My Selfie Stick Hack

I bought a selfie stick from the Pound Shop. It cost me a pound.

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It has an extendable handle and, at the top, a phone grip.

2017-06-10_141905You can remove the top grip from the extendable handle.

2017-06-10_142034This allows you to play – I have a bendy flexy camera tripod that I attached to the phone grip – and voila, I have a phone tripod!

Notice that the bottom of the small camera has a tripod screw – well that is standard, and the extending handle fits!

2017-06-10_142109I tried it on a proper SLR, and it fits, but it’s not really strong enough to trust with a pound shop extendable handle for a selfie-stick!

 

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Still, it was worth a try!

The children can now use the flexy tripod thing to attach their smartphones to their bicycles and film away – or they can just take selfies. I like that I can extend the small family camera as the quality is better than a phone, and I plan to wade out into the sea on the holidays, filming from above in HD.

What do you think? Any other suggestions?

That’s How Bad It Is

I spoke with a chap today who just started working for us on a complicated and convoluted project in trouble to the tune of several tens of millions. He was taking over from the chap who was thrown off the job for being “too contractual”.

I asked “How are you finding things? How is the job? Better or worse than you thought?”

He replied. “Well. it’s going like a horse on fire.”

I have to say, this made me choke on my lunch. This is my new phrase – a delicious blend of house on fire mixed with flogging a dead horse and bolting the door after the horse has bolted.

Is this chap a genius?

Terrorisation

We all recall where we were when x happened.

JFK, Lockerbie, 9-11,  7-7, whatever. It’s relentless, isn’t it?

But then – it’s not always about the bad; remember putting a man on the moon, or Nelson Mandela walking to freedom, the fall of the USSR, the fall of the Berlin Wall. Good stuff is also relentless.

And sometimes our jaws drop in wonder at the good as much as at the bad.

That’s life.

Good and bad.

The facts of life are not terribly difficult to understand – sh*t happens sometimes, but so does great stuff. Our greatest enemy is nature – we constantly fight it to keep dry, to keep warm, to keep fed.

Our greatest enemy is nature – we constantly fight it to keep dry, to keep warm, to keep fed. But it fights back and takes a massive toll in floods, landslides, sinkholes, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes, and more besides.

Then there is the man-made stuff; bad stuff is not always “mother nature” or “the gods”; people can also wreak havoc: gunmen in schools, rapists, pillagers, suicide bombers, politicians, mentally unstable people and the angry and intolerant.

What happens is this – a natural disaster occurs and everyone goes on the media and social media to send thoughts and prayers. A fund may be set up. We come together, we rebuild. Life goes on.

Then when a bomb goes off, everyone goes on the media and social media to send thoughts and prayers. A fund may be set up. We come together, we stand defiant, we rebuild and life goes on.

The subtle difference between a natural event and a man-made event is that we feel we could somehow have prevented the man-made one happening.

But is that true?

Look, I have small children. I know they could get a virus, they could get injured, the could be attacked. We all know the possibilities, the risks. But I also know that they could have wonder, fun, and experience joy and happiness too and that I need to let them have their own life and stop being so over-protective. It’s the contrast between the lows and highs that adds the most drama.

What can y’do?

I totally understand people demanding that “something should be done” when bad things happen. I get the calls for change, for more checks and balances, for tighter security, for arming police – for a complete change in our way of life.

But I do not want that. Instead, I feel that it is not what happens as much as how one deals with what happens. How quickly things get back on course – back to “normal”. Of course, if something happened to my child, I would feel what any parent would – but I would not demand change. I would insist on the opposite.

Yes, I have come to terms with terrorism. I see it as a risk as much as any natural event.  I won’t take it personally. I accept the pain, the shame, the anguish, I feel for all survivors everywhere. I just think we all have to accept that sh*t happens and we cannot prevent it. It could be an earthquake, or it could be a terrorist. It doesn’t really matter which at the end of the day. It ought not to stop anyone living a life and making the best of it.

There is little point in calling for an eye for an eye or to fight fire with fire or to gnash teeth and wring hands. We have to push through the loss, the grief, the senselessness of life. That is all – nothing could have stopped it, no measures are air-tight, and who would wish to live in such an air-tight claustrophobic nanny state world (apart from terrorists, that is)?

