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Friday, April 30, 2010

School's Out

Each evening, on Radio 2, at about 5.30, Simon Mayo does a piece called "Homework Sucks"; where listeners ask for help to solve a 'homework' related problem.

Each time he introduces the segment, he starts the theme to what must be one of the most iconic childrens' soap operas of the 80s.

It makes me smile each time I hear it.

The theme to Grange Hill

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Swimming Gala

The tension was mounting. The voices echoing around the pool.

The children were changed and waiting in their teams.

The parents were hustling for seats in the grandstand!

The school swimming gala was moments away.

As a parent, with two boys selected to take part, I sat, nervously patient, for the first race to get underway.
There were 31 races (single length) to get through, and it has to be said the organisation was spot on.

It was great to see all the teachers supporting this event (their pupils) fighting it out in the water.

So how did the boys do? My middle son went first, in the breast-stroke. He's not the sportiest of boys, and he was as surprised as us to be picked - we used that to his advantage; building him up and giving him confidence.

He swam a great race, and although he didn't win, he gave it his best shot.

My oldest son was set to anchor two relays.

Race one - just the boys, and he brought it home in style; hardly a sweat!!

Race two - mixed. Girls first, handing off to the boys. It's safe to say it wasn't a great start, and by the end of the second leg they were in trouble. However, it wasn't over, and the first of the boys managed to catch up.

Number one son dived into action, and after half a length it was his to lose! He powered his way, freestyle, and comfortably won the race.

They both swam to the best of their abilities and I am so proud of them.

Glee - Vogue

Glee is rocking the country again.  Total Cheese. But totally great.

Here's Vogue, from this weeks episode.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Electric Youth

I was ruminating and cogitating about how the 'yoof' of today seem so much better at technology than I was, when I was younger.

I know most would argue that, (and I'm not disagreeing) since we are immersed in a world of gadgets, gizmos and whatnots, then it's not really a surprise. Especially as they are exposed to it through the education system.

Blackboards and chalk? No way! Nowadays it's the interactive whiteboard. In a way, this might help hold the attention span of the pupils, who would otherwise be thinking about their next 'game'.

I say it like that simply because there are so many consoles to choose from, I'm amazed there is room in the market. From the family friendly Nintendo, to the hard-core PS3 and XBox - all vying for your cash.
It's not just games. It's television too.

When I were a lad it was 3 channels and a top loading Betamax video recorder. You could set the timer seven days in advance, and the tape lasted up to 4 hours (on long play!) There's the old joke about kids setting the video quicker than their parents; but...
... Leap forward a quarter of a century, and, not only am I going grey; but it's now possible to record programmes by series, for hours on end, on machines that a 4 year old can operate (trust me, I know!!)

The DVD player isn't alien, the computer less so. Using the Wii-mote to play a game is second nature.
It's amazing, but at the same time, all this time in front of technostuff is less time outside in the fresh air!!

Is this technology bad?
Do we need it?
Does it inhibit the mental growth of our children?
Of course, the answer is "No". It isn't bad, indeed progress is good.

We don't need it; but it helps make life more efficient.
Finally - does it have a negative impact on the future generations? In my humble opinion, no; but there's a caveat to that answer.

Whilst I'm all for advancements in technology; and we have much to thank for the railways and electricity!! there has to be a balance between what it does for us, and what we do for ourselves.

Introducing BlackBerry 6

I couldn't resist posting this - for BlackBerry lovers everywhere, this is a preview of the new look, just around the corner.

It's fresh, familiar, looks easy to use, and fun too.

According to Research In Motion (RIM) the makers of BlackBerry, it should be available in the second half of this year - but I wait without baited breath.  Version 5 took a while to propogate the various telecoms providers.

This looks like it keeps the best of BlackBerry, adding some new features, and modernising the look and feel along the way.

Will this help maintain RIM's commercial performance - on the basis of this video, it certainly looks like it could.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Rise of The Cherries

I rarely write about football - unlike some, it's not a main passion of mine.

