Further ravages of time

Slightly under ten years ago, I renewed my passport.

Now I’m preparing to do it again so it will be definitely back with me in time in case I get to go on the school trip to Paris in December.

I didn’t quite dare tick the box that says my appearance has not substantially changed since last time.

passport photo




Frozen parodies

I’ve still not watched Disney’s Frozen – I felt for sure I wouldn’t be able to avoid seeing it at school on the last day of term, but somehow managed to avoid it after all – but thanks to parodies on the internet it feels like I know half the songs already.

Since it’s now available on Netflix, it’s only a matter of time till I see the real thing, but until then, here’s Cute Parents Lip-syncing…

(Which itself has spawned a series of parodies of parodies…


The original “Despair of an alto” video has been blocked on copyright grounds, but there is still this using the same track:

Dad who’s had enough of wife and kids singing the same song a million times.

And finally, which I didn’t even find until starting to write this post, is the censored version where they take the old ISIHAC trick of bleeping perfectly innocent words to make it sound rude.

Well, maybe not finally. As we were watching the credits of Tangled this evening, the songwriter credit came past and reminded me, if I ever knew, that the most of the Disney songs of the last thirty years have been written by the same guy who wrote Little Shop of Horrors, a sound track I can probably still sing all the words to myself. No wonder they’re so catchy.

Well. You remember that total eclipse of the sun, a few weeks ago?

Da doo.

There’s a stage production of this in Nottingham at the Lakeside coming up…

Eurovision bingo

We’re not able to watch Eurovision tonight as we’re out at a wine tasting slash concert, but I’m sure someone will be taping it and we will watch it later.

For the last few years we have been using Meg Pickard’s awesome Euro-bonga-bingo cards and we’d wholeheartedly recommend them as part of the entertainment at any Eurovision party.

I really haven’t been paying attention this year and haven’t even heard our own entry yet. These things don’t come up much on Radio 4 during my commute to and from school. But for a pithy four line smackdown of every song contention, you could do worse than Will Howells.

And we can’t conclude this little look at Eurovision 2013 without a namecheck to this tweet:


Words (and concepts) of the day

Three fun new things to cross my desk recently. Sometimes you can go days without learning any new words, and then sometimes there will be a flood.

1) Reuleaux triangles

A query arose in a game playing household about some game tokens, that looked almost but not exactly like plectrums. Puffy over-inflated equilateral triangles. Turns out they have some interesting mathematical properties, including about how they roll, and that if you make manhole covers this shape, the removed cover does not fall into the hole left behind.

The thing I found most interesting was that Reuleaux triangles are part of a series of mathematical shapes called Reuleaux polygons, and the shapes with seven sides are the shapes that are better known in the UK as 50p and 20p coins.

There are also Reuleaux tetrahedrons that are like puffy, round edged pyramids.

2) Obliquity

Now here’s an interesting word. in astronomy it describes a relationship between a planet’s north poll and its equator. Or something. But it came up in a meeting in a more social sciences context and it turns out it’s a book. The idea is that instead of being too goal-oriented, you can achieve what you want by taking an indirect route. Presumably there’s a personal goals angle there, and a few linked thoughts about personal productivity. But there’s also a research aspect. What do you find out on the way from A -> B? Sometimes C and D turn out to be the more useful research goals.

Clearly obliquity is related to oblique, a type of angle we learned about in secondary trigonometry. I thought it was a specific one like obtuse or reflex, but apparently it’s just one that is not a right angle. The wikipedia page for angles gets very heavy very quickly and there’s not a lot on the page I can easily get my head around.

NB obloquy is something else entirely. It’s a fancy word for abusive language.

3) Chthonic

What an amazing word. Are there any other with a chth right next to each other? It comes from the Greek, who apparently have no difficulty putting chi and theta next to each other without a vowel in between. Ooh, there’s also autochthonous – a synonym for indigenous. A Scrabble word finder has a list of 70 -CHTH- words including ichthic, which I think means fishy, although ichthyic is more common.