Getting on with it is not an act of defiance or some show against terrorism, it is simply a fact of life. A knee-jerk reaction is never a good option. Why does anything have to change because of a weird event? Every base cannot be covered.

My call is to allow people to get on with dealing with life as best they can without undue and unhelpful interference or influence. Life’s hard enough.

Studio Equipment Arrived

After a bit of review-reading and netsearching, I decided to buy studio gear as a starter bundle.

For under £190, I got the Second Generation, just out, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB 2.0 audio interface, a studio-quality CM25 condenser microphone with stand adaptor, XLR cable and a pair of HP60 monitoring headphones.

scarlett

I picked the two inputs because I am not a band. I can jam with my wife, or I can do guitar and vocal, or double mic a combo. It’s perfect for my needs.

It came really quickly, and to be honest, I am not ready yet as Reaper still isn’t operational.

The Scarlett comes with free software – a free version of Pro Tools that doesn’t interface with the professional edition nor that makes mp3s. It does have plug-ins – and that’s not usually included with the free edition.

According to the reviews and forums, it’s a palava even downloading it all, registering and getting it operational.

I tested the headphones on my smartphone. They work great.

The Scarlett lights up when plugged into the USB of the laptop. However, I plugged in headphones and then the mic -twiddled the knobs. Not a peep.  I tried plugging a guitar in – same: nothing.

If I can get things working, I can begin my hobby and it would only cost me the bundle plus the licence for Reaper – all-in-all, about £200 – which is not bad at all.

However, at this stage I have some kit and some software, and nothing is working! I have spend a lot of time and effort getting nowhere fast!

So it’s back to the forums and user guide for a while.

The Runaway Wheelchair Story

Having to drive is a chore for me, especially recently – because my main client has offices in another city, so I am clocking up 130 km (80 mi) every day.

I have been spoiled by having clients in the recent past that have been close enough to walk or use public transport.

There are few garages around, so I depend on supermarket filling stations to get petrol, and because I need to stretch my legs, I often nip in to have a stroll about the aisles.

In ASDA, they have created a mezzanine level for electronics and clothes. You have to use a “travelator” thing – it’s like a normal escalator, just stretched out longer so you can take a shopping trolley up with you – the metal floor goes flat and somehow manages to lock the wheels of the trolley.

Strolling in through the automatic doors, I was confronted by a family of refugees blocking access to the “up travelator” – the children and husband/father seemed OK with the thing – but the mother figure was too scared to step onto the moving walkway. What a scene!

I managed to dodge around and got up to the mezzanine, but it was on the return trip that the real excitement happened.

Having had my stroll about the place, I was heading for the “down travelator”, when an old woman nipped in front of me. She was pushing a standard NHS wheelchair in which was sitting an even older lady. Onto the travelator they went, and I followed.

Then the fun started.

The wheelchair started down the slope – and the pusher was too old and infirm to be able to stop it! There was a boy further down the thing, and he saw what was about to happen – and screamed out!

It looked like the wheelchair was going to race down the ramp, hit him and accelerate off through the automatic doors into the car park…

This is when I made my move.

In a couple of bounds, I managed to grab the wheelchair handle on the left side, and struck out my foot to brake the left wheel. With the pulling of the other woman on the right, we managed to stop the wheelchair. I pulled hard and kicked to turn the chair to a bit of an angle into the side in case we couldn’t hold it still.

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“Thank You!” blurted the red-faced pusher as we slowly descended in high tension – holding on tight.

“I thought it was like the trolleys,” she continued. “I thought it would hold the chair!”

We reached the bottom, and parted company. I had hurt my knee, wrist and ankle, and hobbled out to the carpark, wondering what would could have happened, and how easy it was for wheelchairs to get onto these things.

It was only as I was driving away that I wondered how they had got up to the mezzanine in the first place.

 

The Christmas Story

I asked my daughter (10) and son (8) what Christmas was all about, and they got it all wrong.

At first, they struggled, waffling on about Santa, trees and gifts, but then they introduced religions.

“My friend Abdullah is not Christian, so they don’t have a tree, but they still have Christmas presents” offered my son.

