My Blog and Shop

Friday, December 24, 2010

T'was The Night Before Christmas...

... and Santa was merry;
eating mince pies and
drinking the sherry!

Does that symbolise Christmas for you?  Indeed, Christmas is a time of excess.  Lots of food, drink, merriment and laughter.  Christmas versions of your favourite TV show, The Queen's Speech and time with your family and friends.

I also find I get quite sentimental around this time. Do you?

Over the last week, people have been battling to reach their Christmas destination; fighting against the elements, and many have made it.  Many more have not; and pictures on the television show what a state we, as a country, find ourselves when the weather is against us.

We are reminded that it's also a time for reflection.
A time to remember loved ones who have sadly passed;
A time to consider those less fortunate;
A time to consider those that, for whatever reason (weather included) cannot enjoy the festivities together.

My Blog and I is taking a short hiatus and will return fresh and ready to go in the new year.

Many thanks for your company through 2010.

I wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas and a bright and prosperous 2011.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

First Word Challenge

I saw this on another blog that I read (Single Dad Laughing), and thought it would be fun to share it here too.

It's something different, it's simple, and I bet it'll be a lot of fun for everybody involved.

Fill in the blanks of these five different questions with the first word that pops into your head for each.

1. I am really _______________.
2. I think children are _______________.
3. I wish I were a better _______________.
4. I am the best _______________.
5. My biggest fear is _______________.

Copy and paste the questions with your answers into the comments below. It'll be fun to get an idea of who you are right at this particular moment. If you want to do it anonymously, that's fine too

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My All-Time Favourite Seasonal Film

Last year I wrote a post about my favourite Christmas films, and my all time favourite is the 1946 classic "It's A Wonderful Life" by Frank Capra.

Every year I make a point of watching it, (with the Kleenex handy of course!)  It's wonderfully funny, sad, poignant and romantic.

The story of George Bailey, who feels useless and decides the world will be a better place without him, is a strange choice for a Christmas film.  However, this film has a real and important message about how our lives touch others, and it deals with issues like poverty and freedom and sacrifice.  It's these messages that makes it a perfect film to watch at Christmas.

I haven't seen the colourised version, and I'm not such a purist that I think it should have been left alone.  Having said that, whether black and white or colour, it is beautifully written and directed, and the arrival of Clarence, and his 'mini story' really brings it together.

Nominated for 5 Oscars at the 1947 Academy Awards, including Best Actor (James Stewart), Best Director and Best Picture; it never actually won; but that doesn't detract from the film that it is.

With wonderful characters, great cast and uplifiting message, this truly is a Wonderful Christmas Classic.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Self Confidence

self-con·fi·dence (slfknf-dns)
Confidence in oneself or one's own abilities

I saw this the other day, thought it's a great way to start the week:

If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you like to win, but think you can't
It's almost certain you won't.

If you think you'll lose, you've lost.
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow's will;
It's all in the state of mind.

If you think you're outclassed, you are.
You've got to think high to rise.
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life's battles don't always go to the
Stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later the man who wins,
Is the one who thinks he can.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Review - WiseStamp Email Signatures

Here's something I discovered by accident, earlier in the week; and it's pretty nice, so thought I'd give it a bash, and tell you about it.

WiseStamp sell it as 'Bringing your email to life'.  Actually; selling is the wrong word, because the basic account is free.  We like free stuff here!!

So, what does it do?

WiseStamp Demo from wisestamp on Vimeo.

If you have a GMail, Hotmail, AOL or Yahoo email account AND you use Firefox, Safari or Chrome as your browser (support for Internet Explorer is coming) then you can add a personalised signature to your emails, that include links to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many more profiles.  You can also link to your blog, other news feeds, music, ebay; in fact there's quite a lot; and more is on the way.

Here's an example of my signature. The images to Facebook and LinkedIn are 'clickable' and take you straight to the profile, you can see I've also added my BlackBerry PIN.

See my profiles: Facebook LinkedIn
Contact me: BlackBerry/ 2332EF6A
Latest post from My Blog and I: Panto Season? Oh Yes It Is...
There are a ton of other profiles you can add, including YouTube, Tumblr, Etsy, Digg, MySpace, Orkut, Plaxo, Flickr, Blogger, WordPress....the list is endless.  

