Thursday 30 January 2014

Night Ramblings (5)

It's 2am. Always 2am. No #2amClub with no phone or iPad to talk to Twitter.My night owl friends and fellow insomniacs miss me I dare-say, *waves*... into the void...

I think (if I remember) in Katherine Oldfield's "Princess Charming" one of the dormitories was dedicated to the god of sleep Somnus. I think poppies were pained o the walls. I'd love to read the book again, but alas - it is elusive.

On the right, as it isn't red, you can't tell it is a poppy.

Cat is traitorous, asleep in the living room on the desk chair.

This is how I imagine the cat right now

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Night Ramblings (4)

Still reading the endless "Life after Life". Not a life after life as I thought but a quantum endless lives scenario - Ouroboros or whatever. I really will have taken 6 hours too. At 57% just over 3 hours remain.

Ursula keeps reading modern languages. Despite rusty French and no real German as I'm almost dozing off I feel I need a Babel fish as my dreams are speaking mostly German!!

It feeds off brainwaves!

- Ah the cat has appeared

... and is gone AGAIN.

Night Ramblings (3)

What do I do, it's 2am and I'm awake
Sleep is gone, what do I do
I'm alone, the cat is shut away
He wanted to play, I want to sleep, what do I do?

Casper getting reading for a dawn chorus rendition of "Let's play Lava". If you've never played it, the floor is turned to lava and the only way around the room is climbing furniture. I know K-cat was playing as things were on the floor that should not be. He had a good sleep from 7pm... now it's playtime... indicated by his jumping on my bladder to wake me up! He tried me first as I'm a soft touch , less likely to shut him straight in the dining room than any other family member.


Tuesday 28 January 2014

Night Ramblings (2)

21st Century Reading 
[another device free night]

My Kindles has 15 collections... plus the can't be escaped 'My Clippings' and 'Dictionary'.

One of these is 'Admin' (user guides and other 'notices' from Kindle-on-high) - doesn't count.

The rest are mostly sensible groups... chic-lit, sci-fi, biography, crime.. you get the picture. there is also the shameful 'queue'. Down below 100 at least - but still 35% of the books on my Kindle... unread. All free - but... my Grandad once said "once you start a book you have to finish". It often takes me years (apart from the English Lit books I cheated on) but I used to get there. No longer.

There are less than 100 now because I read a few - and deleted some (well 7, but it's a start). That's the problem with virtuality, nearly 200 books - I'd have run out of space!

Current book, if it was a film I'd have switched off... 6 hours to go...

Sunday 26 January 2014

What we've been watching...

Our LOVEFiLM membership gives us two films at home at once; this means that every Saturday night (nearly) we watch two movies. The problem is that what with lots of distributors tying themselves into deals with Sky Movies or similar it is really hard to get hold of good current movies. As we learnt last night, if it is a famous studio and the film is not that old there is probably a reason you can rent it so soon; the cynical say so that they can make the money before word gets out how terrible it is. We sometimes see older movies we missed, or straight to DVD or (eventually) movies we really we want to see.