Since I live in Manchester, so it's difficult not to get a little involved.  I've even taken one of my sons to see City play, when he was interested.

However, coming from Bournemouth, I've taken quite a bit of interest in their performance over the years.

I was delighted when I saw they have won promotion from League Two to League One.

What's more, they've done it with a transfer embargo over them, most of the season.  In fact, at times, they've been so short of players, they've been unable to field a complete bench.

Eddie Howe has worked magic in getting them promoted, and I only hope his magic continues into the next season.  It won't get any easier, but they'll have a grand 'ole time trying.

I'm looking forward to their next campaign, as they aim for the top.

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Additions

Back in July, I wrote about the loss of some of our goldfish, and today I am happy to report the arrival of two new fish to the tank.

I recently checked what fish we could introduce with a common goldfish; and I was advised that only common goldfish should go in.

So that's what we bought yesterday.

Here's a short video of the three of them getting to know each other.

Altogether now - aaahhh!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Review - Kodak HD Video Camera

It's review time.  You know I like technology, and I couldn't resist the Kodak Zx1 Pocket Video Camera.

To quote their website
Adventure can strike at any moment. Capture it in HD with the Kodak Zx1.  Built to take on rain and snow, bright ligjt and low light, this camera is ready for action.  Now, no matter where life leads you, recording it all in stunning HD quality is as close as your front pocket.
Not sure why they mention the front pocket; but that's semantics.  It could be in your rucksack, for a hiking expedition, or your summer jacket for a day at the fair.

Video is captured in 720p, at 30 frames per second at a ration of 16:9
There are two other recording modes:
HD60 - Recorded at 60 frames per second - ideal for high speed action
VGA - Recorded in 4:3 ratio at 640x480; 30 frames per second.

Being resistant to rain, snow, and dirt, you can record in any environment, without damaging the camera.  It also has a ruggerised feel to it.

It takes still pictures too, at 3MP - not be best, but better than some cameras on mobile phones.

Once the video is recorded, it's possible to upload directly to YouTube using the built on software, which installed easily on my PC.

If you're a control freak, and like to adjust white balance, focus etc, then you'll be disappointed.  The only setting you can change is the date and time.

It's not the most intuitive of cameras, but it doesn't take long to get used to the controls.  Also, the zoom is a little jerky, so shouldn't be used during recording.  At least this will prevent the jarring zoom effects that some people insist on including in their footage.  Shoot. Stop. Zoom. Shoot.  Much easier on the eye.

Now, I must cover the supplied accessories; because this is one area that many manufacturers let themselves down.  Not here; oh no!  Kodak have surpassed themselves with this package:

  • 2 x AA pre-charged, rechargeable Ni-MH batteries
  • Battery charger
  • HDMI cable (yes, you read that right!)
  • AV and USB cables
  • Wrist strap
  • Pouch
  • Designer cover (!!)
  • User guide (more like a quick start guide)
  • Built-in ArcSoft Media software

You may have noticed that the supplied batteries are AA.  This means, that in emergencies, you can just pop in a couple of Duracells and away you go.

I've had a play, and it's really easy to use. The onboard memory is negligible (OK, virtually nil) so a SDHC memory card is a must, and that needs to be factored into the price.  It's also not the lightest unit.
The low light performance isn't bad, but I haven't tried it outside in the evening, where I suspect the picture quality may fall below acceptable standards.
The audio quality is also not too bad, and there is a firmware upgrade currently available, to improve it further.
Remember, this is a small, budget unit, not a broadcast quality television camera.

So, this package must cost a pretty penny, I hear you moan!  With the charger, batteries supplied, HDMI cable, you could be forgiven for thinking this was expensive.

Well; you are forgiven.  For a few pounds short of £50 - all this could be yours; not forgetting the SDHC card you'll also need.

It's a definite must have; and as the weather improves, and life move outdoors for the summer; this could be an excellent accessory to add to your days out.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hey Fever!!

Or should that be hayfever?

