Sunday, 27 February 2011

Parents eh!

Hannah, aged eight and three quarters, had to research a city this week during half term.  She chose Cairo and this is, almost, all her own work:

Extra slide was produced by her dad while she was tucked up in bed.  Parents eh!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

100 Whimsical words

Reiner sent me these today and I thought they were lovely and worth sharing.

The English language can be maddening to native speakers and learners alike, but is also delightfully rich, especially for those who seek to convey a lighthearted tone in their writing. Here are 100 words it’s difficult to employ without smiling. Though their meanings may be obscure, they each present a challenge — I mean an opportunity — for you to paint a vivid word picture. Imbue your musings with mirth by incorporating these terms:
absquatulate: to flee, abscond
abstemious: restrained in consumption of food and alcohol
balderdash: nonsense
ballyhoo: commotion, hype
bindle stiff: hobo
bodacious: remarkable, voluptuous
borborygmus: sound of intestinal gas
cahoots (in the expression “in cahoots with”): scheming
callipygian: possessing a shapely derriere
cantankerous: irritating, difficult
carbuncle: pustule
caterwaul: to wail or protest noisily
cattywampus: in disarray
cockamamie (also cockamamie): ridiculous
comeuppance: just desserts
concupiscent: possessed of erotic desire
copacetic (also copasetic, copesetic): satisfactory
curmudgeon: ill-tempered (and often old) person
debauchery: sensual gratification
doohickey: gadget or attachment
effluvium: unpleasant smell
factotum: all-around servant or attendant
farrago: confused mixture
festoon: to decorate; dangling decorative chains
finagle: to trick
fisticuffs: fighting with fists
flabbergasted: dumbfounded
flagitious: villainous
flibbertigibbet: flighty person
flummoxed: confused
foible: fault
folderol: nonsense
foofaraw: flash, frills
fusty: moldy, musty, old-fashioned
gallimaufry: mixture, jumble
gallivant: to jaunt or carouse
gobbledygook: nonsense, indecipherable writing
haberdasher: men’s clothier; provider of sundries
harridan: shrewish woman
higgledy-piggledy: in a disorganized or confused manner
high jinks (also hijinks): boisterous antics
hodgepodge: mixture, jumble
hokum: nonsense
hoodwink: to deceive
hoosegow: jail
hornswoggle: to dupe or hoax
hortatory: advisory
hullabaloo: uproar
ignoramus: dunce
imbroglio: confused predicament
jackanapes: impudent or mischievous person
jiggery-pokery: deceit
kerfuffle: disturbance
lackadaisical: bereft of energy or enthusiasm
loggerheads (in the expression “at loggerheads”): quarrelsome
lollygag: to meander, delay
loquacious: talkative
louche: disreputable
lugubrious: mournful, dismal
malarkey (also malarky): nonsense
maleficence: evil
mendacious: deceptive
oaf: clumsy or stupid person
obfuscate: confuse, obscure
obloquy: condemning or abusive language, or the state of being subject to such
obsequious: flattering
orotund: sonorous, or pompous
osculate: to kiss
paroxysm: convulsion or outburst
peccadillo: minor offense
periwinkle: light purplish blue; creeping plant; aquatic snail
perspicacious: astute
pettifogger: quibbler; disreputable lawyer
poltroon: cowardly, coward
prognosticate: to predict
pusillanimous: cowardly
raffish: vulgar
ragamuffin: dirty, disheveled person
rambunctious: unruly
resplendent: brilliantly glowing
ribaldry: crude or coarse behavior
rigmarole (also rigamarole): confused talk; complicated procedure
ruckus: disturbance
scalawag: scamp
scofflaw: lawbreaker
shenanigans: tricks or mischief
skedaddle: flee
skulduggery: devious behavior
spiffy: stylish
squelch: to suppress or silence; act of silencing; sucking sound
subterfuge: deception, or deceptive ploy
supercilious: haughty
swashbuckler: cocky adventurer; story about the same
sylph: lithe woman
tatterdemalion: raggedly dressed person; looking disreputable or decayed
termagant: shrewish woman
whirligig: whirling toy; merry-go-round; dizzying course of events
widdershins (also withershins): counterclockwise, contrary
willy-nilly: by force, haphazardly

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

In praise of

I’m very quick to criticise.  I don’t know why because I’m nowhere near perfect and mistakes are second nature to me.  Apparently I have a talent for spotting things that are wrong or things that don’t fit a pattern.  I haven’t decided this, someone has told me that I have this skill.

Anyway, enough about my skills or handicaps, the reason for starting in this way is that I can be slow to praise.  Again, I don’t know why that is and actually I wish I wasn’t like that.  This post seeks to single out an individual and company for recognition of a job well done.

On Sunday night I decided to clear down all the videos that I had on my 2008 Flip Mino. (I know I bought before HD.  If you’re looking for a birthday present idea, I’ll have a Flip Ultra III HD thank you very much.)