In the last three months we've had two dozen films rented (plus a few from Husband's large collection, not included here). Films in grey were switched off or I slept through so I can't meaningfully comment, films in red I would recommend not watching, the rest is up to what you want from a movie:-
  1. The Smurfs 2 - we enjoyed the Smurfs enough to rent the sequel. Gargamel (Hank Azaria gives a hilarious performance) and his cat Azrael (a mix of CGI and actual cat) are worth watching the film for by themselves.
  2. Pacific Rim - unbelievably didn't get switched off. Terrible, awful movie. Warner Bros released last year but already available to rent. Should have rung alarm bells. All the money spent on effects, a little bit on actors and absolutely none on story or script. We were just constantly amused by the Jaeger (a bit like giant Iron Men) and probably could have made up some drinking game with Jaeger-bombers and nonsense in the movie. Two hours of tedium. You have been warned. 
  3. Bernie - another true story. Jack Black gives a fantastic performance as an assistant funeral director who was convicted of the murder of the widow of one of the funerals on which he worked. Set in East Texas and populated with vox-pops acted by actual residents of East Texas. Well put together, well acted - and don't miss the extras on this of the stories behind the film.
  4. Stand Off - fell asleep 
  5. ATM - another film that really should have been switched off. Passable to poor acting, ridiculous behaviour of the protagonists (only in a movie) and an ending which really (really) couldn't have been less satisfying.
  6. Much Ado About Nothing - switched off (modern setting with Shakespeare's script)
  7. After Earth - switched off (as predicted by Husband)
  8. Epic - here we are with CGI animation. A rather sweet little fairy tale of the folk of the forest who live just out of sight, and what happens when a human girl finds herself transported into the middle of it all. The writers seem to share a lot of my Kindle list - as it is a mix-up of a good few books I read last year!
  9. The Look of Love - true story of Paul Raymond (which I didn't realise was a true story - thought it was an odd vehicle for Steve Coogan). Well put together and well told.
  10. Ted - amazingly we'd never seen this (even though it is quite old). Very amusing as it goes - I wasn't convinced before we watched it.
  11. 2 Guns - super buddy movie cops and robbers type film - with several twists which keep you watching until the end.
  12. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa - good fun, but then if you watched Alan Partridge and  enjoyed it you're going to enjoy this.
  13. Red 2 - fell asleep (despite having re-watched Red in anticipation).
  14. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone - brilliant fun movie about magicians; Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi put in solid performances although Jim Carey's character is irritating and doesn't add a great deal (he doesn't need to be that annoying).
  15. Monsters University - not a patch on the original film. Actually a prequel to the lovely Pixar Monsters Inc. The problem here is that people who don't have to keep at least 10 films on their love film list might not be renting CGI animations, and the original audience of Monsters Inc have all got older and moved on to other movies. Good enough, but nothing special.
  16. Beautiful Creatures - not really what I was expecting, but a fun enough movie (even it was fairly obvious what the end was going to be).
  17. Idiot Brother - not as much comedy as we were thinking of; but fairly whimsical and a good story with a good cast.
  18. Scary Movie 5 - when you get to iteration five of a film franchise odds are you really should give up because they are just in it for the money. Never so true. No redeeming features in this movie, and amazing that we made it through the film.
  19. The Numbers Station - very peculiar film. John Kusack is half of a pair manning a numbers station (which governments all deny exist). Well crafted film, although not terribly surprising at any point. 
  20. Stand Up Guys - Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. Well I'll watch a movie if Christopher Walken is in it (much the same way I'll watch the lovely Christian Bale). Great film about the 'last stand' of a group of gangsters.
  21. Dead Man Down - switched off.
  22. Red Dawn - North Korea (somehow) invades America. The citizens mostly fall into line apart from a small group of teenagers who stage a resistance. Amazingly the film made it to the end and didn't get switched off.
  23. Ruby Sparks - whimsical and imaginative. A delightful tale full touching moments. The only movie we've rented in a while that I'd think of purchasing.
  24. World War Z - I only wanted to see this because I saw the movie set when I was in Glasgow. I didn't like the movie much, which is strange as I'm usually the first person to choose post-Apocalyptic type films. As to seeing Glasgow in the movie; I think I saw more of it when I was there than in the film.

Sunday Social (86)

Linking up with Ashley and Neely again.

1. How old were you when you started wearing makeup?
Sometime when in my early teens. I remember having a lovely set of cards showing how to apply make up for various styles. Blue mascara and pink blush figured heavily, forgive me - it was the late eighties.

2. What are your top 3 favourite beauty products?
Top three:- 

Touche Eclat is magic - it doesn't need to be matched to your skin tone; and it hides dark circles and blemishes. Very expensive but worth every penny, last ages. I discovered it when I was about 23 and fifteen years later I think this is my fifth or sixth tube.
Touche Eclat by Yves Saint Laurent
My hair is unruly, and always has been. The only way to tame it is to use the Frizz-Ease that you put in your hair damp and then tie it back. The other bottle is for once your hair is dry and spritzes on. Both work magically.
Those little bottles John Freida's Frizz-Ease
This is my favourite blusher. It smells like make-up smelt when I was a kid and the brush is the perfect shape and fits inside the pot. It's an all in one solution.
Little Round Pot of Blush by Bourjois

3. What is the one makeup product you don't leave home without?
I don't wear make-up very much, so I don't really have an answer. If I am wearing make-up it is the lipstick I've got on.

4.What is your daily beauty routine?
Cleanse, tone and moisturise in the evenings. In the mornings the thing that takes the most time is my hair (it really is too long now), I use an all in one cleansing wipe in the mornings, put on eye treatments and lip treatments and that is about it. 

5. What is your favourite hair/makeup product you've discovered in the last year?
Another Bourjois offering - Rose Exclusif. Amazing lip gloss. You put it on and it adjusts to the PH value of your lips. This is true as my friend and her daughter tested it out. It is gorgeous to wear - not sticky at all it has vitamins added and lasts a good while. 

Saturday 25 January 2014

The curious incident of the paint in the night...

