13 September 2006

Another thing I do ...

I've never actually mentioned this on my blog before but I'm a Cub Scout Leader, yep, Jenks is an Akela! I've always been a touch reluctant to divulge this on my blog but I have a suspicion that most people that venture here know who I am in the non-blog world. I suppose I fear been stereotyped, I don't think I'm a stereotypical Cub Leader but that's difficult to judge (well, if I wasn't judged I will be now - own goal Jenks!).

Anyway, I only did 6 months of Scouting as a child. I got involved as an adult (so they say) when I 'helped' out at a Cub camp about six years ago ... Since then I've been a Pack Assistant, member of the Group Executive, Assistant Cub Scout Leader, Assistant Group Scout Leader, Group Scout Leader and now Akela. Now those titles probably mean very little to you non-Scouting folk as they meant little to me six years ago, what is interesting is would you employ somebody who has jumped jobs so many times (all in the same group I might add). I think they should fire me ... please!

Only kidding ;-) It's actually very rewarding and quite a stress reliever, or maybe it's more of a stress 'replacer' - working on the principle that a change (in stress) is as good as a holiday. Guess it's a good thing I'm not a psycho therapist or councillor ... I just work with kids. Gulp!

But don't worry, I'm okay - trust me. The kids have a great time (I don't think they come across people like me at school); if you don't believe me take a look at our programme for this term http://www.cookhamscouts.org/rs_programme - good hey? The product (I must admit) of all my assistants but I do try to pass it off as my own work - at least I have conscience.

So it's Cubs tonight - sigh! They should just fire me, really they should.

Why do I blog?

For me writing is therapeutic (although I do seem to forget that it is) and putting together a posting and commenting on other postings sort of keeps me in the habit of writing. But I’m not sure that that alone would be enough. I could write (and occasionally do) in private. I could send more emails. What is so compelling about writing a blog?

This question was further highlighted to me only the other day. A good friend of mine could not understand why I ‘wasted’ my time writing a blog. “Hardly anybody reads them”, he said, he’d been listening to a Radio 4 programme about blogs and it had obviously been a bit negative. I was quite surprised how strongly he felt about it. Why did he and others feel so negative about blogs and … why do I write a blog?

Sometimes I write and it’s a bit like graffiti, sort of “I’m here world”. Other times it’s because I’ve got to get something off my chest or I’ve felt strongly about something – although I often don’t finish these postings, I seem to have lots of scraps of postings waiting to be picked up. But more often than not I write about my observations or what has amused me – I don’t particularly write for a response but I do look forward to one … and of course, that response is a connection.

What is so refreshing about this connection is that we often have no access to the normal sensory cues that trigger prejudice – I’m sure Clarice brought this up in an earlier post or comment. We can communicate freely with another human – well, I think they’re human (shudder)… not even that prejudice exists!

So I write my blog because I like to communicate … that’s a fairly human need so I don’t see why anybody should get upset. So why be negative?

I think that we are used to associating the audience one has with power. As people move up in status or maybe I should say ‘celebrity status’ they gain a wider audience. This wider audience allows their message to be heard, their ideas to be propagated or their products to be sold. I believe the blogosphere effectively short circuits the celebrity status and gives many people a platform to say whatever they like and ‘they haven’t even earned it dear’. It’s the same jibe celebrities often make of reality TV celebrities. Somehow our world believes that a columnist, actor, singer, games show host etcetera all have the right to a greater audience because … they are celebrities. The blogosphere judges blogs purely on content alone, content that has not been edited, content whose only bias is that of the author’s. This might be seen to erode the power base of those that tap into their audience for gain, for good or for bad. The blogosphere becomes a threat, so it is ridiculed. Of course, it could also be that it is ridiculed because it is not understood.

But if those that ridicule or are negative about blogs really stop and think, they will see that the expansion of the blogosphere is positive – people all over the world are starting to write! Writing what they feel, fear, believe, see, hear … unhindered communication. Writing in sentences, playing with words – but most of all, thinking and (I say it again) communicating. So the blogosphere is making people ‘think and communicate - that can’t be bad ;-)

12 September 2006

Dusty apology

(Drops out of loft and brushes off dust, cobwebs, spiders and such life that lives up there). I've been clearing our loft for a loft conversion, so been quiet here but noisy up there. Posts and comments will follow but I must go back to my loft a few more times as scaffolding, skip and crane threaten.

