Tuesday, 25 February 2014

THE BABBLE POD: The Start Of Something New

THE BABBLE POD: The Start Of Something New: Well after a mad rush of buying equipment, testing and a false start due to illness, the first Podcast is now live!! Graham and I have lo...

Monday, 10 February 2014

PETP : People for the Ethical Treatment of People

I am an ambassador for PETP. (People for the Ethical Treatment of PEOPLE)

Where PETA would have you believe that a Giraffe dying to provide food for Lions is somehow fundamentally against all morality, I would like to draw attention to this video captured in the wilds of Africa, of a giraffe being killed, by a lion, for food. People of a faint disposition should definately NOT view this video.

The Giraffe that was killed in the zoo probably suffered a quicker and more "humane" death than the animal in this video and I assure you that THIS goes on every day in the wild. I also do not condone selling the animal to a zoo or other organisation that has a poor record for animal welfare just so the animal could "live".

I find it absurd that people jump on a band wagon about a single animal dying and being used as animal feed while they stand idly by and make no comment at the many travesties against human beings and CHILDREN all across the world is ignored.

People are persecuted for the colour of their skin, their religious beliefs, their sexuality, their Gender and even what number pops up when they step on a set of weighing scales every single day people die for those reasons I have just stated and yet it goes on, unimpeded, unpunished and regarded as "the way of the world"

So for all of you sharing things like the PETA giraffe story or similar i say : Get a grip on reality, and shout about something that is truly worth your time.

If anyone is offended by this post please accept my sincerest indifference.


Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Books, Trucks and Audiobooks!

The earliest memory I have of reading is learning all the letters at school, with Benny Bunny, Hairy Hat Man and the Wicked Water Witch!  I remember that I lost interest in reading shortly after that, I was too young to appreciate the pleasure in reading and the adventures in the pages, as are most kids of that age.

I started to fall behind the rest of my class a little because frankly, Dick Meets Jane and Freddy Has A Red Ball wasn't the most captivating story to draw the kids in but its all the teachers had i suppose. My Mum and Dad had the bright idea of buying me some Little Comic books to see if that would peak my interest.  A couple of false starts reading the Forty Thieves Of Baghdad comic book I was off to a running start and have never looked back and thus my love of reading was born, all down to my Mum and Dad having a great idea to peak my interest in reading.

Over the years I have read all sorts of books, mainly Sci-Fi, StarWars novels and crime fiction, but other genres besides. I cannot say I have ever read "the classics" but when I find something i like I read as much of it as I can.  I have Devoured Terry Pratchett and James Patterson, Trudged through Wilbur Smith novels and guessed my way through James Patterson and Michael Connolly novels over the years.

In recent years though I have had very little time for reading, mainly due to being a normal human being who is married, has a family and a job. This is where audiobooks come in to my life.

As I explain in m previous post about podcasts I drive for a living, I drive a lot, and UK radio is garbage.  So to while away the hours I looked to podcasts, and then through a moment of inspiration I began to look for story podcasts to listen to.  This is when I discovered LibriVox.

LibriVox.org is a community of book lovers from all over the world who set themselves a task of taking works of fiction that were now out of copyright and creating audiobooks in a variety of languages for all to enjoy. The best part about this is that they do it for free! They got together as a community and depending on the book and the people involved, Chapters are assigned to volunteers who wish to help create the audiobook. The Volunteers take their assigned chapters and then record themselves reading them aloud. Then they pass the audio files back to the book coordinator for editing and compiling. once all the chapters are recorded, edited and compiled, the audiobook is then released to the general public to download for free.

Now this to me is an amazing idea and has brought me many hours of pleasure, I have listened to books I would probably never have picked up to read even if I could find a serviceable copy of the book in the first place. From H.G. Welles War Of The Worlds and The Invisible Man, Jules Vernes Around The World In 80 Days to the Tarzan Series of books and even Robert Louis Stevensons Treasure Island!  All of these books I could probably never have gotten through if I had actually read them, instead I was transported through many lands of adventure while driving around the UK doing my job.

LibriVox volunteers are form all over the world, from all age groups and all share the same love of literature that many do, but do not have the time for.  They are always looking for volunteers to read chapters to further their ever expanding library of copyright free audiobooks, and if you would like to listen to the audiobooks these guys have produced or even volunteer to read for them, you can do this at www.librivox.org



Monday, 3 February 2014

Podcasting : Audio Broadcasting For The Online Generation.

