Monday, 22 May 2017

Register to Vote


Time's against us, so I'll be brief.  If you want to vote in the UK general election, but haven't registered to vote, you've got today to do it.  Don't leave it till the last minute - remember last time when the website went down because everyone tried to register?  Go to https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and register.

I do believe that voting is important, regardless of whether you vote for someone or if you turn up and deliberately spoil your ballot paper as a protest, because we are very fortunate to live in a place and time where citizens have the ability to vote.  There are still countries in the world where voting isn't possible, voting is restricted to certain people, or where the voting process is rigged.

Plus as one of the people will be sat in a polling station all day on election day helping voters, it makes my day go a lot quicker if people show up!

Don't forget also if you've moved house that you need to sort out your vote with the local council, otherwise you might be eligible to vote somewhere across the country.

For more about the rare breed that sits in polling stations, check out my 5 things you might not know about working in a polling station post :)

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Product Testing


As a guy, I find that the bathroom products I own do not relate to what I use.

You see, a safe gift for a man, for birthdays or Christmas (or indeed any other festival which involves giving presents) is "The Shower Gel Box Set".

The Shower Gel Box Set, which for me is often from Lynx, will include shower gel, a can of deodorant, but then often one other item, like shaving gel or after shave balm (never both - I presume they think that I'm either happy to use shaving gel and not both with after shave, or shave my bare dry rough face and use after shave balm to reduce the resulting redness).

Now my shaving regime, which is haphazard at best, generally involves a dry face, an electric razor, and then finishing up with a manual razor to pick off any stray hairs that the electric razor missed.  This is complemented by the occasional use of tweezers, because whilst the two razors do keep on top of 29,999 of the 30,000 hairs on my face, there will be one that somehow evades both trimmers, and in a matter of hours grows to about four inches long.  I sometimes wonder if my chin, becoming bored with the traditional beard, puts all of its effort into just one hair.

So as a result I tend to use up shower gel a lot quicker than I use shaving gels.  I decided to do some research, by been undertaking a number of tests of various bathroom products.

I decided to try showering and using the various products below instead of shower gel.  Mainly I chose to do this because I had run out of shower gel, but I felt that the research would be worthwhile regardless.


Test one - shampoo.  Well, of course shampoo was fine.  Anyone who uses the little shampoo/conditioners and shower gels in hotels know that they can quite happily swap one for the other and see no difference whatsoever.


Test two - Johnson's Top to Toe Baby Bath.  Basically bubble bath, but can be rubbed on children also.  Again, absolutely fine, you wouldn't notice any difference from normal shower gel except it doesn't contain lavender or volcanic rocks.


Test three - Facial Wash.  Again, absolutely fine.  We're essentially talking about shower gel for your face after all, which the last time I checked was made out of skin, just like the rest of the stuff covering your body.

Now it gets slightly more interesting...


Test four - shaving gel.  Absolutely fine!  Yes, shaving gel, perfectly fine for showering with.  Slightly thicker than shower gel, but nothing shocking.



Test five - after shave balm.  Again, absolutely fine, very similar to the shaving gel, slightly thicker than shower gel but no problem.


Test six - hair gel.  I was expecting this one to be dreadful - it was okay!  And the traces left in my hair helped to make it look slightly more exciting than usual.


Test seven - hand cream (not the Norwegian one in the photo, I should say) - this was the only one that wasn't ideal.  It stuck to my skin, moisturising it by creating a barrier between my skin and the shower (which to be quite honest I always thought could perhaps help with moisture deprivation) and took a bit of effort to get rid of.

So in summary, almost anything in your bathroom cabinet you can shower with.

Although perhaps not mouthwash.

New video is out - if you want to watch my forehead while I cook a meal, go and watch :)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Tomorrow


The life of a writer carries with it a heady mixture of stress and guilt.  Are you creating right now? Why not? Why are you wasting time not creating? Will you ever create again? Will you ever reach that place (fame, money, satisfaction, whatever it is that you want one day to be yours) that you tell yourself one day you'll get to?