Chthonic means pertaining to the underworld.

It came to mind because my vegan friend is in the middle of a project of blogging every day and has a chosen to run each post under a new word ending -ic. (Apart from the first, where she sets out the laudable aim of commenting on others’ blogs pour encourager les autres)

Let’s end with a recipe: chocolate chip orange cookies. Easily vegan but doesn’t have to be if you prefer milk chocolate.

Tractor, trailer, combine, bailer: Hereford Rap

Liberal England’s recent post promoting a Shropshire rap reminded me that while we were in France our hosts told us about a Hereford rap that was quite entertaining.

A quick search and Youtube has the file, with the rather catchy refrain:

Tractor, trailer
Combine, bailer
Rotivator, cultivator
Sh*tspreader, plough!

The words and the content pursue some rather adult themes. But it is nice to see all those photos of Hereford cultural landmarks. And an indication of how long I have been gone. A Primark? In Hereford? You’ll be telling me there is a Starbucks next.

My episodes of Come Dine With Me now available on Youtube

It’s just over a year now since my episodes of Come Dine With Me were on’t telly for the first time. (The first thing that reminded me was my Photojojo Timecapsule email that sends back to me photos from a year ago).

CDWM Nottingham

And so it comes to pass that our week of episodes show up on the CDWM Youtube channel.

Here are the links:

  • Stephanie (the episode with the hilarious microwave ping incident
  • Me – nuff said
  • Janice – the costume episode in which I wear a PVC catsuit
  • Brian – the super uncomfortably night when I got to make a lot of jokes and where we somehow all get a lot drunker just before the puddings. Off cam tequila drinking games? YMTTICPC
  • Barry – final night with the scores, the cloche and gods and godesses costumes.

It’s clear that this interesting experience is going to follow me around for quite a while. Over the past year I’ve been recognised by strangers half a dozen times, the most recent just a week or so ago in Fellows, Morton and Clayton. Several have spoken to me because they knew one of the other contestants – Janice is my beautician, or I went to school with Barry and he hasn’t changed much. And everyone asks whether we’re still in touch with each other. I’m friends with Steph and Janice on Facebook, and bumped into Steph at a bus-stop recently, but haven’t spoken to the other guys since the final night at Barry’s house in November 2010.

Product endorsement: corn on the cob forks

Not letting unemployment get in the way of shopping, last week, I bought some of these off Amazon.

We’ve been eating a lot of corn on the cob since I found them in the freezer aisle. I’d previously thought of them as a summer only, barbecue type of thing, and bought the loose corn in frozen bags, or occasionally in tins (for making sweetcorn chowder or sweetcorn fritters, in theory, although I can’t recall ever actually doing so). But the mini-cobettes from the freezer bag taste really good, microwave really quickly at the end of cooking time, and are just slightly annoying to eat using standard cutlery.

So to overcome that eating annoyance, I had been looking out for corn picks for a few weeks, and just not seeing them in any of the old familiar places, so I resorted to the internet. And the ones I chose are lovely bright colours, make the job of eating corn on the cob much easier, and most cleverly of all, they clip together to keep the sharp prongs safely concealed when they are stored in the cutlery drawer.

The Amazon reviews all point out that they are good for toddlers too, although I cannot really comment on that.

REVIEW: Kindle reading lamp

The other day, out of the blue, I got an email asking me if I would like to review a Kindle case, lamp or cover, along with a handy link to a site called GearZap.com

I’ve been blogging on and off for seven years, now, and I don’t recall this ever happening before, so actually, I jumped at the chance.

Very quickly, they put my chosen Kindle light into the post and I got it the following day.

I needed one because when I first got the Kindle, I eschewed the basic Amazon cover with light in favour of a funkier sort of thing, like this one. When the Kindle arrived, I understood what the light was for. Like traditional books, you can’t read a Kindle in the dark. (The sleeve is indeed funky, has a very soft protective lining, is much more interesting than a boring leather one, and I like it a lot.)

