused to look at anything other than the floor or ceiling for half the trip. I think if you don't like heights, the best way to think of it is that you're in a stationary room, and the only thing changing is the view :-).

Of course, the odd time when someone moved and the pod shifted very slightly (but slightly perceptibly) from side to side, or when I spent too much time taking photos of the distant ground, my mind started going wappy and I had to look at the horizon for a while to get my bearings, heh.

The flight ended soon enough, and off we went, to get a taxi back to the coach station.
Part Four: Home and other stuff

What's to say, the coach journey seemed uneventful enough. Eventually, fell asleep, waking up every now and again to find that not only had I gained a horrific pain in my neck, but that the clock had advanced by another 40-60 minutes, and before you knew it, the coach driver was announcing to the sleepy coachful of passengers (at a volume so loud I bet the local pedestrians on the pavement heard it) that we'd arrived in Chesterfield (about 30 minutes away from our destination) and would those who wanted to get off please hurry up and sod off.

We got back to our station soon enough, and wandered through the nearby streets, to an awesome parking lot with those roller shutter doors you see on Need for Speed games. A short detour via KFC later, and we were home. Job jobbed, as they say.
So there ends a very nice and very christmassy trip out.

So else has been happening?

My lens cup finally, FINALLY arrived after about 6 weeks of waiting for it. Is it as good as I'd hoped? Er, yes. It's shiny, it's a cup. The thing has lost a little of its novelty value, but it's still a cool gadget.
I've also managed to buy a third christmas pressie today, so that should arrive before long with some luck.

We've got a busy few weeks, christmas-wise, ahead of us. Next week is the trip to Gainsborough, which I'm really looking forward to, and the week after that is both the Kelham Island show, and the Christmas Concert that my mum has promised to take me to. The week after that, the christmas decorations go up. So yeah, things are definitely getting festive :-).

Here are some pictures I took that I thought you'd enjoy :-).

There was some weird on my page!) .

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Window And The Weather

What do you think to my latest photo of weirdness? Abstract enough for you?
Heh, actually I never intended this to be an abstract photo. This is in fact, my bedroom window.
More specifically, it's my bedroom window after we paid the window cleaner (generally known as the "window smearer" for obvious reasons) £3 to make our windows shiny and transparent.
Yeah I don't know what's been dissolved in the more or less constant rain we've had recently, but whatever it is has deposited on my window in great big blurry messes, and the rain that followed did little to wash it off. We've had a brief period of wet crappyness. Or crappy wetness. Whichever.

Bonfire night passed without incident, and I did indeed stay in the house without venturing forth to find sources of shiny fireworkiness. The day afterwards though, My ickle nephew, his dad, and I, went to one of the local pubs to watch a fireworks display there.
Surprisingly the display went on for well over an hour, and we found our very own pub bench to relax at while watching it, so we all had a pretty enjoyable day there.

After buying my D90, I managed to list the spare lens on ebay, where it fetched me £175. Not too bad, and gave me the extra cash I needed to snap up another one of those "Should be £530, is £330 for some unknown reason" offers that I have a habit of finding every now and again. I managed to satisfy another one of those short term goals that I keep setting myself, and before long I had the ickle 18-105's big brother winging its way towards my house. It's since arrived and it seems pretty shiny, so hey, now I've got a lens that takes 72mm filters, which is handy cos I've asked for one for Xmas.

Ahh, christmas, christmas, yep, even the shops are playing christmas songs now, and there are plenty of Xmas decorations up around the town. I've since started writing my christmas list, and (including items that people already aware of), it goes something like this (In no particular order*):

1.Lumiquest Promax flash bouncer/diffuser kit
2. Hoya 77mm Circular Polariser** (or 72 if already purr-chased :-))
3. Tiffen 77mm Graduated Neutral Density Filter
4. 12 Pack Sanyo Eneloop Rechargable Batteries
5. Formula One 2010 PC Game

*This is a wish list, yeah? I accept that some of the items on here are quite expensive and I'd be very surprised (though very pleasantly so) if I got them all :-)

**There seems to be some confuzzlement on my part about which size I need - When choosing lens filters, it's always best to choose the size that will fit your largest lens. In my case, my 11-16 takes 77mm filters. Now you shouldn't use polarisers outside on super-wide lenses because you get banding effects across the sky, so I asked for the next size down to fit my 18-200 which is 72mm. But it's occured to me that I might want to use the polariser on the 11-16 inside, or where the sky isn't visible. So I originally said 72mm, I'm now saying 77mm, but I'll happily accept and be cheerful with a 72mm if 77 is no longer an option.
My fault for being easily confuzzled and things :-).