Last night there was an unholy smell pervading any area of the house with a door open onto the front hall. Suspcicion falls on our neighbours. When they were doing the place up the generator fell over one weekend and we were all breathing petrol. This time it is paint. Stinky horrible paint fumes. Helped I suspect by a dose of rain. Such is living in a semi-detached Victorian house with a raised floor and floorboards.

Still fighting off the stink with lavender and geranium pot-pourri!

Friday 24 January 2014

A Cat's Life (again)

Another box! Is it mine? (Pizza box!)

OK, I'll stick with this box (I'm a five box cat)

I like your bed best

But I've always got Teddy to lean on

Thursday 23 January 2014

Lego globe

Being big fans of Lego in this family when a friend told me there was a Lego snow-globe in Covent Garden before Christmas I was eager to see it. I then forgot all about it until I happened to be in Covent Garden on the occaision of our office Christmas party. There in front of me was the snow-globe!

An amazing production of Londonwith some of the most famous landmarks; even the cable-car (fondly known as the Dangleway).

Better behaved than another London snow-globe last year. The statue of Eros (well it is really Anteros, but anyway) at Piccadilly Circus was a victim of the rather ugly weather at the end of last year. Later on the day the photo below was taken it blew loose from the moorings at hit the arrow of the statue deflating and letting the 'snow' out over Piccadily Circus, causing (predictably) rush hour traffic chaos. The ultimate irony was that the 'decoration' was actually conceived as protection for the statue from revellers over the Christmas period but ended up 'decorating' the passers by!

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Night ramblings (1)

Last night I left all my electronic items away from the bedroom. That meant when I wanted to get things out of my head in the middle of the night I resorted to pencil and paper (old school!).

These are my ramblings:-

Amazingly bereft of all technology... woken by the need for the bathroom.

Deserted by the fickle feline - curled up somewhere my husband wants to sit I expect.

Drank my hot chocolate and made myself sleepy trying to do long multiplication in my head, the number keep moving. In  the end I cheat and multiply by 10 and add the extra three. The answer is 182 which I knew anyway.

The drugs don't work... they aren't helped by hot milky drinks.

Off to count sheep. There are only three - they circle back behind me... I need a sheep dog.

I have now realised that long multiplication is in fact simply multiplying by ten and then multiplying and adding the remainder. If that had been explained to me when I was eight years old I think I'd have mastered maths much more quickly!

The cat was indeed stealing my husband's chair... although he later reappeared to try and steal the bed (with his usual lack of success and kicking me as if I am a pillow to be moulded).

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Playing games...

Probably unusually for a girl 18 months shy of her fortieth birthday, one of my favourite leisure activities is gaming. Not gaming as in gambling, gaming as in video-games.

The very first electronic game I met was my brother's 'Frogger' - a large yellow plastic box housing a screen; the game was operated by a joystick and you had to move frogs from one side of an obstacle filled screen to another. Frogger is still out there on smartphones and the internet; slightly more sophisticated than that early iteration.

Frogger was followed by the Atari. An early 'computer' with a slot in the keyboard for cartridges, and a joystick (when required). The only two games I remember were 'European Countries and Capitals' which drew outlines of a European country and asked for the capital (which would be useful in quizzes had the face of Europe not changed so drastically in thirty-something years) and 'The Western Front' which was a scaled down electronic version of 'Risk' set in WW2.

Next came PCs of various makes and models. These had games as diverse as text based games (I always recollect one where there was a bus stuck in an iceberg) and basic strategy games (a shipping game 'Ports of Call' and one where you drew segments avoiding enemies to the song 'Popcorn'.

By the time I left school there were computers there; a supposedly educational text game where you collected mathematical solids and an endless maze rendered in wireframe.

The next time I bumped into video games was the Sega Megadrive. Happy days spent with Sonic the Hedgehog - a mis-spent youth if ever there was one (although heading to my late teens early twenties by this time). The Megadrive was replaced by a Sony Playstation and Final Fantasy VII entered my life. 

The person who owned the Playstation left my life, so I bought my own to finish FFVII (I never did - although to this day Radiohead's 'Creep' reminds me of one of the themes in the game). The PSOne was followed in time by a PS2 and Spyro and other video game characters became staples in my gaming life. The next addition was a Nintendo (four iterations until the DS was knocked off its perch by the smartphone). 

Then things got complicated. Sonic belonged to Sega (which at the time before cross-platform collaboration) meant the acquisition of a Gamecube. 

The heavily advertised Fable (Lionhead studios, whose 'Black and White' on the PC had proved beyond me) required the purchase of an Xbox (exclusive you see).