The free account gives you access to two signatures, or you can pay, from $3 per month, for more signatures, and a few more options; to be honest, I can't see the point, unless you want to run this through an enterprise.

Also, remember this is an extension to the browser, so if you use more than one PC / laptop, you'll need to add it to each of them - it's quick to do, and is worth it.

I think it's pretty good.

My suggestion?

Get along to their website and find out all about it yourself.  It's an excellent way to "spread the word", whether your own blog, or a blog you write for, or to promote your business website; or just because you want to be 'more social'!

Lewis Hamilton - A Christmas Car(ol)

This was released last year, but, since it's the season of giving; here it is again.  Just make sure you have your speakers turned on...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Review - 3 Wireless Modem

Last weekend I purchased a pay as you go, wireless modem, on the 3 network.

I have been looking at these for a while; especially as I have a Wi-Fi only iPad, so this would be ideal for accessing the internet whilst away from such networks.  It also means that the iPods and Nintendo DSi devices could also connect.

Other reviews I have read have been mixed, mainly good, but some terrible customer service issues.  Then, Threes' customer service has always left a little to be desired.  Because of this I was a little doubtful, however, I parted with the cash and this is what I found.

The 3 wireless modem is supplied by Huawei (it's the E585) and is a neat, small, device, with only one control - the on/off button.  Also supplied in the box is a battery, a mains charger and a couple of USB leads.
The other pack, supplied at purchase, is a 3G SIM card.

There was a little power when I first put the battery in, and once the SIM card was inserted, I had to see how easy it was to set up.

This was very simple.

Once switched on, a number of icons are presented on the screen.
  • The signal strength
  • The network speed (either 3G or the faster HSDPA)
  • The number of connected devices - it's capable of handling up to 5 devices; but this will impair the performance
  • Internet Connection - proving that the modem is connected
  • SMS inbox - shows if there are any unread messages
  • Battery Charge indicator
  • Data used - this only shows for the current session
  • Connection time - again, only for the current session
  • International roaming - displays when the modem is used outside of the Three network.
That's it.  Nothing else; and quite frankly, there's nothing more needed.

So - I switched on my iPad; and it found the Three modem immediately. I entered in the supplied key-code and away it went.  Easy.

To make management of the airtime easier; Three have provided a dashboard where you can change the SSID, your password, and text messages sent and received to this SIM card (it is a mobile phone number, after all).

I bought the 3 month pre-paid package; which gives me 3Gb of data over 3 months.  After that, it's £10 for a month (with 1Gb of data).  Since it's not a contract, if I don't want to top-up, I don't need to.

The download speeds can't be compared to that from a home Wi-Fi network; but as something to use when out and about, when I need something bigger than my BlackBerry, then this is an ideal solution.

Thankfully, I haven't experienced any of the issues other people have written about; and fingers crossed, I won't.

If you've used one of these mobile wi-fi (mi-fi) devices, what do you think?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review - Amazon Windowshop for iPad

The Amazon Windowshop has each
department in a separate column
 Amazon have launched Windowshop; for the iPad.

Written specifically for the iPad, this free app flawlessly delivers the complete Amazon store in a presentation that is fluid and makes it easy to navigate.

Product reviews are present, with full product details, the ability to track open orders; in fact, the ability to manage your account, are all there.

If you select a DVD, the trailer, if present, will automatically play.
If you select an album or single track, the preview will automatically play.

The 'look inside' functionality, for books, isn't included, but I'm not sure what benefit there is in that anyway.  It's also not possible to buy MP3 downloads or Kindle books (although the app does link directly to the Amazon website to complete your purchase).

Trailers automatically play
It's well thought out, with all the departments easily accessible from a number of menu options.  Rather cleverly, when you click on 'Browse', a menu pops up; starting with Bestsellers.  By scrolling left to right on the top bar, the overall selection changes in the main window.  Or simply select a department and the pages dynamically change again.

All the information and ability to buy
is presented easily and neatly
If you know what you want, use the search function to locate it, and when you've found what you're looking for, touch it and the product spins open to reveal the full details.