If you are writing, what are you writing? Are you enjoying it? Are you writing something from your soul, or writing something to keep the wolves at bay?

If you have written, is it actually any good or are you just churning out some meaningless drivel that doesn't deserve the time it'll take someone to read it?

Tomorrow.  There's always tomorrow. Tomorrow will be the day that you write it. The piece of work that will elevate you, set you on your path to greatness. Everyone will say how you were discovered because of it. You got that writing job because of it. You're at one of those terribly middle-class evenings, chatting with your other writing acquaintances, supping on vintage wine (as though you'd know the difference) and commenting on the vol-au-vents, blissfully unaware of the other people lurking around the room that would desperately love to talk to you, just for a moment of your time, but your reputation precedes you and they can't even begin to build up the nerve.

Because of it.

So you place all your hopes on tomorrow.  But hope is dangerous, because without a plan, without action, hope is nothing more than a wish.  Hope is buying a lottery ticket. Hope is closing your eyes and running across a busy road as fast as you can.

Meanwhile you're watching repeats of an old TV show you used to like, telling yourself that it's because you need to watch and read to give yourself something to write about, but really it's just because the remote control is at the far end of the sofa.

You tell yourself, you're not going to write today, because you wrote yesterday, or earlier this week, or you are absolutely definitely going to write, but not right now, because you need to do that email, or buy those shoes on Amazon, or just finish just one more level on Candy Crush.


Yet day by day, those tomorrows are running out.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Friendly Advice


So, the other day we went to the mail sorting office in Hull.

This wasn't a day trip, allow me to elucidate, rather it was a journey in order to obtain one of the many parcels that my wife orders, probably of materials needed as part of her burgeoning Etsy shop (www.denkaidesigns.com).  All of the parcels seem to have one thing in common, that being that none of them fit through a letter box, and as the postman carefully times his deliveries to coincide with when no one is in the house, they end up back at the sorting office for me to collect.

Opposite the sorting office is some metal railings, from which you can look down into a muddy bit of the River Hull - back in the day it was probably some form of boat dock, but now it's just a load of mud.  My son decided to have a look through the railings at the muddy water for a minute, and not being in a particular rush, I joined him.

After a couple of seconds of looking at trolleys stuck in the mud (the nearest supermarket must be at least half a mile away - someone must have gone to a lot of effort to dump a trolley here) a helpful voice from behind us broke the silence.

"Excuse me - it's not very clean over there!"

I turned to see a chap addressing us.  I thanked him for his advice, and turned back to my son to tell him that it was about time to go to the sorting office.

The helpful voice sounded again.

"Yeah, I'm talking Weil's disease."

I turned around, surprised that he hadn't walked on, and once again I thanked him for his advice, although it did cross my mind that from the first piece of advice it hadn't been a massive leap of imagination to conjure up the possibility that he had been talking about some sort of infection, so the second piece was, to my mind, superfluous.  Again, I turned back to my son to ask him to come to the sorting office.

And yet, there was more to come.

"I would get his hands washed sharpish if I were you!"

Of course, I'm certain that the fellow was only giving advice in order to protect my son.  A nice gesture.  A helpful human being, by any account.

As a result I didn't even get my son to rub his hands on him, obviously with the man being so concerned with his well being I can only assume he'd be more than happy to have any germs removed by liberally scrubbing my sons hands on his face.  Always think twice before acting, that's what I say.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

My activities


Hello!

I've been somewhat quiet recently, mainly due to my wife being halfway across the world and as a result me having a sudden need to do things like household chores and cooking.  Generally things have gone okay, although I have noticed that I've had a tendency to carry out some rather silly actions.  I've summarised them as follows:

Wednesday 26th April - left hob on for several hours, only realising when I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and feeling heat from the hob/oven area.

Thursday 27th April - left my keys in the outside of the door for about six hours, only discovering their location when I was locking up for the night.

Friday 28th - stabbed myself in the hand.

Saturday 29th - stabbed myself in the hand again (different knife though).