Yes I know, Podcasting has been around for years and I am probably late to the party when it comes to extolling the virtues of this medium, but I wont let that stop me!

I work as a mobile engineer for a water hygiene company which means a lot of driving around the UK to various different places and about 4000 miles per month of travelling. That's a lot of miles and a lot of time to listen to shitty UK radio stations and generally get bored out of your tiny little mind. that was until I discovered podcasts. I have had an iPhone for the majority of the last 5 years but it was only early last year I discovered podcasts while trying to find something else to do once Chris Moyles left Radio 1 and left me with absolutely nothing on UK radio that I wanted to listen to.

The first ever podcast I discovered was The Nerdist Podcast hosted by Chris Hardwick (Talking Dead, MTV and a long stand up comedy career) along with his good friends and fellow comedians Matt Mira and Jonah Ray. The Nerdist guys have been podcasting for years and I had a massive back catalogue to listen to and as the name suggests all their guests were people I was interested in hearing about from members of the cast from Star Trek: TNG (Wil Wheaton is a close personal friend of Hardwick) to Hollywood A-list celebs, to genuinely amazing people such as Mike Massimino and Chris Hadfield.

I have whiled away many hundreds of miles listening to the Nerdist crew talking to people that I had heard of and as many people I hadn’t heard of too, the thing that kept me listening was their easy relaxed style of interview. In all fairness interview isn’t the right term for what the Nerdist podcast is all about, its a conversation. The conversations I have listened to made me feel in some strange way part of the group, I have arrived home from work feeling like I had actually sat and had conversations with these people not just listened to them on an interview.

This is something that podcasting can give that commercial radio never could, to be able to dedicate an hour to one person (or group of people) and have an in depth conversation with them, to find out where they come from, what they like what they do and why they do it. Commercial radio is about songs per hour and hitting target demographics and not pissing off somebody with weak sensibilities, about marketing revenues and providing up to the minute news and weather reports, and that is as it should be, its commercial venture and I understand that but it still sucks.

It was through the Nerdist podcast I first heard Kevin Smith. I had heard of Kevin Smith from various indie films such as Clerks and Mallrats but never really paid him much mind, never looked into him or his life, but the episode of Nerdist in which he appeared changed all that. I liked the way he spoke, his own brand of smart humour and jarring self honesty had me hooked and I wanted to hear more from this guy, who has walked amongst the giants of the film making world but is the first to admit he is just a small fish in a very big pond.

Kevin Smith has carved out his own ever expanding podcast empire which started out with SModcast, in which Kevin and his long time friend and film producer Scott Mosier in which they talked, just like friends do, they chat shit about the things they love, movies, books, comics, superheroes and anything else that caught their attention. This podcast grew from a small thing with an audience based around Smiths own "Askewniverse" (a name derived from his website and bulletin board based around his production company View Askew) to an acclaimed podcast empire that hosts content that not only Smith himself takes part in, but a whole family of podcasts made by his friends and people he has put his faith in to create content under the SModCast brand. The only prerequisite he expects from the podcasters is commitment.

From humble beginnings to his own small 50 seat podcast theatre he named The SModCastle to selling out the Brea Improv in California for the last 20 weeks with his Hollywood Babble On live podcast hosted with California K-ROQ Radio's Ralph Garman, It just goes to show that from small seeds mighty oaks grow, and it doesn’t take massive business smarts, just honesty, perseverance and consistency. Nothing frustrates me more than waiting all week for the newest episode of my favourite podcast and finding out that there is no show this week for one reason or another, but hey, its free and I really cant complain.

And that brings me to my final point. THEY ARE FREE! It makes me giggle to just say it, beyond the equipment required to download and listen to them and a few adverts in each podcast (which can be easily skipped) they are free!

Have fun people!


Sunday, 12 January 2014

I Made Some Fudge! But I Eated It :(


I love to have a little dabble in the kitchen, especially on Christmas Day as the Christmas Lunch is my domain! I really like the whole prepping and cooking of it all and trying to time it all so its all hot when served and not had to be reheated or Gods forbid (All seven of them) have to be put in the microwave!