09 September 2006


Gathering some toiletries for our supermarket trolley tonight my youngest son (aged 8) and I found ourselves facing the razorblades. He looked at all the different types of razors and spotted the ladies razors.

"Are those ladies' razorblades?"

It's funny how all the possible directions the conversation might go start flashing through your mind at once. You can sense the 'fight or flight' instinct kicking in, but it's your 8 year old son ... and you know that all the people around you have heard the question and are deliberately hovering to wait how this parent will deal with this 'one'.

"Umm, yes they are ladies' razorblades."

Wait for it ....

"Do ladies have beards then?"

OK, so I chicken out,

"Well, I suppose some do."

But this is nothing compared to explaining the vending machines in men’s toilets. I remember my Dad telling me that you got chewing gum out of them! I could just imagine saying that to my younger son in front of my two eldest sons who are both in Secondary School.

When my youngest son did ask the question, "What are those Daddy?" the Gents were full! Needless to say both my eldest sons smirked and eagerly waited for my response. But I'm sorry, I chickened out again,

"We're late we've got to go now!"


"Mum's waiting for us outside"


"Come on", grabbing his hand and not making eye contact. I know I failed but I panicked - but at least I didn't say it was chewing gum. Could you imagine how embarresing it might be in later life?

"Hey Jenks, do you know where I can get some gum?" ....!


Anyway, talking of razor blades (I can't work out if it's two words or one and I can't be bothered to check so I shall randomly use both versions) just where will it all stop? How many blades can you fit in one razor? Six blades seems to be the present record. The number of blades seems to be going up exponentially!

Now I have to admit that I was bought one of the six blade versions on the weekend - my previous razor only had half the number of blades. It's a little misleading as they actually have five blades for cutting. They try to romanticise what the sixth blade is for - sideburns, beard trimming but the real reason is because five blades PLUS a massive moisturising strip means you can't shove the razor high enough to cut the facial hair just below your nose. This would be a serious problem left unchecked as you would start to get a thin line moustache just below your nostrils.

Now, take my word for it, it is very hard to remove this facial hair with a nose hair trimmer (goodness, I'm going to have people peering up my nostrils now). This is because the hair is flat against the skin and nose hair trimmers aren't good at those types of hairs. This is where the sixth blade comes in - you revert to a single blade just below the nostrils.

Now this could be very dangerous for those young men (and women - for my youngest son) who are not practised at using a single blade. Look out for the cuts just below the nostrils ... this will be the indicator of those who have succumbed to advertising seduced by the promise of beautiful women stroking your smooth chin ... of course I wasn't, it was bought for me - by a very beautiful woman I might add, my wife.

Does your partner borrow your razor? Don't go there Jenks ...

And I won't.

I was going to say more about razors but I'm getting a bit bored of the topic and I can't see it making much difference to the world.

Why do I write so much rubbish? I agonise over comments I will make on Robert Sharp's blog or Clarice's blog, all of whom are clever young people - and then I'm scared off when I think of tackling their sharp intellects as it just seems to show me up as some sort of middle aged oaf - which I'm not, I don't think. Then I read that Clarice is referring to herself as being old on another’s blog, and that makes me feel archaic! But I have a suspicion that one or two people reading this will be higher up the age stakes than me ;-) I have yet another suspicion that they won't want to talk to me anymore either.

Rob, (referring to his post) the world is indeed divided into two groups of people - those who are older than you and those who are not.

I think that I better go to bed so that I don't embarrass myself any further. I'd copy this post as I shall probably edit when I reread it. Goodnight.

05 September 2006

Dog on the Run

Another photo taken on our holiday - this one was taken by eldest son (borrowing my camera again). It's one of a series of photos of a dog playing on the beach - good isn't it? :-)

03 September 2006

Plums - an admission

I was reading the Kitchen Witch's post on Plums and I feel I have an admission to make ... especially after reading all the comments ...