Sunday 30th - kneed my son in the face (accidentally)

Monday 1st - got hit in the face by my son, cutting my lip.

Tuesday 2nd - managed to open my car door on the back of my foot, knocking my shoe off.

Wednesday 3rd - burnt my hand on a hot pan, and later that day broke the door frame to the attic door, shoulder barging it open while forgetting that it was bolted shut.


So far since Wednesday I've managed not to do anything stupid, but watch this space...

What I have also been doing however is making a video for my wife's flosstube channel, including my first bit of cross stitch!  Feel free to check it out :)





Monday, 1 May 2017

TableTop Day 2017

TableTop Day 2017 was marked here by a good evening of games, food, and drink, playing some Exploding Kittens followed by 221B Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes detective game!  Just wanted to post a few pictures:

Me interrogating a manual

Fuelled by beer, the detective sleuths down clues...

Obligatory board shot

Exploding Kittens!

Hopefully I'm trying out some D&D in the not too far distant future, which is something I've always fancied but never actually tried.

While I'm blogging, I'll just mention my wife's Etsy shop, www.denkaidesigns.com - although she's currently away in Australia, I'm keeping things going wrapping and posting orders for her, including these awesome cow freebies with every order :)


Friday, 28 April 2017

5 NASA Inventions That Are Now Everyday Household Items

Today on the blog we're featuring a guest post kindly provided by James Hall.  James is a cracking UK writer who is a home appliance enthusiast - take it away James!


5 NASA Inventions That Are Now Everyday Household Items

Ever since I first watched Star Trek as a child, I’ve always been interested in space-age technology. Ideas such as faster-than-light travel or realistic virtual realities still fascinate me – even though I understand little of the science behind them!

In comparison to sci-fi technology, it’s sometimes easy to forget how astonishing “everyday” items actually are. Society has developed so rapidly over the last 100-150 years that we quickly become indifferent to technological breakthroughs – even when they come as a direct result of space research.
With that in mind, here are five everyday items that were first developed by NASA.




 1. Scratch-Proof Glasses

As you can imagine, it’s important for an astronaut’s visor not to get scratched. That’s why NASA scientists in the 1970s put a lot of time into developing strong plastics coated with a thin film to prevent scratching. The result was visors that were up to ten times less likely to scratch than previous versions.

Fast forward a decade, and sunglass manufacturer Foster-Grant realised the same technology could be used on their products. The company was the first to licence it from NASA, although today most plastic lenses have a similar coating.




2. Memory Foam Mattresses

Walk into any mattress shop and you’ll almost certainly be greeted be a sales person extolling the virtues of memory foam. This type of foam, which contours to your body to provide extra support while sleeping, has become popular in recent years.

What many people don’t know is that memory foam was first developed by NASA as a way to protect passengers during a crash. It’s still used for that today, but is also found in pillows, mattresses and even roller coasters due to its ability to absorb energy.



3. Water Filters

One of the challenges of long-term space missions, such as establishing a base on the Moon, is producing clean water. That’s why NASA has been collaborating with a number of companies to develop water filtration systems. The first filters were designed in the 1970s and could handle basic cleaning. In recent years, new filters are being created to convert water with greater contamination – including human urine – into a drinkable form.

While this technology might not be found in the average western home, it has the potential to make a big difference in poorer countries where clean water is scarce.





4. Handheld Cordless Vacuums

An example of a more mundane NASA technology is the humble handheld vacuum. Before the Apollo mission, NASA commissioned Black & Decker to produce a drill to collect samples from the moon. This needed a highly optimised motor and tiny power consumption, as energy would be at a premium during the mission.

Later on, the same technology would be used to create the Dustbuster range of vacuums. Black & Decker still produce Dustbusters today, although handheld vacuums are now built by a wide range of companies.




5. Cochlear Implants

In the 1970s, analog hearing aids simply magnified sound. This meant any noise or imperfections would also be amplified.

At the time, NASA was putting a lot of research time into sound and electronic sensing. An engineer named Adam Kissiah, who also had hearing difficulties, realised this technology could be used to produce an implant that would transmit sound digitally.