Yesterday I finally made good on the threat I had been making over the last few weeks that I wanted to make some fudge.  I remember my Mum making fudge when I was a kid and the smell when she was making it was simply divine! My mum used to love making it but I always remember it being a bit of a hit and miss thing, sometimes it was fudge, sometimes it turned into toffee instead, either way it was always delicious. In fact Mum even preferred it when it turned to toffee.

After reading up on some fudge recipes online, i found out that the difference between fudge and toffee is about 5° Celsius in what I call the "Setting Process". The idea is you have to get your mixture to between 115°C - 118°C. A few degrees under , the Sugar doesn't dissolve properly, and you end up with fudge that has a very gritty texture and a sugary taste. A few Degrees too hot and it will turn your fudge into a hard toffee mixture.

The ingredients are really simple for just your ordinary vanilla flavoured fudge but you can add little bits or change things as you see fit. The recipe I used is as follows :

397g tin of Condensed Milk
115g-125g of Salted Butter (or unsalted if you prefer)
350g of Caster Sugar
100g of Barbados Cane Sugar
150ml of Milk (Semi skimmed or full fat)
1/2 - 1 Tbsp Vanilla essence or flavouring

Its fine to use just 450g of caster sugar in the recipe but i decided I would use up the rest of a packet of the Barbados sugar I had lying around, as long as the total amount of sugar is 450g.

and that's it! really simple but the trick is in the cooking. If you can get hold of a food thermometer it will make the set a lot easier.

Step 1 - The Mix

Take a large nonstick saucepan and add the butter and melt over a low heat until liquid, then add the milk and condensed milk and mix until smooth. Once smooth add the sugar and the vanilla essence and increase the heat to a medium and continue to stir until all the sugar is dissolved, this should take about 5 minutes.

Step 2 - The Set

Now this bit is the trickiest part of the recipe. On a high heat you need to heat the mixture to between 115°C-118°C, this will take 10-15 minutes stirring constantly, with a wooden spoon or spatula, scraping the bottom and sides as you do so so no sugar sticks to the base and side of the pan. If you have the thermometer then ans soon as the mixture hits the temperature mark then immediately remove from the heat and continue to beat the mixture as it cools.

Step 3 - The Pour

Continue to beat the mixture until it starts to bind together and not stick to the side of the pan. it will start to take on a bit of a glossy look to it, when this happens its ready to pour into a lightly greased brownie tin to set.

it should take about 60-90 minutes to set properly, once set upturn the pan and gently tap the bottom of the tin, the cut into pieces.

This is how mine turned out. Yummy!


Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The Result : Its A...........


Thats right folks! The new Webster is a boy!  I was so convinced it was going to be a girl I was a little stunned to see a rather prominent set of boys "tools" floating on the screen this afternoon.

Having said that I shouldnt have been too surprised as my Dad is one of 8 boys, before my Granddad got his little girl!

Anomaly scan
The Anomaly scan is primarily a scan to identify any problems that might be present with our growing baby. It is able to identify a whole host of physical abnormalities from Spina Bifida, which is a condition where the Spinal chord of the baby is protruding out of the space between two vertebrae to the malformation of the abdominal wall where the intestines are going to be outside the stomach wall. Early identification of heart defects is also possible at this scan and all are checked routinely during this scan.
Some of the other things detectable in this scan are:
  • absence of the top of the head (anencephaly)
  • cleft lip
  • defect of the abdominal wall, where the bowel and liver protrude (exomphalos)
  • defect of the abdominal wall, where the intestines protrude (gastroschisis)
  • missing or very short limbs
  • major kidney problems (missing or abnormal kidneys)
  • hole in the muscle separating chest and abdomen (diaphragmatic hernia)
  • excess fluid within the brain (hydrocephalus)
  • Edwards' syndrome or Patau's syndrome (chromosomal abnormalities)
  • major heart problems (defects of chambers, valves or vessels)

Some of the conditions detectable are minor and some life threatening for mother and baby, so this scan can be cause for stress and worry.

Thankfully the Sonographer found nothing to be concerned about during our scan today which means we can rest a little easier knowing that everything is growing nicely and all in the right place.

All in all today has been a good day and we can now get busy buying trousers instead of skirts, pyjamas instead of nighties and babys first Scalextric, and of course the monumental task of choosing a name!

Any suggestions?