In the left-hand margin, there are tabs to select Photos, Details, Reviews and Related items.

On the right, it's the sales bar - touch to either 'Add to Basket', 'Buy Now' (using One-Click) or 'Pre-Order'.  If you want, you can add to your Wish List; there's even a Share button, where you can email the link, or post on Facebook or Twitter (those social apps are everywhere!!)

Some may think the main screens looks cluttered, but, if you notice that each column is a department, or a sub-department, then it's really quite easy to navigate.

I've only scratched the surface of what its all about.  The best way to find out more is to download it.

Personally, I think it's a wonderful experience, and yet another way in which the iPad is being used to its full advantage.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

AFC Bournemouth - Oops!

Celebrating 100 years of football at Dean Court, The Cherries were looking to add to the party with another home win.  Unfortunately, they stumbled, with their first home defeat in three games, against Hartlepool.
It was a disappointing result.  They were behind at the break, but came out fighting and had many more attempts on target.  However, it wasn't to be, and the visitors took the three points away with them.

You can see the video highlights here.

The result drops Bournemouth to fifth in the league, still in the play-offs, and only six points off the leaders, Brighton.  That's how close it is.

Tonight, they're in FA Cup action, in the re-scheduled game against Notts County.

League action continues next Saturday, when they travel to Rochdale.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review - Sunday Times iPad Edition

This might seem like a strange 'app' to review; but having looked at it, I think it's absolutely, brilliantly, produced.  Yesterday, The Sunday Times launched its very own iPad edition.

First of all, let me caveat this post by saying that I don't normally read The Sunday Times (or The Times!)  I occasionally buy it, but it's certainly not a regular read.

I downloaded and skimmed through the various sections of the sample editions (actually last weeks paper).  Yes; every one of the 12 sections that comes with the printed edition is present on the iPad.

Not only that, but there is more.  More information, hidden nuggets, and videos. It's really very clever.

You can 'stretch' the videos to full screen too.  Bear in mind that you will need an internet connection to play them.

It goes without saying that, on a screen with such a high resolution, the quality of the photos are staggering too.

Each section is downloaded individually, which means you can read as they download, speeding up the time before you can start reading.  

This really is taking full advantage of the iPad.
For those that need bigger print, rotate the device to portrait and a text only version of the article is displayed, which can then be zoomed with the established 'pinch' method. Excellent.

It's advertised on the App Store as FREE; however, that's for the library; you still need to pay for the individual 'paper'.

Each week, individually, costs £1.79.  Although, you can sign up for £2/week, and receive The Times and The Sunday Times on iPad (and their website editions too).  I have to say, The Times iPad edition is not as good - there's very little interaction.

If you're a regular reader, or, like me, dip in and out once in a while, this is a great way to read a quality newspaper.

However, this is a review, and that means bad as well as good.  When I went to download the paper yesterday morning, where was it?  Who knows.  For some reason, at 10am, the iPad version still wasn't available, and I wasn't the only one to notice.  As we say in Twitter world 'that's a huge #fail'.
Why bother launching the app without the content?

I tried commenting on their website, to no avail - it wouldn't let me submit my comment!! All-in-all, not a good experience.

To end on a high, at about 11.30 yesterday morning; I received a Twitter message to tell me that the new edition was now available, and could be downloaded for free!!  So, it was late; but they managed to retain my goodwill and positive feedback by giving it away this week; instead of the usual charge.  That's what customer service is all about (not forgetting the hundreds of disappointed / angry customers and the bad publicity that was taking place).  I'm such a cynic!!

Happily, the content is just as awe-inspiring as the sample, and I'm looking forward to reading through the sections over the course of the next week.

Have you tried the Sunday Times on iPad?  What do you think?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Panto Season? Oh Yes It Is...

Pantomime - the very word insinuates silliness, fun, singing and shouting.  Oh yes it does!!

It's a tradition, usually at Christmas, which incorporates audience participation, slapstick, topical jokes, and, of course, the leading male character being played by a girl; and the pantomime dame is played by a man!!