Are you a sufferer of the dreaded hayfever?

Each year, at around this time, I start to get a little tickle in my throat, itchy eyes, and constant sneezing that signifies the start of summer - or, in the case of many, misery in the form of hayfever.

I was a late starter. As a child, I never suffered; it was only in the last 5-6 years that it has been affecting me.

Each year, I visit the doctor, and he prescribes medication that keeps the pollen at bay.  One side-effect of the tablets is the drowsiness, and it's a 'build up' too, which means I need to start taking before the hayfever season starts in earnest.  Then I'll be ready.

Hayfever affects almost 4m people each year; and this year, in particular, we can be thankful that the late spring means there is less pollen in the air.  This, in turn, will lead to a short season; which is great news, and hopefully means we can enjoy the summer ahead.

Fingers crossed we have less pollen and lots of sun....

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Odds Are Improving

Just a quick update on my flutter on the Grand Prix season.

As I've written previously, I've placed two bets.

The first was for the Constructors Championship.  That one just had to go to McLaren.  The 'fun' about betting before the first race is - you never really know.  However, I've been a McLaren fan for years, and I couldn't bet against them.

The second was specifically for Jenson Button to win 5 or more Grand Prix during the season.  With a 19 race calendar ahead of us, I hope this is a fairly safe bet.  The reigning World Champion is in a Very Fast Car....

So, what's the current state of play.  After four races, Jenson Button is 10 points clear of his nearest challenger (Nico Rosberg) as he has now won two races, and McLaren are in the lead in the constructors championship, with 109 points.

I just have to keep everything crossed that the season continues in this vein.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Jools' Great Giveaway... Update

I had a few questions about what the 'giveaway' is, so rather than keep it a secret, keep reading to find out:

Since I've been writing these posts, which as you know are primarily a way for me to express myself, it is apparent that they are becoming quite popular.

Some of you follow me via Facebook, a couple via emails and some via Twitter.  Others appear to be reading in a newsreader. For that I thank you.

However, since you are reading this, and since it is no longer just for me, the one question I ask myself is, "how can I now increase my readership?"

So; dear reader, following the people power for the new template, I lay down the gauntlet to you once more.

All you need to do is follow me via one of these available methods:
  1. Join via the Facebook page for My Blog and I
  2. Follow via NetworkedBlogs on Facebook
  3. Subscribe via Email (see the link on the right)
  4. Follow directly on my blog, via Google Friend Connect
  5. Follow me on Twitter - @doonytime - send me the message #myblogandi
  6. If you're already on Twitter you can tweet this post; just click the green 'Retweet' button at the top. Don't forget to add the #myblogandi to the re-tweet
Also, if you enjoy the read, then don't keep it to yourself. Ask your family, friends and colleagues to do the same.

Once you've partaken of one (or more) of the above, add a comment on this post, and let me know what you've done.  For each way that you follow me, that will add as an extra entry to win.

On Sunday 2nd May, I will draw a name from a hat, and the winner will receive goodies related to my regular posts on BlackBerry, Formula 1 and films:

  • BlackBerry Fool
  • F1 Official Annual 2010
  • Hancock DVD

If this proves to be a popular giveaway, then who knows, maybe I'll consider more of them in the future.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank @blissbubbley for allowing me to 'borrow' her idea.  She has a blog here and it really is worth a read (and also following).

Good Luck.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Flipnote Studio

Once again, it's review time; and today is the turn of the Nintendo DSi.

I don't cover the handheld console that often, mainly because I don't play all the time, and whilst I enjoy the games I do play, I'm not a gamer at heart, so find it easy to put down.

There have been a couple of exceptions. One was the Professor Layton games - brilliantly produced with some fiendishly difficult puzzles to solve.

The other is Flipnote Studio.

You'll probably remember as a child when you drew stick figures on pages of a book, and when you flicked them, it appeared as though the figure was moving.

Now you can do it electronically on the DSi.

It's brilliantly creative, and it's also possible to add sound too. For the frustrated cartoonist, this is a fabulous way to express your talents.