I was uploading and sorting videos and making small movies with some of the content.  It really is ultra easy with Flip although it’s not an overly flexible movie making tool as it doesn’t allow for sophisticated editing.  I’d made a couple of movies and for the last one I wanted to add music.

The first faff I had was changing the mp4 file I had into mp3 which would be accepted by the Flip software.  I did it, can’t remember how but it worked.

The only thing I needed to do next was click the Make Movie button.  Movie burning is quite a slow process and after it had churned away for a while and was almost finished, an error message popped up.  It was getting late but I wanted to finish the movie for Hannah to see the next day so I had another go, and hit the same error, and another go, and hit the same error.  Each attempt took quite some time so after three tries and three errors I was a tad frustrated with the whole process.

I went onto the web and found the Flip website and found the online help.  I can be a bit wary of those, especially if they’re like the one that BT uses.  There’s nothing worse than 30 seconds in discovering you’re chatting online with a poorly programmed robot who can’t help at all.  Well actually there is something worse and that’s chatting online for 30 minutes and then realising the very well spoken person you’ve been chatting to is a very well programmed robot.  That’s sort of humiliating.  Credit where credit is due, you know you’re talking to a machine on the BT site.

Well Freddie (30065E), on the Flip site was very well spoken and very patient, even coping very well when I inadvertently shouted with accidental caps lock and apologised.  He also threw in a couple of typos which I thought could have been the brainchild of a very devious programmer.  @stormcab on twitter suggested that I ask Freddie (30065E) about the meaning of life as that always throws the bots.  I didn’t because if Freddie (30065E) was real I didn’t want to insult him by accusing him of being non human.

Freddie (30065E) took me through diagnosis of the problem and two time consuming software updates.  He was polite, patient, modest and I think he was real.

So thank you Flip.  If Freddie (30065E) was real then he is an asset to your organisation.  If he was a programme then I would dearly like to know which company you use because damn it, they’re good!

Oh and the video, it’s here:

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Decisions, decisions

I can’t sleep.  You see we’ve decided to do something awful and the consequences are keeping me awake at night.

Our neighbours have submitted plans to demolish their house and build ten flats and the plans are very cleverly done so as to address any likely objections head on.

They did this six years ago and I fought it.  Luckily for us they pulled the plans and we have managed to have six more years of living in our perfect house.

Now though, we find ourselves in the same boat as we were six years ago.  Actually the boat is a little different: I no longer have post natal depression and gave up the Prozac a long time ago; the house, whilst still having kerb appeal, has now got some major maintenance issues; and, up until this week, we had been considering significantly extending the property.

So what would you do in our shoes.  To help you with this question let me tell you a bit more.

When we were searching for a house over 11 years ago this house was out of our price range.  But we looked at it longingly in the estate agent’s window.

Eventually the price fell and, even though it was at the very top of our budget, we looked around the house.  We had a survey done which said we needed a new roof (there were saucepans catching water in the loft), it needed re-wiring and it needed a damp proof course as well as woodworm treatment.

We weren’t put off.  We negotiated on the price and lived with the in-laws while the building work was done.

We installed a new central heating system to replace the skirting board radiator system, changed the arch between the two main reception rooms, fixed the burglar alarm, boarded the loft, built new loft hatches, and moved in.

We lived with a sheet as a temporary curtain at the living room window which lasted for about three years.  Friends say it was there for longer.

We applied for planning permission to build a downstairs shower room and had that work done as well as making structural changes in the kitchen.

Then we had children and lived happily in our “stay forever” house.  We installed a new bathroom upstairs by coming up with a clever solution for a room that had either a window or door at every corner.  We constructed a massive climbing frame that would last for years and erected a playhouse we called “Chuckle cottage”.  Dave built a deck and we even did some gardening (OK not much).

And this is our stay forever house.


It’s Victorian, just, having been built in 1901 and we have the original deeds showing the house with one neighbour (the house due for demolition) and surrounding fields.

It has oodles of character.  It has a round window and a nook halfway up the stairs (just big enough for a computer at a desk).  It has high ceilings; original coving, skirting, banisters and spindles; an original fireplace; a weird vertical loft door to access the second loft space; and a magnolia tree in the front garden which, for one week of the year, has the most beautiful blossom.

So what would you do?

Monday, 7 February 2011

The day I tried being assertive

At the weekend I received some direct mail.  I opened it.  I read it.  It worked.

There was an offer in the mail which was for this:


And the price was £101.

I did some surfing.  The make was Coby, it was twin player i.e. played different discs on the separate screens and had wireless headphones.  The cheapest price I could find quickly was Amazon at £204.  This was a good deal.

I got got in the car and drove to the shop.  When I got there there was a problem.  An assistant explained there was a mistake.  The revised offer was on display.  The wireless headphones weren’t part of the offer and they were substituted with small ear bud style headphones instead (not wireless).  The image above had been Photoshopped for the shop display to remove the headphones.

But then I looked at the product on display and looked at the picture, and the product on display could only play one DVD across both screens.  I pointed that out to the assistant and he explained he could ask a manager to come over and talk to me.  I said “Will that help?” and he said “Probably not.”  I asked anyway.