For my part, I bought my first Christmas pressie today. Yep, stepping out into the incredible cold (we've gone from rain to frost in a couple of days!) I caught a bus into the wonderfully sunny town in which I live, and spent a fair while walking around the shops and suchlike. I had a little play with an iPad (which still seems too expensive for the relatively small size (Have they really just taken an iPod touch, given it a bigger screen, and doubled the price? Cos it seems like it to me!!), stared in amazement at a macbook air, (I've seen thicker slices of melba toast!), and fiddled in confuzzled bemusement with a dinky and cute Nikon D3100 (half the buttons are missing), before wandering down to the toy section where I bought my ickle nephew's pressie.
Yep, the lil dude certainly seems to love his lego and his playmobil, and since I bought that little "underwater world" for him,e he's really become struck on the idea of underwater civilisations and suchlike. Which is cool cos it makes it easy for me to buy him presents. So yeah. Christmas has suddenly gone from being miles away, to being "It's almost here", and I'm sorta left looking for ways to buy people the lovely and awesome pressies they deserve. I've got a few present ideas for other people too, you see :-).
But they'll not find out what they are on here, nope, they'll have to wait and see, hehe :-).

Right, I'm off to play Sacrifice of Angels - it's a very good game :-). Have Fun.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Explosions and stuff...

Only a short one, since while my parents do have a habit of springing "let's go out somewhere" things on me, they generally don't do it during the rain and cold of November.

Yep, here we are, November the 5th and the dreary rain, today being just the latest in a week or so of rainy evenings, is doing little to affect people's cheerful willingness to pay lots of money on exploding things, and even as the rain comes down, the fireworks go up :-).

For my part, I'm just sitting inside in the warm, watching the fireworks through my window, eating yummy chocolate cereal bites and weird golfball sized jam doughnut things, so yeah. For now, that seems to be about as exciting as tonight's gonna get.

But hey, I'm not complaining, my nephew is no doubt off to see some fireworks somewhere, and as long as he's happy, I'm happy :-).


Five minutes later: Actually no, this entry is too short, so let me have a mini rant.

I've noticed, first through displays on shop shelves, and secondly through the more irritating medium of television advertisements, a sort of bizarrely pretentious attempt by catfood manufacturers to imbue domestic cats with aristocratic personalities. A rough (and largely ficticious) example would be:

"Rufus is a cat of taste and discerning distinction. He stalks the hunting grounds of the house looking for his favourite food, new furballs food. Replete with delicious chunks of line-caught yellowfin tuna, and lavishly tasty jelly, Rufus knows that his heart can be satisfied".
While some badly overacting narrator talks us through the story of Rufus and his quest for luxurious food, the director has several shots of an incredibly rare and expensive pedigree cat from some obscure breed or other, usually with blue eyes and frequently in slow motion, stalking across a moodily-lit but extremely tidy house.

Here is a badly recorded but very amusing example of such an advert.

If I could insert sounds into text, I would, at this point, insert the sound of a needle being pulled off a record. But I can't, so there. I'm sure you're familiar with the "ZZZZZZZP" sound I have in mind.

Now, I'm sorry, I don't dislike cats, my sister has two of them afterall, but the fact remains that your average housecat would be just as happy dragging a dead bird through the catflap into the kitchen and tucking in, as it would be eating food that we've created for it because it's what we'd like to eat if we were cats.

I'm tired of this patronising supercilious kind of advertising that takes its product far too seriously. I'm sorry, selling food, however "luxurious" it is, doesn't justify a 55 second long food porn [link is not pornographic] video written by some cat fetishist with a thing for "duck terrine in gravy". "9 out of ten cats prefer whiskas". Prefer it to what? Going hungry? I'd prefer eating whiskas cat food to going hungry too.
And why all this emphasis on "luxurious" and "exquisite" ingredients? Who are they trying to convince, you or your cat? Cats can't understand English, they don't come because you tell them to, they come because their little feline stomachs are rumbling and they know you have the key to the food cupboard.

Cats don't care about "luxurious duck terrine produced in the south of France, with real meat jelly", or "Deliciously indulgent salmon", they care about food. Any food, even small dead mammals are preferable to going hungry.

