Wednesday, 29 October 2014

OMG a workshop that was useful!

I am contemplating my future; it's a long contemplation. I like being a worker with children and teaching them things, but I don't actually want to teach; not full time, not in one school, not forever.

I'm enjoying the techie play work I do for Mr Angel Jem; the messing with websites, tweaking blogs and bits n bobs that I do for him and me. I'd like to find a job that lets me do these as well as being a tutor and learning mentor. And I needed a boost in my attitude. (That blog post has been taken down for a while; I'm a happy bunny again)

Today I went to a seminar on using social media to boost your business. And I really enjoyed it. Really. The variety of social and networking media available today is bewildering. Just look at this YouTube video to get a taste of how the total connectedness of life has changed;

Which one of those facts blew your mind? The fact that the number of users of Facebook would be the third largest population of the world if it were a country? Or that 93% of shopping decisions are influenced by social media? That includes YOU, bloggers of the world. We must influence each other; just look at Wool Warehouse's savvy deal with Attic 24. Would they offer Lucy a cut if there wasn't guaranteed profit from us crocheters buying the kits? Or have you ever knowingly or unknowingly bought an item because you saw it on another blog? I know I got two red dishes from Tesco years ago because I had seen them on a blog, and I know that I often wonder where bits n bobs in the background come from. We like to belong to our groups; identity matters.
That's where social media comes in very useful. We belong to groups, we see other's interests and likes on Facebook or Twitter, we find a 'gang' to belong to on Linkedin  or Google+ and we share information, pictures, hopes and ideas on Pinterest or Instagram or Youtube. I was pleasantly surprised how media savvy I actually am, and it occurred to me that that was, in a large part, because of blogs. I learned about Pinterest... from blogs. Instagram? A blogger mentioned it and I went to see. I understood when the lady talked about blogs as a free shop window due to the crafters I follow who must monetise their blogs.
And I learned about transferable skills from blogs. Because I had set up a blog (thanks, Blogger) setting up a website seemed like just another blog to do. Because I had to use a different blog feed (thanks, Google, for the loss of Reader; much mourned) I know about live feeds and networked blogs.
And I know that the tech I like will be something for me to pursue in the future. I want to teach others to be tech savvy. I want to teach the world to search, especially the people who protest that they are not able to ......... (insert need; go on Facebook, build a website, open an etsy account) and I'm thinking. Thinking hard, as well.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies book.jpg

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld was published in 2005, the same year as Twilight, but never quite hit the fashionable heights at the time. With the subsequent success of Twilight, Hunger Games and the start of the Divergent movie series, Uglies is one of those books that surfaces in a search for dystopian YA fiction.
The heroine, Tally Youngblood, lives in a world post-eco collapse where everybody has radical plastic surgery on their 16th birthday to be turned into the absolute peak of physical perfection; they get turned Pretty. Before that (and afterwards) there is a strict age-related system in place so that, from the ages of 12 to 16 the youth live together in Ugly colonies, causing trouble and doing silly things because, hey, that's what puberty-hit kids do.
The book opens as Tally has gone to find her best friend (and potential boyfriend) Peris who is already a Pretty. His dismissive attitude to her makes her keen to be a Pretty as well, until she meets Shay, an ugly who wants to stay ugly. She introduces Tally to the idea of the Smoke, a place in the wilderness where people stay just as they are, where Shay wants to go and live, driven also by the liking she has for David. When Shay escapes she leaves coded instructions for Tally to follow; instructions Tally has no wish to follow until the Specials (not the 80's band but a secret police force) give her a simple choice; go and find the Smoke and betray the people there or stay an ugly forever. Armed with a months supply of Spagbol and a hover board, Tally sets off.

I found the book an easy read in terms of plot; it kept me going and wanting to know what happens next to the people. Tally was not the most sympathetic heroine I have ever met, mostly because I got very judgemental of her and her fixation on perfection, or being part of the crowd at the start of the novel. My allegiance lay with the  uglies, as it is designed to do, since the novel has a whole "perfection vs normal" issue going on. It's interesting to see that in the 7 years since it was published the quest for perfection has really only increased, and that young people nowadays face so much pressure regarding body image and fitting in to the norm.
I'd happily recommend Uglies to any teenager who isn't a perfect shape and who needs to think issues of body image through. It seems a shame that Uglies isn't likely to be filmed, while Twilight (where the Big Conversion to vampire makes the person perfect) was. I also think there is a whole issue about how true equality should be achieved by appreciating the individual rather than seeking the homogeneous (a capitalism vs socialism idea?) that could provide a decent discussion for a group.

Tidying up the computer, look what I found....

And there's still 58 days left. Deep joy.