It's all a lot of fun, and a far cry from the origins of panto, back in the days of the Ancient Greeks.

Typically, a pantomime is based on a well loved childrens story; Aladdin, Babes In The Wood, Cinderella, Dick Whittington, Snow White; to name but a few.

It has also been tradition for a well-known celebrity to take part; usually someone who has appeared in prime-time television; or someone for whom pantomime is a mile away from their usual, Thespian, performances.

Do you have a favourite pantomime?  Are you going to see one this year?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

It's a Coca Cola Christmas

Each year, somehow, the Coca Cola advert seems to mark the start of the Christmas season.

You know the one; with the big trucks driving through towns, with the Christmas lights turning on as they pass.  It's a heart-warming ad, and brings cheer and delight to all who watch it.

It was first run over 4 years ago; and still we enjoy it.

Here it is...

This year, another ad has been produced.  I've not seen this one on TV, but here it is - Snow Globes from Coca Cola...

Another magical advert; at a magical time of year.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

AFC Bournemouth - Match Postponed (again!)

Due to the recent bad weather, the FA Cup draw between The Cherries and Notts County has been postponed twice, due to a frozen pitch.  However, the match is now scheduled to take place next Tuesday.

If they win, the boys will have earned a third round match against Sunderland.

Before that though, they have a League One game at home to Hartlepool on Saturday.  Hartlepool currently lie just below the mid-way point in the table; and, on paper pose little threat to the current form shown by AFC Bournemouth; who are currently 3rd in the league.

Of course, now I've written that, watch The Cherries crumble at the weekend!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Michael Buble - Hollywood

Last night I reviewed the new album from the Black Eyed Peas.

Tonight; I bring you Michael Buble. (Why can't I add an accent above the 'e'?)

I love this guy; in a very manly way; I certainly have no intention of throwing myself at him, like the ladies do; but I think his music is great, and this is a good song. The video is a lot of fun too.

My only complaint is that this particular track was added to his latest 'Crazy Love' album, after it was originally released, which seems a little like profiteering to me.  I won't buy the album again, just for the sake of one song!

Why do they do that?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Review - Black Eyed Peas - The Beginning

Now, this might surprise you, but one of my favourite groups is the Black Eyed Peas. I know you're going to want to know why, and, honestly, I'm not sure.

I've never really been 'into' techno / electronic music; I'm much more of a jazz / middle of the road man; but there's something about the inane way that Will.I.Am puts this stuff together that makes it very listenable - and fun to 'bop' too (even when I should be working!)

So, hot on the heels of last years "The E.N.D", I was pleased to see their new album, "The Beginning", when it was released recently; and the new single "The Time (Dirty Bit)" has the qualities I enjoy.  Beautifully sampling the start of the classic from the film Dirty Dancing, it hooks you in and away they go.

There are some other stand-out tracks: such as "Love You Long Time"; and Fergie is great on "Whenever".
"Play It Loud" certainly benefits from turning the volume up.

Unfortunately there isn't much of Fergie performing solo, which is a shame; but that doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of this album.

"The Beginning" is a 'happy' album, and I guarantee you'll be smiling, tapping your feet and generally enjoying this latest offering.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Snow Fun

This is going back a few years (6 years to be precise).
I found a video of the two oldest boys, going sledging.  Alright, not exactly sledging, but being dragged along; to the top of a slope, in the park.

Those of you that know them now; can you believe they were once this cute?

The question is, we've had a White Chanukah, but, will it be a White Christmas this year?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Potters Wheel

I've been sitting here for the last couple of hours, and my mind has gone blank.

Totally... Blank.

I had this idea to write about, and its gone! Even staring out of the window, at the snow-covered trees, weak sunlight and passing traffic, hasn't helped me to remember.

What was it??? Well, this really isn't going to make for much of a post this evening; so here's the Potters Wheel to fill in the time...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Countdown to Chanukah - It's Here

Tonight, we light the first candle, for Chanukah.

As a special treat, here's a song by the actor Adam Sandler. With over 3.5 million views on YouTube, it's become a Chanukah classic. You have to listen carefully, but it's quite catchy too...

Happy Chanukah Everyone


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