The advertising isn't there to sell the food to the cats, it's there to sell it to you. If I was a cat, every time the advert came on I'd either giggle to myself and wander off to mutilate the local wildlife, or roll my eyes - if cats can roll their eyes. In fact they probably can't roll their eyes - if they could they'd do it all the time.

Now I've gone off at various tangents but the bottom line seems to be that cats don't care about expensive cat food, certainly not as much as the expensive cat food companies care about expensive cat food. Marks and Spencer had us enthralled for ages with their "deliciously indulgent" food porn advertisements, but do companies like Mars and Nestle (No, really, one makes Whiskas catfood, the other owns Purina which makes catfood in Canada) really have a need to convince you to take their products so ridiculously seriously that nothing else is good enough for your lovely family pet?

It's patronising, it's supercilious and it's annoying. And if I was a cat, I'd be too busy tucking into the blackbird I'd just decapitated to care about "Luxurious Jelly". Luxurious Jelly? How luxurious is it? Would you eat it?

It's cat food. It's food for cats. If you own a cat, you're going to buy cat food anyway. But for the advertisements to lie to you and say that your cat is far too aristocratic and discerning to eat any other food, is just an annoying lie. And to make so much effort in trying to perpetuate this myth of the "discerning ladylike feline" is just wasting everybody's time.

Well, for now I'll stick to just groaning and changing channel every time one of these annoying adverts comes on in a commercial break. Hopefully my deliciously indulgent rant (complete with meat jelly?) has amused a couple of people. At the very least it's made me feel better.

So there :-).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spooky goings on

Well, it's started early. Just gone 5pm and I've just seen the first little ones wandering around with their rubber bats, wizards' staffs, spellbooks and pet dragons.
Okay maybe not rubber bats. Still.

Yep, for my part I'm sitting inside waiting for my ickle nephew to come back home so that I can take him out to get him lots of yummy sweets, treats, and other things that rhyme with that.
Already, we've (just) had our first visitors, (make that second group of visitors as of 17:13) and I'm feeling pretty cheerful (or should that be "fearful?" Mwahahaha).

My dad's doing a good job of keeping visitors filled up with tasty treats, I'm sitting about playing with my cameras, and drinking a terrible cup of coffee to try to get over the aftereffects of the halloween/wedding/new camera celebratory drink and meal last night.

Yep, the D90 is now mine, and a very shiny piece of electronic equipment it is too.

AND, my ickle nephew has just turned up, so I'll carry this on later :-).

5 Hours later: Well, didn't the little guy do well :-). He turned up with his cute little devil costume, complete with a tridenty pitchforky type thing and a clever little bag on a stick for storing his sweet treats in.
Just before I took him out, I noticed that it was throwing it down. I initially suggested that I was going to wait until it had stopped. In retrospect it's a good thing that I didn't, as the rain continued for the next 30 or 40 minutes. Oh, it bucketed it down, and we were practically the only group out there, both very wet indeed. Eventually the rain stopped though, which made our time more pleasant. I didn't go dressed up, I was there in more of a supervisory/keeping him company capacity, but nevertheless one kind person did give me my own personal bag of Milky Way Magic Stars, hehe!
We visited loads of houses, and as his sweet-bag-on-a-stick got heavier and heavier, it started bending the stick, which was really just thick wire. After helpfully bending it into a carrying handle and hooking it onto the other side of his sweet bag, normal service was resumed.

So yeah, the little fella got loads and LOADS of sweets, the sweet bag thing was almost full. He ended up with 8 packets of maltesers (which he was on a quest to collect), which he thought was fantastic.


Yep, I finally got my hands on my D90, and what can I say. It's a beautiful piece of kit, nice and shiny and sparkly, and the image quality on the high resolution screen on the back is so perfect it it's almost three dimensional. Seriously, the screen is that awesome, it makes even bad pictures look great!

So yeah. I'm quite cheerful. Yay :-).

I hope my bloody coffee cup turns up. Grr. I'm still waiting for that thing!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Christmas Cakes!

Yep, we've not even got to Halloween yet, and I've already got 5 minutes of "christmas 2010 videos" saved on my camera. For today you see, (and yesterday I spose) we prepared...

The Christmas Cake! Dun Dun Dunnn. Yep, apparently you have to let the fruit soak overnight in brandy to give it some flavour, and then you have to let the cake soak in er, cake, for about 8 weeks, to, well, give it some more flavour.
Fair enough. After a while of preparing it and shoving it in the oven, I had to cycle down to the next town to post a couple of parcels for ebay, which was nice and pleasant.
It would have been more pleasant if I hadn't have run into a pothole and gone over more or less on my face, but hey the only thing I hurt was my price and even the bike bent back into shape pretty easily so it was only a minor blip on an otherwise good day.