He founded a private company to develop a working prototype of the cochlear implant. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have had their hearing restored – including people who have been deaf since birth.


James Hall is a home technology writer from the UK. Aside from writing, he enjoys hiking, cycling and spending time with his family. He's always had an interest in space-age technology and has high hopes for the next-generation of virtual reality devices. He's currently writing for Spotless Vacuum and you can also find him on Twitter.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Rants of Spring



We are determinedly in the middle of spring, and it should make me happy.  That's the deal, right? At last the icy chills of winter are fading away, new growth, sunny days, all that sort of thing.

Well, I'm determined to put an alternative point of view forward.

Firstly, you have to start cutting the grass.  The grass hasn't been cut for six months, and so has taken on sufficient water to be shipped off to a drought-ridden country to supply a small family with water for a month, meaning that the lawn mower can't chop the grass, and merely chews it a bit, like a cow with Attention Deficit Disorder (as an aside, I wonder if anyone ever uses the word "deficit" in topics other than attention disorders and budgets).

Added to the challenge of cutting the grass is that randomly throughout the exercise of grass mastication your mower will encounter one of the various plastic toys abandoned in the garden in autumn the previous year, either forcing the mower blades to wail as they try to slice a mouldy water pistol into plastic salami, or, if you hit the toy just right, the blades and wheels combine to propel it flying frantically into the air, to be stopped heroically by your face.

And of course, everything is growing, not just the grass.  Suddenly every damn weed and bush in the garden decides that this is the moment to grow as quick and fast as they can, so suddenly spiky growths dart across paths to stab you in the ankle as you try to get a pair of secateurs to deal with them.

Then there's hayfever.  I fortunately don't suffer with hayfever, but my wife does, and it's not pleasant for me to endure her sneezing and running eyes.  I dare say that she's not overkeen on it either.

Insects are next - after a few pleasant months of insects either being dead or asleep, now they are taking once again to the air, ready to fly in my ears or walk all over my cheesecake.

The sun in the spring is a particularly curious beast, I find.  It's low enough in the sky that it blinds you when driving to work, and is extremely bright indeed, yet apparently gives no heat whatsoever, forcing a recovery of those winter sweaters that you had decisively put away.

At least we've now got past the week or so when you wake up "late" because of daylight saving time (British Summer Time in my country) and you're consistently late for work for a week because you're waking up at the time you've been waking up at for the last six months.

Nevertheless, I'll be complaining even more about summer.  Being English, complaining about the weather is an essential activity for myself, and I look forward to complaining about it being too hot briefly rather than the rest of the year, when it's too cold.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Day Zero

Today, dear readers, is day zero.  It is the last day before the counting commences.

It is the last day... that my wife is here.

To halt the dramatics, allow me to explain that she's off to Australia for three weeks to visit her sister and her partner - my sister-in-law has just given birth to a beautiful baby girl, and my wife will be starting her journey to Melbourne tomorrow morning to help out for a few weeks.  As I write this bags are being packed.

As a result, me and our son will be fending for ourselves.  We broke the news to him yesterday, but he seems more put out by the fact that he's going back to school after two weeks off than his mum not being around (this will change the first time he has an accident or I annoy him or something!)

In preparation for taking over the cooking duties, I made a huge vat of anonymous mash vegetables for freezing.


I had the bright idea, you see, that I could make a load of mashed potatoes, and mix in it some other vegetables, to get some nutrition into mine and my sons diets, to try to start off on the right foot and not be resorting to takeaways every night.

However, it's pretty obvious in the picture above that it isn't pure top-quality mashed potato, and I suspect I'm going to be eating most of that myself.  I did add some bacon into the vegetables when they were boiling to add flavour, interestingly while they didn't add any flavour to the vegetables the process did succeed in sucking all of the tasty bacon flavour from the bacon itself.  Eating flavourless bacon is odd, trust me.

So cross your fingers for these next twenty six or so days of freedom.  Perhaps by the end of it I'll have learned to cook!

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