There's even a website where you can upload your cartoons for others to view.
Here's an example of the kind of thing you can do.

What's even more remarkable, is that this is FREE. Gratis. This should have been charged for - it's incredible that they have given this away.

You can download it from the DSiWare shop via your wireless connection.

If you have a DSi, but haven't seen this, then you must try it.  It's great to while away some hours travelling, or just to doodle and have fun.

Of course, if its puzzle games are for you, then check-out Professor Layton too.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Twitter for BlackBerry

As you know, from time to time, I like to review applications for BlackBerry.

This time, it's the turn of Twitter for BlackBerry

I've been a Twitter user for over a year, dipping in here and there, to see what's happening.  There are a number of ways to access it, either directly via their website, or using a third party application, such as TweetDeck.

On the mobile, there are also a slew of applications, all developed by third parties; however, until now, there hasn't been an actual Twitter application for the BlackBerry.

That changed over the last few weeks, as it was first rolled out to a chosen few, and recently released to the public.

I downloaded it on Sunday, and have been 'playing' with it.  One of the big problems with applications like this, is the constant drain on the battery.  Since Twitter is updating in real-time, at intervals you can pre-determine, it is working constantly, alongside the normal radio transmissions.
I must admit that, so far, battery use has been minimal, and I've not experienced any undue power reduction.

Looking at the application itself; it has been beautifully integrated into BlackBerry.  It works very well, all the functionality on the website is available on the mobile, including the ability to save searches - something you can't do with others.

The look and feel is very much linked to the website, and I have to say it's extremely easy to use.

You can:
  • ReTweet
  • Direct Messages
  • Reply
  • Add Photos
  • Set Favourites
  • Search
  • Send a Tweet as an update to Facebook, or as SMS, MMS etc
  • View Lists
I am very impressed with this application, and it has started to replace UberTwitter as my app of choice.

If you have any views, then please add your comment below.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Getting Fit - Update 2

It's confession time.

I haven't been as active in the Get Fit challenge as I should have been.

I have been walking quite a lot, as you can see from My Pedometer updates.  Some days have been better than others, and the spikes are when I went to the gym - as you can see from yesterday.

However, I do make a conscious effort to get out and walk during the day.  It's easier when the sun is shining, but no matter what the weather has been, I have been getting out.  It feels good to stretch my legs, take in some fresh air, and spend time with my own thoughts.

Summer, is just around the corner, so time is of the essence.  I need to set a proper plan, with a fixed regime.
No more of the "maybe Monday or will it be Tuesday?"

From now on Tuesday will be Gym Day.

I have been doing 30 minutes on the cross-trainer, and from now, I will start to increase my time, and, by association, my fitness.

Well, that's the theory.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Britains Has The "X" Factor

I think I've mentioned it before, but politics doesn't set my world alight! Indeed, at school I never really understood what it was about.

Today, I take a bit more of an interest, but the personalities, more commonly known as politicians, seem more interested in slating each other, than trying to 'sell' us something that will help us live better lives!

However, it is at General Election time that I tend to get more immersed in the shenanigans of party politics.
Before I continue, I should point out that I have already made my decision about who to vote for.  I would also like to point out that the order in which these images appear on this page are not reflective of my political views.

This post isn't meant to sway you one way or the other, or even the other - remember, there are 3 credible(?) parties; and when you read the ballot paper on 6th May, you will be forgiven for asking who all the others are. (Green, UKIP, etc...)
I no-longer think that the vote depends on which half of the country you live in. There used to be a north/south divide, with Labour holding fort up top, and the Tories lauding it over the softee southerners!! (I can say that, coming from a, once, very Conservative Bournemouth).

Indeed, the cynic in me thinks that whoever puts the most effort into contact with the local community will win my vote!

Alright; it's not as simple as that, otherwise the Liberal Democrats would win every time. Leaflets about what they're up to drop through the letterbox every few days.
The Conservatives, on the other hand, are rarely heard from.
Labour newsletters appear occasionally too.