So yeah, I've started thinking what pressies to buy for people, my mum has started watching christmas movies, and my nephew has started circling stuff he wants in his very own copy of the Argos catalogue. Finances are becoming a bit of a stretch at the minute, as the money that goes out, goes out BEFORE other money comes in, so even though there's a fair bit of money going in both directions, I find myself fairly skint from time to time. Not to worry though, I will sort myself out through the magic of eBay :-).

Finally though, it seems my nephew's parents HAVE bought him a costume and some other stuff, so I'm looking forward to taking the lil guy around trick-or-treating on Sunday night, at which time I should have recovered from my buying-a-new-camera celebration hangover. I can give him the sweets and stuff I've got for him too, then :-).

Well, more to come on sunday I spose.

UPDATE 20:27 (sounds like a computer game or something): Well, after hearing a few fireworks in the past few days, I've just looked out of the window to see the first fireworks I've seen this year (not counting the early hours of January the first, obviously). Nothing major, sort of exploding roman candle thingies.

This reminds me to look forward to a miniature fireworks party type thing that my sister is having around Bonfire Night. I like this time of year, all festive and celebration-y :-).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Coffee, Cameras and Cresso...

20:21, the previous night:

Well, my nephew certainly likes his dens. Yep, after a short time of pleading, he's convinced me to build him another den in his bedroom. I've always been good at building them, and this one is no exception. Not too big, but it has a "light strip" where the bedroom light shines through the "ceiling" so he can play on his GBA, which seems to be serving as a surrogate DS at the moment. He can even sit on his little piano seat to play, which is cool as it leaves me more floor space to stretch my legs.
Actually scratch that, I've just tried it and nearly knocked the thing down on the top of us.

Present Day: Dun Dun Dunn...

I've never had writer's block before. Or whatever this thing is that seems quite similar to writer's block.
I'm sat here staring at the screen trying to figure out what to commit to paper, so to speak, and the words simply will not enter my mind. Maybe I'm distracted, I dunno. I've been sat here staring into space for 15 minutes.

And if it is writer's block, it's not actually true that I've never had it before (see Ink and Incability, september 2009), so maybe it's just a seasonal thing, I dunno.
Still at least it's given me an opening.

So, what's going on? Well, I'm still waiting for my coffee cup to come.
Yes, I bought a coffee cup. Quite a shiny and cool coffee cup. Me being the camera fanatic that I am, I saw this rather fetching replica of a Nikon lens, that serves as a coffee cup. They're supposed to be quite sparkly, turning the zoom ring extends the coffee cup just like a real lens, and the level of details is supposed to be very good. So despite the £15 price I decided I had to go and have one, so I've got one on the way. Unfortunately since it's coming from Hong Kong, I've "had one on the way" for the past 20 days, and it still hasn't turned up. Irritating since something else from HK that I ordered at the same time arrived 2 days later. Oh well, can't win em all.

Now, I've been looking at getting a second camera body, for a couple of reasons. There are various practical reasons, but the most important of which is that I'm a sucker for a good deal, particularly when it's something I wanted before someone offered me the deal.

The market, or the "high street" as it's affectionately referred to by hmm, let's call them "morons", selling the items would probably sell them seperately. So you have an undisclosed camera body retailing for £579.99-£729.99 (such an insane difference in price depending on where you go! We'll go with the cheaper prices). So yeah. £579.99. The lens that it comes with? Hmm let's go with the shop selling it for £209.99. Then it comes with a battery grip at £104.50 and 2 batteries at £20 a piece. Then it comes with a clever wrist strap thing at £45, and a lens filter at £35. Yikes, all you wanted was a camera and before you know it you've spent £1014.48. [Edit, 1st November: £1229.92 in total if your luck is sucky enough that you end up going to the most expensive places...]

Fortunately for me, my good old mate Nick wants to er, dedicate himself to his D2h, and in an effort to raise some cash, is letting me have the whole lot for £500! Not a small amount of money to spend, but a pretty damn good deal all the same! The awesome thing (and the understanding) is that, I dno't need the 18-105 that comes with the D90 - I've already got one :). So Instead of paying £450 for the camera and battery grip, I'm paying £50 extra for the lens, so I can sell it for £150-200 and reduce the kick in the wallet from the camera. Clever stuff :-).