Most of the time this isn’t a problem, but when I took the Kindle camping, it was much more so. I turned at first to a book light I had once won in a Christmas cracker years ago, but this suffered four problems: its rough metal clip scratched my precious kindle; the cheap reflector cast irritating shadows all over the page; it was powered by weird unusual batteries; and worst, despite being originally designed for books it was useless for them as you had to keep repositioning it when you switched from recto to verso.

GearZap sent me an XtraFlex2 Kindle Reading Light – and it’s really good. It instantly fixes all the problems I had before. It has a padded clip that will not harm the finish on the gadget. The high-quality lights and reflectors cast a very strong light in exactly the right place, and the gooseneck allows fine tuning to position it properly. The light is almost as bright as my mains powered bedside light, and it will be very good indeed in a tent. Used with actual books, the twin LEDs in the light head are angled to cover both pages of a book without having to move it. And it takes normal AAA batteries that won’t be at all difficult to secure next time I find myself in a tent, getting carried away, and reading all night.

I’ve never yet seen a review of this type of light with an actual picture of the light attached to the Kindle, so to put that right, here we go:

Kindle light

And this highlights the one slight problem using this light with a Kindle – the deep clip isn’t quite designed to fit the device (unlike, say, this one, which is clearly intended for exactly this product). It is not an insurmountable problem: you can clip the light enough to work at the top, or you can use the full extent of the clip halfway down as pictured.

Kindle light

So, fast delivery, quality product – what more could you want from a supplier of Kindle covers with lights?

One final point: this type of device, a personal book light, is often sold as a way of letting one of two people who share a bed continuing to read after the other has fallen asleep. This might work for some people, but it doesn’t work for us. I’m the late reader, but P is a light sleeper. Attempting to read in bed wakes him up. I could sleep through earthquakes, so if ever he wanted to read after I fell asleep, I’m sure it would be fine.

Some interesting links

I click all manner of things that people send me or that I find in forums or on Twitter.

Sometimes they stay open for days after I have read them as I think, “That’s useful/fascinating/interesting/funneh/cute – I should do something with that.”

Some of them I share again immediately on Twitter, but if everyone’s doing that it seems a bit dull. (It is interesting to see how these things track through my friends groups, though – sometimes you see a link early on in its life from one bunch of friends or colleagues, only to burst back into life a few days later from another bunch of friends.) There is certainly a temptation to use Twitter as an instant bookmark thingie for my own edification, not least since I save all my own tweets here on my blog, to the consternation of some who dislike it and the edification of some who only get to read them here (including, I believe, my hated opponent. *wave*)

Some of them are recipes, and some of the things I know I will want to return to, I whack in Delicious, and then forget about, and hope the keywords I end up using will be specific enough when inevitably in a few months’ time I think there was that page, somewhere, about something, that I now need… what was it again?

Anyway, without further ado, here is the latest crop of things that have been hanging around for days without me finding anything to do with them. Starting with a trio from the Economist:

Labour’s flat earthers demand the cuts go away

A simultaneously entertaining and depressing article about Labour’s “policy forum” in the Ice Arena in Nottingham, where it appears tens of thousands of the public were invited, and only Labour stalwarts showed up.

Ed Miliband’s bad timing

An account of the big socialist march in London from the perspective of someone who watched it on telly, and saw the words of Ed Miliband’s speech to one lot of marchers while another lot were letting off fireworks and violently breaking the place up.

Hey, Big Spenders

Bagehot draws on his experience of attending the conference above and turns it into an op-ed urging Labour to sort out what they mean on public finance.

And now for something completely different

Dr Horrible / My Little Pony mashup

Very, very strange. I have never actually watched any My Little Pony, so that part of it makes next to no sense. Who knew there were any overlaps at all between the Dr Horrible audience and the My Little Poniers?

Longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute

From my cousin’s facebook page. Some people have too much time on their hands. But it’s reassuring that the severe problem of teaspoon entropy appears to affect a wide range of institutions.