“Chanukah or Hannukah is the Jewish Christmas” suggested my daughter. “So different religions just have different names for Christmas.”

My wife decided to chip in at this point: “Christmas is Christian, so what is it about then?”

I knew what she was driving at – she wanted them to tell the story of the Nativity, but it wasn’t working; and as they struggled, she began to get frustrated, so I thought I’d wrap it up – after all, I’m the Dad. I get to be the smart-alick.

I said to her, “Christmas is confusing for children because there is a lot of white noise obscuring the signal – the Christmas Tree has nothing to do with the Nativity, Santa is another one. If Christians don’t understand how it all fits together, how can children?”

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Nevertheless, she turned back to the children, “Jesus was born in a manger in a stable. There were three wise men who gave the baby gifts…”

Of course, the children were immediately reminded, and they picked it up and soon everyone was on the same page. Great. Except it wasn’t. Not for me anyway.

“That’s not what Christmas is all about at all!” I declared.

They stopped and looked at me.

“Christmas, the meaning of Christmas, the spirit of Christmas, is summed up in one book above all others.”  I had their attention.

My wife raised an eyebrow, “Go on then – what book is this?”

“Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ – otherwise known as ‘Scrooge’!”

She looked at me in disbelief. My son and daughter gleefully announced that they knew this story.

“Exactly. The story is not religious, but there is a superstitious device in the ghosts. It starts with Marley’s ghost, can you name the other ones?”

“The ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present and The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.” They chimed in unison.

“Very good. So before all the ghosts what was Scrooge like?”

“Oh, he was horrible, nasty and a bully” suggested my boy

“Yes, he was a selfish miser and only thought about money all the time.” said my daughter.

“That’s right, he was all of that and worse. But, at the end of the story, what was Scrooge like then?” I asked.

“Oh he was much nicer, Dad. He was kind and happy!” said the lad.

“He gave presents and time off and was generous and people stopped being scared of him” said my girl.

“Exactly!” I chimed, “You’ve got it! – That’s the point of Christmas, that sums it up perfectly. It’s all about generosity, kindness, love, compassion, companionship, sharing, giving gifts, feasting on delicious food using the best china, it’s not meant to be business as usual, it’s SPECIAL.”

“So it’s not about celebrating the birth of baby Jesus?” my daughter asked.

“Not really. I mean, to some people, yes it celebrates that, but other people of other religions don’t think like that. In fact some Christians get so het up that people seem to be missing what-they-see-as the real meaning of Christmas, that THEY miss the spirit of Christmas embodied in the story of Scrooge’s change.”

I think Christmas is about change, we’re all going to die eventually, so we ought to make the best of life while we can, even if it is only for one special day that we wear a paper crown and feast like a royal. Some years it will be fun, other years, not as much. We all have to deal with our own ghost of Christmas past, we can affect the present one and the future ones, so that’s the real meaning of Christmas for me, irrespective of beliefs or lack of them.

A look at a Christmas past may bring regrets if you don’t accept Christmas; it’s very difficult to avoid it every year, so you may as well take control. The film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” has a similar supernatural device (the angel, Clarence) to show a man what an impact he has had on his community when he himself thinks his past is meaningless and worthless, and considers suicide. Of course, everything is different (and much worse) without his contribution, but the bit that gets me, is when the spirit of Christmas brings the tears – when everyone rallies round in a wealth of generosity and love.

The Christmas message is not about religion, but about humanity and community. The inn keeper had no room for Mary and Joseph, but didn’t turn them away – they got a stable to spend the night. They weren’t expecting to have a baby in there, and they were not expecting a visit from oriental kings bearing gifts from afar. The Nativity is filled with humanity, kindness and generosity. The message is everywhere if you care to look – for example, John Lewis television commercials – the famous one of the ceasefire between the Brits and the Germans on Christmas Day, but also this year’s “Man on the Moon” – we ought to bear in mind those who are alone at Christmas, or forgotten about. So why not use Christmas to reach out, to bring cheer? Why not congratulate yourself for getting through another year?

So feast like a king, and welcome the Christmas Spirit into your heart you old Scrooge!

Am I right?