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

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.

New additions to RSS reader

Over the last few days I appear to have stuffed a whole bunch of new things into the “Funnehs” category of my RSS reader – I use Google Reader.

Funnehs is by far the largest single category, although “Nottingham” probably gets the most post, half down to the high amount of traffic in the Nottingham Flickr photos group. I like reading that, because it gives you a flavour of some of the most beautiful bits of the city, as well as some of the most striking for whatever reason. And it’s a great tracker for seasonal events – there are always a flurry of photos showing how Nottingham marks its year, from the winter ice rink in Market Square, through the February big wheel, down to events over the summer and culminating in Goose Fair – a magnet for photographers wanting to show off what they can do with a long exposure in the dark.

But back to the Funnehs – I have a strong liking for sites that take the mickey out of everyday things. It plays well to my extremely sarcastic sense of humour. Several of these links involve swearing.

Most recently, we have:

Awkward moments with Ed Miliband

Find it: here

Why: Ed Miliband, like Cherie Blair, seems to be a difficult person to take a good photo of. There was some suggestion that for a number of years, newspaper editors were deliberately choosing the ones of Cherie that made her mouth look big. Are people deliberately publishing the embarrassing photos of MiliE ?

Wackaging. It’s packaging and it’s wacky.

Find it: here

Why: Don’t you just hate some of these packets that overemphasise their cute homely origins and yet still read like they’ve been in product development with a team of copywriters for months? Yes? So do these guys.

The Monkeys you Ordered

Find it: here

Why: This is the New Yorker cartoon, stripped of its satirical caption and in its place, something more descriptive. The result is weirdly compelling and hilarious.

Things Real People Don’t Say About Advertising

Find it: here

Why: it’s a regular reminder of the importance of a sense of perspective. When you’ve had your third meeting in a week discussing the content of FOCUS straplines that will be read by few people and digested by even fewer, pop by here to remind yourself what your readers really think.

Interestingly, all of these new blogs use Tumblr, a very simple blog platform that seems to be mainly targetted at people who want to get a lot of photos up cleanly and simply. And what all of them miss is simple “reblogging” buttons – the Cheeseburgr empire always give you free code to reblog their content that automatically links back to their post, thus driving their traffic. The Tumblr blogs don’t seem to do that, unless you’re already a tumblr user.

This week’s @PodDelusion

Bad news for those of you who think I’m already overexposed: I’m on the Pod Delusion again this week.×200.swf?callInView=local_41199&channelInView=WEBSITE_USER_3452&phlogId=9216&phonecastId=41199

It’s a piece I filed a few weeks ago with the instruction to hold onto until a quiet week. It’s a riff on the fun of letterboxes that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever delivered leaflets.

Fun at Pod Delusion Live

So, Tuesday night saw a live version of the Pod Delusion, a sort of podcast version of FOOC from a skeptic view point. They have had a weekly audio programme for the last year built up of short contributions from a variety of people, including me, and were celebrating their birthday by doing what they usually do in front of a live pub audience.

Despite the travel, I jumped at the opportunity and dusted off my gay blood ban material and added in a few jokes that would not have been appropriate last time I used it in Full Council.

It went very well. People laughed a lot. They laughed at the jokes I wrote and even found some of the other bits funny too.

There’s a blog post with some videos in it here, and the one of me is below.

(“I’m up here!”)

The full piece will doubtless be available as an audio file on this week’s Pod Delusion, along with some sterling other contributors and ending up with some jolly songs.

The bit of the evening I was dreading most was the questions, but in fact two good points were raised.

Firstly part of my speech included referring to Typhoid Mary, and someone in the audience rightly picked me up in that. Whilst in common parlance Typhoid Mary just means pariah, I had just a few weeks ago read the WP page for Typhoid Mary, and the real story is much worse, and wholly inappropriate for use in the gay blood campaign. What’s worse still is that I knew that! Typhoid Mary was a healthy carrier of Typhoid Fever. She was not ill herself, but was able to infect others. Through her work as a cook she infected at least 50 other people, three of whom died. She refused to believe she was infectious, and spent at least part of her life behind bars.

So, she was infected but didn’t know it, refused to comply with the health-based rules, and ended up infecting and causing the deaths of others. Really, really not the sort of case to invoke in the arguments around the gay blood ban.

The second question was around HIV incidence and who was the largest group of people now being infected. I wasn’t sure on the night and the questionner has subsequently got in touch on Twitter with two documents of interesting data which a) show that heterosexual infections are now more common than gay ones and b) although there are now more gay men being diagnosed HIV+, a higher rate of diagnosis probably doesn’t mean higher incidence, just that more of those who have it, know about it.

From Blood Service’s point of view the fact that the straight infections count for a larger proportion of new infections is probably not helpful to the arguments around the gay blood ban, because the group of straight people is much bigger than the group of gay people. So incidence amongst gay men is around 5% whilst in straight people as a whole it’s probably only 0.001%.

The third question was “do you have to have anal sex to catch HIV.” No you don’t, but it helps.

Perhaps the most touching thing to happen was after I got home. I start my schtick talking about the Anthony Nolan Trust and the bone marrow register. I’ve signed up, and given a saliva sample – and just last week received my donor pack.

This, and carrying a donor card, I do partly because it’s right, and partly “pour encourager les autres.” If some parts of the NHS are happy to deal with gay men, that should be encouraged.

It’s probably quite unlikely my number will come up and they find someone who’s a match who needs my bone marrow. But if they do, I will do what I promised to, and go to London for medical treatment and donate bone marrow. Most of the time, that’s a fairly simple course of injections followed by sitting hooked up to a machine a bit like a dialysis machine. More rarely, it involves an operation.

The person who got in touch after I got home wanted to thank me for signing up with the Anthony Nolan Trust – because he was a leukaemia survivor, who was only still alive thanks to bone marrow donation. His came from a sibling rather than the register, but it was still a really interesting story he sent me.

He has blogged about it, and you can read his moving story, intricately woven into his atheism, here.

So, look out for the Pod Delusion Live recording when it comes out tomorrow. Here are a few links to past recordings I’ve done too: