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Thursday 28 February 2013

Public Service Announcements

There are a few companies who really know how to make their public services announcements hit home. Possibly most notable among them is, of course, Metro Trains' 'Dumb Ways to Die' video extolling people to stay safe around their trains. It would seem they're pretty good at this sort of thing down under, because Air New Zealand is becoming famous for its in flight safety videos. The Telegraph has put together an article featuring some of them. I particularly like the hobbit one.
This post took a little while to put together because I had to watch 'Dumb Ways to Die' all over again. I was just testing I had the right page, but once it started playing I couldn't bring myself to stop it!

A Home Among the Books

I was intrigued to read about the 'middle aged' homeless man who had been living in a Cambridge college library for six weeks. The St John's College library is only accessible by students with security cards, but it's believed the man smuggled himself in with a group of students during busy periods. Suspicions were eventually raised by students and he was asked to leave by staff. It would seem he wasn't doing any harm, just looking for a safe place to rest. Am I the only one thinking the students who ratted him out should be feeling just a little guilty now?

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Stories to Inspire

Allow me to set the scene: a chill wind blows, a young man trudging through the thick snow stops to ask directions from a restaurateur. The restaurateur is surprised by the young man's destination, knowing it to be at least another six miles away. Nevertheless, he tells him the way. Shortly afterwards, driving down the road with his wife, he spots the young man again, still ploughing through the snow. He offers him a lift, they start chatting, and it turns out the young man is walking to an interview for a minimum wage job. He has no money for a bus, but needs a job to support his brothers and sisters following his mother's death, so he's prepared to walk, through the snow, ten miles both ways for an interview. The restaurateur, impressed by the young man's determination, immediately offers him a job in his own restaurant on double the minimum wage.
And then there are the photographs of the Buddhist monks celebrating Makha Bucha. I'd love that first picture as wallpaper on my screen, it's just stunning. The world is a pretty amazing place really, once you sweep aside celebrity and politics.
Hope that's put you in a good mood. It's certainly inspired me.

Sunday 24 February 2013

55 Years of Lego

Here's one to get you thinking. To celebrate their 55th birthday, Lego have released a quiz. They have created pictures using Lego bricks to illustrate well-known books, films, songs etc. There were a couple that had me completely stumped, but thankfully the Telegraph has printed the answers on the last page in their gallery.
Good luck, and Happy Birthday Lego!

Saturday 23 February 2013

Tales from the Cafe

'RANDOM: Tales from the Cafe, Volume Three' is now available on both Kindle and Smashwords. And as a special launch treat, Cafe Three Zero have arranged a 25% discount. The code applies only to 'RANDOM: Tales from the Cafe, Volume Three' on Smashwords, and is only valid today Sat 23rd, tomorrow Sun 24th, and Monday 25th Feb 2013.

For the discount, enter the code: RX84W

Friday 22 February 2013

News Round Up

There have been a couple of interesting news stories this week. The first features the man who told his GP he believed his son had tried to kill him and his wife in an 'accident', only to be shot by his son the next day. It's a shocking story that instantly raises questions about the son's motivations, but I find myself wondering about what must have been going through his father's mind.
The other is, of course, the ongoing Oscar Pistorius case, which continues to throw up surprises. The lead detective was shown by the defence to have apparently tried to make the evidence against Pistorius fit his pre-formed theory but, even more bizarrely, he has himself now been charged with attempted murder.
To quote Mark Twain: 'The difference between fiction and non-fiction is that fiction must be absolutely believable.' A writer making up either of those two stories would have a difficult time making them credible. Nevertheless, both cases have been noted in my journal for future reference!
But here's one now that will make your scalp itch - it's a video clip of the charity group 'Jump4Heroes' BASE jumping off the Eiger. Just the part where they climb from the helicopter onto the perilously perched outcrop was enough to get my skin crawling, but then they stood on the edge peering down at that long rocky drop and I had to resist the temptation to hide behind my chair. Impressive flying, from both the BASE jumpers and the helicopter pilot, and all for a fantastic cause.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Latest Tales from the Café

I haven't had a great deal of time for my own writing this week as I've been devoting myself to preparations of the third volume from Café Three Zero.
'RANDOM: Tales from the Cafe, Volume Three' should be available on Saturday 23rd Feb 2013, but there a still some final adjustments to make before we can publish.

The idea behind this book was that we should each write a short prompt: a setting, a person, whatever came into our heads. These were then submitted to the group and reassigned randomly. It proved harder than it initially sounded, but it's produced some pretty diverse responses, including one from the winner of a competition run on the CTZ site.
I'll let you know as soon it's available, on both Kindle and Smashwords.

A New Pen, Please!

Why, oh why, oh why, is Christmas such a long way off? When I was asked what I wanted for Christmas last year I hadn't a clue what to say. Now, with months and months to go, I've found the perfect thing! It's a 3D doodler pen! I know! It's the pen we dreamed of when we were children !
The 3Doodler pen is not available yet as its inventors need Kickstarter backing before they can bring it to market.
So, Father Christmas, a couple of wishes if I may - please, please could you work your magic and drum up some backing for WobbleWorks and having done that, could I have a 3Doodler for Christmas? Pleeeease?

Could I also add that I will, of course, be a very good girl and would only ever use a 3Doodler (should you feel inclined to leave one in my stocking) for worthwhile purposes (like, drawing myself a pair of stick-on Vulcan ears, enhancing my husband's bedside table with scary 3Doodled 'monsters', or creating a fleet of model cars to play with when I should be writing).

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Richard Briers

Yesterday's BBC news reporters' strike meant that proper tribute to one of our best loved actors wasn't really paid. The passing of the wonderful Richard Briers deserves far more than a thirty second slot on a reduced edition of the evening news, but hopefully the Beeb will make up for it in the coming days.
In the meantime, I'd just like to say how sad I am, and to thank him for always making me smile. As a small girl I loved him in 'The Good Life', and years later my own small girl came to love him just as much through our 'Good Life' DVDs. He and 'The Good Life' continue to appeal and entertain, across the generations. I'm not sure there's a better tribute than that really.
If you have ten minutes, here's a clip from the first episode of series 2 on YouTube. There are many more clips available, but I found it impossible to choose a favourite. He was brilliant in them all.
The BBC has a short piece on their website. It features a tribute from another of my favourites, Penelope Keith, one of his co-stars from 'The Good Life'.

Monday 18 February 2013

Snail in the Mail

On a day when I could very easily launch into a rant about the latest drivel spewing from the mouth of one of the country's most influential politicians, I have had to make a deliberate effort to find something cheerful to focus on.
Salvation sometimes appears in the oddest of ways and never more so than today. My cheerful story to share with you today comes courtesy of a snail in the Mail. I should explain: it's an article about some pictures taken of a snail. I know, it doesn't sound riveting, but they're actually rather beautiful and definitely made me forget about thieving arrogant back-stabbing self-righteous idiotic snivelling politicians for a moment.

Friday 15 February 2013

Mmmm Doooooh-nuts!

I had to share this one with you:

Traffic jams on roads surrounding a newly opened Krispy Kremes outlet in Edinburgh were so bad that police had to be called. Evidently the marketing campaign of offering free doughnuts to celebrate its opening worked a little too well. One man had apparently camped outside the store the night before it opened, but his efforts were rewarded when he won a gold card entitling him to two dozen doughnuts a month for a year.

As much as I love Krispy Kremes (though my wallet and waistline don't) I can't imagine camping outside a store in Edinburgh in the middle of February to get one.

Close Shaves and Books Without Ends

I may not have turned up many exciting or funny news articles this week, but I have achieved something - 7 out of 7 in the BBC's Quiz of the Week! I do believe it's the first time I've managed it. Okay, okay, 3 or 4 of the answers were educated (lucky) guesses, but even so, I reserve the right to brag about it for the rest of the day.
The book that shall not be named is still dragging on. I'm 80% through it so I can't give up, but worryingly I have now started dreaming about the wretched thing. There is little to love about either the setting or the characters, so visiting it in my sleep is more nightmare than dream. But I will finish it, I will!
At least tonight I can distract myself by looking for the Asteroid 2012 DA14 (why couldn't they call it Bob, or Wilbur?). This is the asteroid that will make a very close pass, being some 17000 miles away. 17000 miles sounds a long way but given that we have satellites further out than that, the excitement in the astronomy world is perhaps understandable. I just hope they got their sums right!

Thursday 14 February 2013

Influential Reading

It's another boring news day, or perhaps I should say, it's another bad news day. The lighter articles comprise photo montages of cute animals looking adoringly at each other (they're probably assessing how best to eat each other) along with the usual 'romantic' proposals and twee love stories. Well, I suppose it is Valentine's Day.
The writing has been a huge labour this week. I suspect it's a reaction to the book I'm currently reading, which I won't name as I would find it hard to be complimentary, but it's very dark and the plot is absurd. I'm persevering with it out of sheer bloody-mindedness.
Anyway, it's beaten my sense of humour into gibbering submission and, knowing how my writing is influenced by what I read, my next book will definitely have to be a comedy.
All suggestions welcome!

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Women at Work (and Play)

The BBC has released the results of a 'survey' conducted by a panel of judges to decide which women are the most powerful. Now, I'm sure it's an oversight, but my name didn't feature anywhere on the list. I suspect restricting themselves to the top 100 may be pertinent, it was probably decided that plummeting the depths of the billionths would be altogether too time consuming. If you're interested the full list is available on the BBC's website, and pretty much every other news site in the UK.
Meanwhile, perhaps indicating why I shall never feature on any such esteemed list, my haphazard exploration of the new tablet continues. As promised, I have been using it for work as well as play utilising the very useful Polaris Office. I spent a pleasant forty five minutes in a café the other day, slurping a rapidly cooling pot of tea while I typed out a plan of action for Billy 3. Spending too much time with my imaginary friends does get a little stifling so being amongst living people was a refreshing change, and productive too. Having seen how useful the tool is, I've continued using it for my planning at home and I'm hopeful it will speed progress of the third book.
And then to play. A visit to our gorgeous daughter at the weekend resulted in a list of 'must have' games for Android. I'm not certain about some of them, but 'Cut the Rope' and '100 Floors' have been keeping me amused ever since, though he who fixes the computer has complained about the constant muttering and exasperated sighing. In my defence some of those levels are pretty tricky.

Monday 11 February 2013

New Week, New Story

There's a new story on Quirky Tales website today. Inspired by a challenge set by Richard. 'Keeping Pace' is the story of one man's struggle to keep up with modern technology. I'm seeing a worrying echo of myself in one of the two characters in the story. No prizes for guessing which!
Hope you enjoy it.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Road Block

The three point turn, stuff of nightmares for every learner driver, the careful application of clutch and brake, stopping just before the kerb without ever actually touching it. Ah yes, in some ways it's worse than the hill start, which I recall doing in my old Mini on a ridiculously steep hill the planners had surely built into the town's fabric purely for the purposes of torturing learner drivers.
But that pales into insignificance compared to the situation a Naples driver found himself in. He was apparently attempting to turn his car around in a very narrow and seemingly quiet street. It was a tricky manoeuvre involving a good deal of shunting back and forth, but at least there was no-one else around. Until the cars started queueing up. And then the convoy of motorbikes. And then of course there was the church procession. It all started to get a bit Italian after that.
I do wonder why he was trying to turn the car in such a tight space, and why he kept turning the wheels the wrong way, but I also feel incredibly sorry for him. The manoeuvre would have been stressful enough in the first place, without the whole town turning out to observe, advise and ultimately heckle.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Two Minute Round Up

Currently in the news: it perhaps comes as no great surprise that a politician has admitted perverting the course of justice, though he was at pains to point out his original misdemeanour took place ten years ago - not sure that makes it any better really but he seemed to think it was important.
The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has offered to be launched into space. I imagine there will be a queue of world leaders lobbying to be allowed to light the touchpaper, but all credit to him. I can't picture the British prime minister volunteering to be 'sacrificed by the scientists', though I can picture the queue of hard-up Brits lobbying to comply.
In New Zealand a tourist had all his holiday money stolen when he stopped at a beauty spot to admire the view. The thief is reported to have been a parrot who flew through the open window of the unfortunate tourist's campervan and snatched his cash. Police are not hopeful of apprehending the offender, at least, not while they're still all rolling around on the floor laughing.
Richard III was buried beneath a Leicester car park. Obviously it wasn't a car park at the time but even so, it's a pretty ignoble end. And how would you feel knowing you'd been parking your Ford (other makes are available, I chose Ford because it's quick to type but of course a Lamborghini, Volkswagen etc. would work equally well) on top of Richard III?
And finally, on the subject of car parks, Network Rail had cordoned off one of their car parks in Edinburgh in order to do resurfacing work. But it would seem that when the owner of one Mercedes (again, other makes are available, bad parking is by no means the preserve of Mercedes) arrived to see his usual car park cordoned off he decided to shift the barriers and park there anyway. Well, you know how it is, you use the same car park every day favouring the same spot each time, you get attached to it, it's hard to imagine parking anywhere else. Exasperated workers decided to carry on regardless leaving the car on its own little island, but they were gracious enough to build ramps to facilitate the rescue of the vehicle.

Monday 4 February 2013

New Toy!

We've got a new toy: a shiny new Samsung tablet. It's all the wise two's fault because they bought themselves tablets and were showing them off the other weekend. Actually I should probably own up here, we had been discussing buying a new laptop so I could play the new Sim City but I was balking at making such a sizeable dent in our savings just to play one game. A tablet was a much cheaper option and has access to all manner of games from the app stores. So when we saw the wise two's new toys our minds were made up.
So far I've ploughed through two hidden object games (The Secret of Grisly Manor, and The Lost City), gone several rounds of Sudoku, blundered through various rounds of Mahjong, and I've even tried my hand at bridge building (Bridge Constructor). Sadly I'm astonishingly bad at the last - the bridge building world has missed nothing in me.
All this is just my way of excusing myself from my blogging responsibilities for the last few days - I do so love new toys! However, normal service shall now resume. The tablet will be firmly tucked out of sight until the evening. On with the writing. I'm currently working on the final instalment of the Boldre Wood Trilogy, as well as looking for new material for the third QT Anthology. In fact, the new tablet could be a boon with the latter as I plan on using it in the local coffee shops on my inspiration hunts. See, it's not all play, honest.