The manager came over and I explained that the product for sale wasn’t the one that had been promoted in the direct mail but was, instead, this:

coby single 

I explained that I was annoyed that I had driven to the shop for a misleading promotion and that, once in the store, the promotion was still incorrect.  He explained that the supplier had sent the wrong images over but he hadn’t realised there was still a discrepancy after the initial photo editing.  And then I said

“What I want you to do is to phone your supplier.  I want you to explain that you’ve had disgruntled customers in the shop.  I want you to tell your supplier that for one particular customer, who was really annoyed, that you want them to receive the product in the original offer, for the original offer price.  And then I want you to phone me.  I’m going to write my name and number down for you, and you’re going to phone me.”

He said he would.  And then I said

“So you’re going to make that call, and let me know how you got on.” and I offered my hand for a handshake whilst looking him in the eye.

And he confirmed he would.

We’ll see.  I made one crucial mistake.  Did you spot it?

Saturday, 5 February 2011

An experiment

If you want to know who’s deleted you on Facebook, just head on over to “People you may know.”

There, amongst the thousands of faces, will be the people who have decided that you’re not their cup of tea.

It’s happened to me, and I’m not surprised.  I’m vocal and opinionated and if my vocal opinion doesn’t match yours, on a regular basis, then I imagine you’ll decide distance is preferable.

I have an inkling that some of the deleters have just been irritated by my lack of involvement in their Facebook statuses.  It’s a sort of “am I not good enough” arrogance.

I’ve never deleted/defriended anyone.  I might have restricted access to my content but think I’ve only done that to two people.  I’ve also turned down the volume on a few people because (like myself) they were overly enthusiastic about updating their status.  I’ve also blocked applications that cluttered my news feed.

So I’m experimenting, and severing the link between Twitter and Facebook.  I’m turning my Facebook volume down, as an experiment, to see whether I like it better that way.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Some children do ‘av ‘em

I was listening to some mums today chatting about how unhappy they were with school.  There were two topics I overheard: allergy policy and the teaching of evolution.  These were both subjects that had caused one of the mums to complain to school staff.

Allergy Policy

The school in question has at least one child that suffers from a peanut allergy and has asked that parents who are providing their children with a packed lunch, please exclude peanuts from the food that is brought into school.

The Mums’ view: That’s disgusting.  Why can’t the child with the allergy eat somewhere different of something.  It’s not the same these days that schools have to be “inclusive.”  What would they say if my child was allergic to milk?  Would they ban everyone from drinking milk?

My view: Any nut allergy can be serious, even fatal.  A child doesn’t necessarily have to eat a nut to suffer the allergic reaction.  The school attended by my children has banned all nuts, not just peanuts, because of staff and pupil allergies.  I think this is a sensible precaution.  It’s sometimes a difficult rule to remember, but I do my best to comply.  To suffer from a milk allergy reaction I think you normally have to drink milk and I think, but don’t know, that the reaction is less likely to be serious. 

The teaching of evolution

The school in question has been teaching primary school children the subject of evolution, as Darwin defined it.

The Mums’ view: That’s disgusting.  Telling the children we all came from fish and seaweed and stuff isn’t right, is it?  I mean is is a Christian school after all.

My view: I would have though that the subject of evolution might be a challenging one for Primary School children, but perhaps it isn’t.  Hannah and Ethan understand the basic concepts as explained by us, and maybe the school, and we’ve reinforced that with a Tree of Life poster (BBC) that shows evolution pictorially that hangs in Hannah’s room.  I admire the school for teaching science in a way that children can understand it.

What’s your view?  I think I can guess.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Musical lunch

Hannah goes to Orchestra club at school on Wednesday lunchtimes.
The club used to last for half an hour leaving Hannah free to enjoy a hot school dinner in the other 30 minutes of her lunch hour.
This term though things changed and it was decided that Orchestra club should last for the full lunch hour. Children were told they would need to bring a packed lunch which they could eat during the first ten minutes of the hour.
Hannah ate only a fraction of her packed lunch today; she's quite a slow eater. From a health perspective slow eating is good. Everyone should chew food a lot and take time over meals; it aids digestion and helps to control appetite and weight gain. Clearly though, when only ten minutes is available for lunch, speed is everything.
On seeing that Hannah didn't eat all of her lunch, the teacher running the Orchestra club told Hannah to ask me to give her less food in her lunch box. Or, if that wasn't an option, to ask the teacher of the first lesson after lunch to allow Hannah to eat while the register is being taken.
So, when an artificial limit on the time available for eating lunch means that Hannah can't finish her food, the solution is to reduce the quantity of food.
Is it just me, or is that a kind of twisted, weird logic that doesn't take into account the welfare of the child?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Spam, spam, spam and spam

To those of you who don’t blog you may be interested to know why some people moderate their comments before allowing them to be visible.

It’s because mindless idiots get something (I have no idea what) from blog spamming.  Here’s a selection of spam comments from my blog:

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