Crafters (like magazine editors) work Christmas from early summer until the day itself. I have my list (a virtual list on Evernote this year) and I am ploughing merrily on with crafting, creating and carefully squirrelling away the bits that will make this Christmas, well, the best Christmas ever, of course. Although I'm too realistic for that, actually, so I'll settle for a reasonable Christmas with enough to eat, no big squabbles and a little dusting of snow on the day.
I've been crocheting, sewing and planning decor and I hope by December 1st (when Christmas really begins) to have a shed load of photos to share this year.  It struck me looking back over the blog that I'm usually so busy having a Christmas that I don't have time to record a Christmas. And some how a retrospective in January seems so.... silly. Perhaps I should take a day a week this year to put my Christmas memories into order, to look back and what worked and what didn't and to say what I really remember about each year.  I might just do that. Working backwards, of course, and starting with last year. And then I would feel so toasty and Christmassy that this year would be the happiest Christmas, based in the past, the present and the future.With a heavy dose of Morecambe and Wise, of course.

Sunday, 26 October 2014


Half term creeps up like a recalcitrant child; not too keen to give you a break from the drudgery of daily life, slowly slowly approaching until... at last..... don't speak too loudly..... it -is-here.

And like a hurricane on the heels comes the sudden stopping that is the first cold of winter. I said it before, I'm saying it again; Winter is Coming. And I am involuntarily on a sudden stop here. It started as a sore throat and has turned to sniffles. Everybody else has been packed off to church, and I am luxuriating in an hour of illness in a quiet house, with computer, TV and window to provide entertainment.

A good audio book (Thomas Cromwell on Audible) and a good project (by Alan Dart; a knitting project for the first time in years) and I am feeling relaxed. It's a stressed illness, I usually catch whatever at the end of a term and this year I am more stressed than ever, so perhaps this sniffle has hit me quicker than ever. I hope that the freedom I have planned this week will let me build up a layer of resistance both physically and emotionally.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Black and white.

Life is not black and white, but rather a series of greys that fade and deepen at different times. Sometimes the light shines out from the clouds and other times lies hidden, just a silver outline hinting that, if you could just sit still long enough, there will be a brighter dawn or a shining dusk that lights the sky.

I'm  a great fan of monochrome photos. It's quite possible to get a really good effect even on a dark or bright day. Yesterday (as a soul-clearing, cobweb blowing experience) I went for a walk. I wanted to feel the breeze against my face and to keep having to pull my hair back, to watch the skudding clouds and to breathe.

I went to our local church. It's about 500 years old, a real symbol of eternity there, then. Still a vibrant Christian community; we go about once a month to this church for parade services because our regular church don't do uniformed parades and this is the church that is linked to the primary school the children attended so this is the church where they joined the groups. Is that complicated enough? In other words, we are members of another congregation but this is a regular visiting place.

The church yard is quite large and slopes, so one gets a real feeling of perspective looking over it. Graves stretch down the hill and rather cling to the slopes. The oldest date from the 1700s but newer graves are freshly dug for the most recently departed. And the grave stones are worn in places, fresh black marble in others. I would have the worn red sandstone (our local stone) as against the impressively shiny black, but I rather prefer the idea of being buried in the forest with a tree as my headstone.

Some of the graves are marked, flowers or small signs that somebody has been to see them. Others slope precariously, leaning towards the neighbours as if the two are discussing the latest gossip or swapping notes on how often they have been looked at.

Fashions change in graves as well as clothes. Where simple headstones changed to block graves, and crosses are grouped together in one area; who started the cross fashion? Who copied whom? And is imitation in death still a form of flattery?

Two obelisks; not what I expected in a suburban graveyard. The Fowler family obviously had a 'thing' for Egypt... or were they masons? As in the Grand Lodge of Masons?

There were Angels, of course, not Weeping Angels, but just the two; one stood, still and tranquil, holding some flowers that, unlike the quiet sleepers beneath, will never decay and lose their shape:

the other knelt, hands clasped in prayer. I couldn't read the names beneath; was it a wife or a child whose passing had made the anguish visible in stone?

Reading the inscriptions in stone can lead to some sudden catches in breath;

 John Watson?

Not The John Watson, but good enough to make us pause, to read the stone and to giggle at the name beneath. Job description? Poet. There is a Sir William Watson (poet) on Wikipedia; can this be him? I've studied English to degree level and never met his name.....

And some stand out for sheer audacity; the most incongruous grave is so Italian, so Catholic with the mosaic and angels singing down that I had to swap back to colour. Whoever Eliza and Sir Andrew Barclay were, I'm prepared to believe that they went on the Grand Tour of Europe. Where else would one get the idea of a grotto?