You'll be pleased to know that I'm not that fickle, and I do look at what they're offering in terms of a manifesto, and don't base my vote purely on the colour of their eyes!
So, with my mind already made up, I will enter the polling booth on May 6th to place an 'X' on the ballot paper, and exercise my democratic right to vote.

I don't understand why people don't vote. Indeed, it's the ones who don't that tend to complain about 'things'.
If you don't vote, because "what's the point?" then how can you moan when it all goes wrong?
It's important everyone votes - as strange as it seems, unlike cheap television programmes, your vote really could make a difference.

When it comes to elections, Britain really does need the "X" Factor.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Goodbye "24" - Hello "The A-Team"

At the end of this series of 24, Jack Bauer will finally get a chance to charge his phone!!

It has been announced that this will be the last 'day', and CTU will be closed down for good as soon as Day 8 ends.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however, as discussions are still on-going about a feature length film; but how would that work?  There was a film set in real-time, and for the life of me, and searching, I can't find the name of it. Help if you can - all I remember is that it was about a man, his child was kidnapped, and he had to prevent something happening.... OK - that's a tall order, but I'm sure someone out there will know it.

Since Day 1, I have enjoyed the totally outrageous plots that are served up week on week.  With the twists and turns along the way, the inhospitable environments, the constant dying, and the inevitable coming back to life and being triumphant in the end!!

Jack Bauer will say goodbye.

I'll miss them; but the boxset is sitting on the shelf.

However, all is not lost, as another TV favourite is making its way to the silver screen this summer.

If you can stand it, if you loved it the first time round, and if you want to see it on the big screen, then you must see - The A Team....

With Liam Neeson in the role of Hannibal, you gotta love it when a plan comes together.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

"Outnumbered" is back on the box

This has to be one of the funniest programmes; the writing is superb, the acting great and the children are fantastic.

Quote from the Beeb
The award-winning comedy returns, as Gran takes the Brockman family for a day's sightseeing in London. Karen is unimpressed with modern art, Jake suffers serious trauma when he is unable to text, and one of the family uses a visit to HMS Belfast for a brief re-enactment of World War II.
If you've not seen it, then here's a clip to whet your appetite:

Series 3 of Outnumbered starts tonight at 9.30 on BBC One

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Feel Good Food

We all have our favourite food. The one dish we don't mind eating over and over.

Some call it 'comfort' food. The food that makes you feel good, or better, about yourself.

It might be a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise, even a pizza. A takeaway from the local Chinese or Indian restaurant.

It might just be your favourite bar of chocolate.

For me, a bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk is the ultimate feel good food.

Take one chunk (I said 'one'!) and let it slowly melt in your mouth.

My mouth is watering at the thought.

OK - For you Galaxy fans - here's a picture just for you too:

Oops - I'm sorry. That's not the galaxy you wanted is it?

Just teasing - here's the chocolatey version!

Don't say I don't cater for everyone....

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

That's The Way Viigo

I first wrote about this back in July, last year.  I thought it was time to re-publish for those of you that haven't seen it.

Today, I'm going to talk about Viigo.
Viigo™ is revolutionizing the way people access information on their smartphones. Every day, Viigo addicts around the world rely on Viigo as their gateway to a vast array of useful, up-to-the-minute content and services, wherever they are and whenever they need it.
In one simple, fully customizable application, Viigo delivers news, weather, flight schedules and status, real-time sports scores, stock quotes and market data, entertainment, hotel and restaurant reviews, blogs, and much more.
Right - that's the sales bit over (it's a direct quote from the Viigo website).

This blog is about my views and reviews on what viigo has to offer.

Let me start by saying. this is a stunning application, which sits in the background (it's the one app I don't close) and periodically scans my pre-set filters for updates.

The content provided covers virtually everything, from sports to finance, and restaurants to cinema times. News, blogs, weather updates (one of my favourites, provided by AccuWeather) and social networks are all catered for. There are even podcasts available (though I've had difficulty getting to listen to them - must contact them about that!)
They are constantly adding new content providers, the latest being ExploreMusic.

