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My son and The Mighty WAH!


If my five month old son was in a band, it would be legendary (or perhaps more accurately cult) 80s Liverpool band ‘The Mighty WAH!’, as that pretty much describes him now. He’s yet to learn all the words to ‘The Story of the Blues’ but I’m sure that will come in time. I look forward to telling him this when he’s older (not necessarily wiser). That’s if I have any eardrums left!

Incidentally, the photo above is of my son when he was much smaller (but no quieter) than he is now.


Weather: we like it


Having experienced a change in the weather recently where I live, it made me wonder about why weather forecasts are so popular. What makes them unique?

Firstly, they are perhaps the only part of a news programme that can predict the future with any accuracy.* Even when the news previews what’s going to happen, it can’t get it completely right. The sports news obviously can’t predict what will happen in that either.

Secondly, they’re comforting. Many a time I’ve sat watching the TV – the weather comes on, I’m still watching but not taking any of it in. (perhaps not unique in my watching!) Whatever happens in the world and whatever upheaval we’re going through at the time, the weather forecast will always be there. We all have our favourite presenters – and the ones we’re not really bothered about, which just adds to the experience.

Not dissimilar to the shipping forecast on BBC Radio 4. But that’s another tale.

* Not always, of course.

Not (quite) literally…

The truth about words...

The truth about words…

Seen recently in my local evening paper – ‘Contact Sports: 01229 ____’ (probably works better if you’ve seen it in print)

What is the correct phrase for an unintentional double meaning – not something risque. Is it a single entredre? Was it worth spending five minutes trying to spell that?

It’s not like the many examples of James Bond, including a scene involving Bond despatching a baddie in a bath by throwing an electrical device in, to which Connery responds:  ‘shocking’.

It’s not a misnomer (e.g. ‘social security’, ‘military intelligence’ etc).

Neither is it a ‘portmanteau’, which means combining two or more words into a new word. So smog (smoke + fog). Mizzle (mist + drizzle, of course).

Or a poor joke: Q – what’s the best shampoo for Irish men? A: Tim O’Tei

Whilst researching this (OK, looking it up on wikipedia) I discovered that lead in pencils is actually made of graphite and clay.

If you’re in doubt, just click below –

Wikipedia tells you about words (and other things)

Even better, can someone tell me the right term for what I found – it’ll bug me…


Sound choice

Normally, when it comes to reasonably new technology, I don’t get much of a chance to really have a play (which is actually what theyr’e for, naturally). But, following Christmas, I have been able to see how good the Google Nexus 7 is, and my own personal favourite, the radio above.

It does DAB, Internet (live radio, catch-up and podcasts) & FM. Also offers links to your music collection via wi-fi. It looks unassuming, but does everything it says on the box really well. Ever wanted to find a Spanish station dedicated to David Bowie? Well, you can hear… With the podcasts, it means you can learn a new language or culture, without the distraction of a screen (or the energy use). Usefully, to reduce the possibility of ploughing through US stations that (mostly) sound the same, you can narrow the search based on country, sound quality, etc.

The only down side really is that the rechargable battery is sold seperately. Along with other devices that depend on an Internet connection, how did we survive without wi-fi?

Home Work

My new best friend

I finally have to admit it – I am a house husband. My days usually begin with a list (in my head!) of jobs to do around the house. Even had a conversation with a fellow house husband about the best hoover to use for those places around the house that are difficult to reach. Still, I usually have the dog for company. And at least I have some help in these routine tasks. I have recently met a new dishwasher. It’s still early days, but I think I can say that things are going well between us. The arrangement we have worked for all parties (and even the daily dishes). All hail the glorious dishwasher – long may it continue being fed tablets (not the type with those addictive games).

On a more serious note, I have sometimes felt a bit frustrated. Although I have an immediate result to my efforts, they don’t always give me a great sense of satisfaction. That’s where the dog comes in – I take him for a walk (grabbing the lead gratefully with both hands)

My wife is gracious about what I do – she remarked to someone in a meeting that without me, she wouldn’t have clean, ironed clothes to go to work in!

Take one tablet for the new year…

Take one tablet of gorilla glass

Christmas in our house brought (and continues to bring) a few new gadgets.