So for a while we were a four console (plus hand-helds) household. In the end Xbox won the war and all the preceding consoles apart from the PS2 were sold. My Xbox 360 is getting on a bit (it's white, which is telling to those in the know) but I don't want (or need) the Xbox One so it stays.

Now I have Facebook games, games on my phone and tablet, still some PC games (although they are related to console games) and an awful lot of Xbox games. Favourites included Travellers Tales Lego games and Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed franchise.

The iPad has me addicted to 'Simpsons: Tapped Out' which has the unexpected bonus of regular updates so you don't get bored and the support of the TV show as there are frequent tie-ins!

Facebook (ssh don't tell anyone) I still play Farmville. Without the enthusiasm and dedication I once did though. There are too many farms and quests, and like most studios Zynga are no longer a social enterprise but focused on making money by in game purchases.

This is the choice now. You can spend £40-£50 on a console game (which in my case will keep me amused for months), or you can get a game free (or for a few quid) but in order to seriously progress you will be required to constantly (and without limit or endgame) make in-game purchases, which will equal or exceed the price of a console game. These online games (social platforms and smartphones/tablets) are more community minded and require interactions and input from online friends. You do get this option with console games, but it is not an integral part of the experience (unless you are dead set on 100% completion as some games have achievements that can only be unlocked in co-op play).

I suppose in the 21st Century it comes down to where you want to play and how you want to play more than what you want to play.

Monday 20 January 2014

In the garden

There is some debate as to whether winter has come to our garden this year or whether the flora and fauna are skipping from Autumn to Spring. 

Now that it seems to have stopped raining (for the time being, anyway) the mercury is dropping and it looks like winter may be about to put in an appearance.

Phylis the hardy fuchsia not reduced to a pile of twigs! 

The hydrangea is not even vaguely ready for dead-heading

Some trees and bushes do think it is winter

Holly being very seasonal

The hydrangea is still flowering

The wedding roses are wrapped up just in case

Two plants with very different takes on the season
Usually by now I am bemoaning the state of my fuchsia and Mother-in-Law and I are counting the days until we can remove the dead-heads from the hydrangea bushes. This year the fuchsia has berries (eat them birds, make new fuchsias) and the hydrangea is still flowering. There are the last few leaves lurking around as all the deciduous trees shed there greenery, and what is really needed is my Uncle and his chainsaw to get rid of the tree that came down in last year's storms. The fish are coming out to be fed, as is all the garden wildlife; birds and squirrels alike. I suppose that means it is going to snow at Easter...

Sunday 19 January 2014

Sunday Social (85)

Linking up with Ashley and Neely for the Sunday Social (check out the new logo!) 
This week it is all about 3!

1. Top 3 favourite kinds of food?
Chinese, Indian and home-grown British (probably in that order).

2. First 3 things you do in the morning?
Apart from struggle out of bed?! Take my morning tablets, have breakfast, then bathroom ablutions.

3. Last 3 things you do at night?
Take my evening tablets, kiss Husband goodnight, read until I fall asleep.

4. 3 TV shows you NEVER miss?
This is harder than it used to be as a lot of my top favourites have reached the end of their runs... I guess these days 'White Collar', 'Good Wife' and 'Supernatural'. Actually I never miss a lot of shows, and the list depends on the time of year and what is on and what is on a break.

5. 3 places  you want to visit?
Scotland for pleasure (rather than business), Ireland (I had a brief trip their for the wedding of some friends and would love to see more) and the East Coast of America... I'd love to go back to NYC, go to Washington (which I failed to on my NYC holiday) and of course Boston for the Husband and the Red Sox.

6. 3 people you can count on?
I'm lucky, I have so many more than just three. Husband, my Mum and my Mother-in-Law... but there are some many more family and friends.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Early spring?

The garden was full of birds of all sorts today (much to the irritation of the cat, who took the pigeon invasion very personally). It is a shame that the RSPB's Birdwatch is next weekend... when it will probably rain and all the birds will stay home.

Not only outside was spring in evidence, the ladybugs were waking up from their winter sleep wherever it is they sleep. I was sitting on the bed minding my own business when one dive-bombed me. I put it out the window (much against its will) but better outside than being eaten by a cat!

Pigeon watching

The pigeon is flown...

Dive-bombing ladybug

Ladybug in its natural habitat

Friday 17 January 2014

Clear skies

Apparently it has rained everyday in London so far this year.

Stopped for now.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Google gorillas

Google celebrates the 82nd anniversary of the birth of the late zoologist Dian Fossey.

If you try Google around the globe I think every day is a doodle day...