Not much happening other than that I suppose, though with halloween coming up, my ickle nephew is lamenting the fact that he won't be going out trick or treating. Apparently nobody can be bothered to get him a costume :(.

Oh well, I'm sure we'll have tpo sort something out, at least sweets-wise. I'll be more open to the question once he's stopped acting up.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Concerns and Cutbacks

How do, folksies...

Well, I've been putting it off for over a week, I suppose I had best get it over with.

On the advice of the training staff at the training regiment, I have left army training. I am therefore no longer a training, or paid, member of HM Armed Forces.

What happened?
Well, it seems that my little episode on the top of the hill (the one where I collapsed and threw up everywhere - remember that one?) dented my confidence a little bit. Instead of looking forward to PT sessions, I warily looked across at them on the horizon in the same way that a kid would view a dentist's appointment with apprehension.

Unfortunately, that's not a healthy attitude to have in training for the Army, which as you can imagine has a habit of being physically demanding. The more PT we had, the more stressed I got.
At one point, I went down to the med centre complaining of stomach cramps, vomiting, chills etc etc, wanting to know what I had caught or whatever. All the tests came back normal, leaving one conclusion: Stress.

I'm not sure what to think of it now, I felt crappy, I hadn't eaten for a couple of days, token attempts at eating had resulted in me being unable to keep down whatever I had eaten (I'm trying to be subtle, believe me), I had stomach cramp, and I was basically too busy feeling ill to really concentrate on what I needed to do.

After my collapse on the run, the training staff had noticed me becoming more withdrawn and nervous leading up to, and during PT sessions. Of course I put 100% effort in, because I didn't want to let either myself down or my teammates down, but they could see that I really didn't want to be in phys, and was stressing about it. This coupled with the fact that I had been sent to Physiotherapy for a shin problem (where it was found I also have a knee problem (it never rains, it pours! (Hey it's that nested sentences thing again!))) raised questions about my ability to complete training without injuring myself (accidentally, that is).

So after a couple of informal conversations along the lines of "How are you liking it?" "I'm not, sir, I wish I was", the training staff decided the best thing for me - mentally as well as physically, I guess, would be to send me home.
I didn't know this - the first I knew about any decision having actually being made is when the sergeant casually slips into conversation "You're de-kitting tomorrow", which kinda threw me: One minute the powers that be knew I wasn't 100% happy but was still getting through it all, the next minute they'd decided that home was the place for me, for now.

But, a couple of days later, I'd said goodbye to all the friends (and all the annoying sods) I'd come to know over the past 7 weeks, and had been moved into a holding platoon on the edge of the camp where no one had to look at us, us dirty civvies-to-be preparing for a return to civilian life and whatnot.
Still, a very sedentary 6 days later, and I was stood on the platform at the train station with all my stuff, ready to come home. Three hours later, I walked through the front door of my house for the first time in 7 and a half weeks. The Army's gates had closed behind me.

But not permanently...

You see, it seems that even though I wasn't really enjoying the training, and was struggling to cope a bit at times, it was decided that (and noted in my official report that) this was due to stress, brought on by an aversion to physical training, itself brought on by me keeling over on that big sodding hill.
"Go home, work on your Phys, if you can smash your phys, you're sorted" advised one of the corporals. So they've left the door open for me, I've been discharged as unfit for army service, with a recommendation to return in two years. Granted, in 2 years I'll be 27, but two of us there were 25, one was 27, one was 30 and one was 32. So I woudn't be pushing the age limits, if I did return. "Don't stress about the 'unfit'" said another corporal. "You're not a bad recruit, it only means you're physically unfit NOW. Go home, sort your phys out, come back, and you'll be way ahead of everyone else cos you've already done half of it".

So here I am, sat at home, at my computer. The rest of the lads are finishing up their range week. I'm glad to be back home, it's good to be back.

Importantly though, looking back on my time at the ATR, I look back on it as a good experience. There were crap times and tempers got frayed at some points during the nearly-2-months I was there, but all in all, it was a very good experience, and I'm proud to have done it.

Will I go back? I don't know. That depends what happens in the next two years. I've only been back 10 days, I want to get my head together before I decide what happens next.
What I don't want to do is settle into my old routine. Time to start looking for opportunities to do things differently maybe. Some 3D work in the near future has already come up, let's see how that pans out.

Now I've got a nice awesome Cresso with my mate Nick to look forward to. I hear he may have an offer for me. Let's see how that works out too :-).