First, my wife got a tablet. The Google Nexus 7 has so far lived up to our expectations. It’s fast, is easy to use for reading over long periods and has good battery life.

I got a Pure One Flow Internet Radio. When England had a Test Match down under (or wherever), I used to have to switch on the TV in the morning to find out the score. No more. The wi-fi connection works great – I’ve tested it on two BT Home Hubs so far. It’s good to have the option of listening to BBC stations using wi-fi as I’m not that keen on DAB. DAB is only used in a handful of countries (like the UK) whilst others use DAB+, a far better technology. There is some debate over whether sound quality really is better on DAB compared with FM. Anyway…

Also, we’re getting a dishwasher soon (but that’s less exciting).

‘Life of Pi’ and stories with teeth

Not a tame lion (or a tame tiger…)

There’s so much fuss at the moment in the UK about the new Hobbit film, it would be easy to overlook the film version of Life of Pi (I haven’t seen either yet). The book it is based was thought to be unfilmable. Yann Martel’s fantasy deals with belief and metaphor, with an endearing central character, Pi. It also has a lot to say about the power of the mind and survival in all its forms.

Perhaps Life of Pi (which made an interesting companion while I was in Africa one summer) also says that the stories we tell may not change reality, but they can change our perception of it. As long as we believe our stories, does it matter if no-one else does?

It also tells us something about human relationships with animals and our limits of control.

If you haven’t read Life of Pi, I recommend it. If you’ve seen the film, let me know what you think.

A bank to rely on…

Our daily bread (and beans, tuna and corned beef!)

You’d be forgiven for treating anything with the word ‘bank’ in it with caution. But there is a type of bank that has a better record than most at being honest, helpful, with no catches (a bit like the Indian cricket team, but that’s another story!).

In recent weeks and months, Food Banks have received a lot of publicity in the UK, both locally and nationally. Apart from the usual stories about people getting around the system (which works 99 percent of the time), there was a story in one of the local papers about the current lack of a food bank for Millom. It did recognise that something was being done about it, but these things take time and newspapers are not renowned for their patience!

So the upshot of this is that my wife has been featured on the front page of our local paper here in Cumbria, the North West Evening Mail.

Hopefully, this will also raise awareness of the need for volunteers and other forms of help to make a Food Bank a reality.


Braving the Freeze

I was pleased to see that the UK government has decided to freeze the aid that it was due to give to Rwanda in a few days time. This appears to be based on the evidence that Rwanda may be supporting the rebels who had recently taken over Goma, in DR Congo.  The issues around violation of human rights, freedom of speech and free and fair elections (among others) in Rwanda were highlighted in a recent Channel 4 documentary about how UK aid is spent. The UK is one of the biggest donors to Rwanda, so what it does with this money is not only important to that country, but also sends a message to the rest of the world.

It seemed clear from the interviews with Rwandan government ministers that they were not interested in answering the specific claims of the UN, Human Rights Watch and other organisations about Rwanda’s increasingly authoritarian regime.

Rwanda needs to answer these accusations, based in part on the evidence of Rwandan politicians and activists seeking asylum and in fear of their lives, before UK aid can be granted with a clear conscience to that country again.

Football and putting the fun back into funding

Interesting question raised during the week in the world of football. As Di Matteo was sacked as Chelsea boss (their eighth manager in as many years, I think), there was a comparison between Chelsea’s success in all competitions and Arsenal’s lack of trophies over the same period. The contrast is stark – Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal for a while now and has qualified for the Champions League many times, whilst Chelsea have had more managers than there have been repeats of Dallas on TV, it seems! Chelsea, on one level, seem to be the more successful club.

But which is the more successful model for the future of football finance? Manchester City are clearly doing things their way – loyal to the (current) manager, who they clearly believe in (perhaps more than the players do sometimes), but not putting in any more money for transfers at the moment.

Meanwhile, there’s many fans who simply cannot afford to go to the games anymore. Whatever happened to what Silvio Berlusconi (excuse the spelling) apparantly said – that one day, clubs like AC Milan will no longer need to charge supporters to go and watch a football match. Like so much about football’s finances, it seems a long time ago now.

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