If you use Google Reader, to pull together your favourite blogs, don't worry, you can have them all delivered into Viigo. If you make changes in Google, they are replicated automatically in Viigo (although that could take a couple of days - well, it did for me). Again, no criticism, just an observation. If you need the updates sooner, you can re-apply the channel.
You can even use their website to manage the feeds you have.
You can set how many updates you receive, as well as determine how often the updates take place. The more items you have, the more memory that will be eaten up, and this can impact on the performance; but only slightly.
Through playing around with the settings, you can work out what's right for you.

I mentioned above that the weather feed is one of my favourites, and this is where it comes into it's own. By setting towns / cities in the channel, you can view the current weather (and it's usually only a couple of hours out) as well as the forecast. You can then drill down to a full 15 day forecast.

If I had to gripe about something, it's the fact that this is very US centric. Some of the content is only for the US market, and it would be nice if there was more for the UK.
However, don't let that detract you.

There's plenty more it can do, including setting alerts on certain channels when they are updated. You can see when it was last updated - mine is set to 2-hour updates, but I can run it manually if I want to.
It's totally free, with small, unobtrusive, clickable adverts at the top of each screen. This is not a complaint. Today, we're all used to adverts being served to help keep the cost of content to the user at a minimum. Well, viigo is free, and that's in no small part due to the small ads.

For businesses, there is an enterprise version, which allows for the deployment of company info, events calendar, 'behind-the-firewall' content; you get the drift. I haven't looked at that, but from what I've seen as a personal user, it seems like an ideal way to keep the mobile workforce informed at all times.

My advice, if you have a BlackBerry, or other smartphone, get this application today. You won't regret it.

Monday, April 05, 2010

I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside...

I love Bournemouth.

I'm biased, because that's where I was born.  However, I just love going back to visit.  The fresh sea air, the clean beaches and mum's home cooking!  OK - so the last one is not a reason for anyone else to visit, but I get such a kick from that first view of the sea, as we walk down through the chine to the beach.

Bournemouth was first settled in the early 19th century, and since then has grown into the busy seaside resort we know and love today.
This isn't designed to be a sales pitch - but I will refute claims that Bournemouth is full of elderly people.

There is a vibrant university culture, lots of nightlife, and plenty for families of all ages.
There, that's the advertising out of the way.

As you stand on the beach, look over to your right, and you can make out Old Harry Rocks at the end of The Purbecks.

Sweep across to the left, and on a clear day, passed Hengistbury Head, you can see The Needles off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

The sea provides a backdrop of drama; and on Saturday, during our stroll, the boys wandered to the end of a groyne, where the sea was breaking hard. 

As you wander along the promenade, the colourful beach huts sit quietly, closed, empty, waiting for the season to get under way.

The beach itself is clean.  In April, it's not ideal weather to sunbathe, but there were many people who had staked a claim to a small pitch on the sand.  Dog walkers, cyclists, children in the play area, and the ice-cream kiosk was open, but, unsurprisingly, trade was quiet.

As a short break destination, you can't beat Bournemouth for the variety of hotels, facilities and especially the clean, fresh, sea air that really makes it worth being beside the sea.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Let The Public Decide

The current look for My Blog and I was always meant to be an interim one, whilst I looked for something more 'snazzy'.

I now believe I've found it.  However, in the true spirit of social networking, I will let you, the public, decide.

Below you will find 3 images of new looks, and I can't decide which one I should use.

So; it's now over to you.

On the right-hand side of the blog, I have added a poll for you to vote.  Please select your choice, and when the poll ends, whichever has the most votes will become the new background.

Oh, what trust I have in you!!

If you're reading this in an email, or via one of the pages on Facebook, then you will need to visit the blog directly to cast your vote.  Please do, it would mean so much if you helped shape the future of this blog.

Blog Pic A

Blog Pic B
Blog Pic C


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