We have a plum tree that is/was heavily laden with fruit (it's too dark outside for me to see) but I'm afraid that this year the birds and the - well, wildlife will feast on them. We have no time as our loft will shortly be converted, sorry.

When we first moved to our house our plum tree only gave us a handful of plums (if that) each year. It was very sad and my mother-in-law told me that it had some sort of disease, should just be cut down as it would never bear much fruit. This was, I should add, after I suggested that all it needed was a tender prune (my answer to all gardening problems I'm afraid).

Well, it was a challenge - my mother-in-law said ‘never’ and I though it just might. Why do I descend to such competitiveness? I duly looked up how to prune plum trees waited patiently for the right time and … pruned.

Next season it had so many plums the branches bowed under the weight. One of the branches actually broke! When next my mother-in-law visited we took her round our woeful garden (I’m afraid it is – well a bit, ‘woeful’ might be a touch of an exaggeration) her eyes set upon our tree with all its wares and she told us that … you know I can’t remember, I just felt very smug and that’s all that counts.

Ever since then the tree has bore us large quantities of fruit. I do not know if it is the initial pruning or perhaps the ‘threat’ of future prunes that causes our plum tree to be so generous. However, the plums do not always fair well and have gone mouldy or delivered us prunes instead.

But we have little time now for plums (or prunes) as our own fruit seem to drain so much of our time turning us into said prunes instead. Today we cleared their bedrooms (three males I should add) and it is a wonder the garden hasn’t grasped at the opportunity of extending there too. But it is cleared (pruned) and my wife and I feel satisfied even if we had to resort to an Indian takeaway for dinner. But the plums will remain in the garden for the wildlife this season …

26 August 2006

Gone, back in a week! Please feel free to look around.

Off later today for a week in Wales, all five of us Jenks - a bit of walking, cycling, swimming, damn buidling, sight seeing, etc. etc. Got to pack though, I hate packing. My family hate me packing too! I'm afraid I tend to get a bit ratty - I shall try to remain calm today.

Anyway, if you find yourself here (and it seems not that many people do) then please feel free to have a look around but please don't break anything. See you later ;-)

24 August 2006

Jenks on Light Bulbs - trying our best!

Did you know that in the UK Philips energy saving light bulbs are now subsidised? So it's a good time to change over energy saving light bulbs. The stick type you can get for 99p and the warmwhite globe type cost £2.80 - have a look at Lamps2udirect .

Lamps2udirect have lots of other types of energy saving replacement light bulbs including ones to replace golf ball bulbs, spots and there's even a dimmable sort that works with a regular switch. I've still had no luck replacing GU10 bulbs though and the golf ball replacements have a light that is not quite as warm as incandescent bulbs. The spots are good and you can get quite small energy saving bulbs now. If you need more convincing about changing bulbs take a look at ban-the-bulb . We placed an order for a range of energy saving bulbs and we're trying them in different places around our house. At this stage I can't see us changing all our incandescent bulbs but we're trying. If you have any suggestions of good replacement bulbs then let me know.

Energy saving lights are ideal for outside lights but please endeavour to purchase lighting that direct light downwards. A sky full of stars is both beautiful and awe inspiring - the natural world does not end at the horizon, it extends high above us. We really need to save the night sky for future generations. Have a look at the International Dark-Sky website for further inspiration. If you're passionate about nature and conservation, don't forget the stars above you.

I say this with a tinge of guilt - I still need to change our front light. With all the building work we are planning I've not got round to changing it , but I do keep it off. I suppose this saves energy but I could do this better with a PIR (Passive Infra-Red) sensor ... but I really must change it soon after our garage work is done and fit a PIR sensor.

More on energy saving in later posts ...

Sorry but there was a big chunk missing from my earlier post - must be Gremlins in my Blog!

My messy desk

I took this photo a few days ago as a start to develop a blog that, hopefully, will be a bit more interesting than a few boring blue/grey dots! I'm not sure if I will use it but I thought it probably describes a fair amount about me (and how messy my desk gets). What surprised me looking back at it is how many little clues there are about some of my interests. Yes, my hat is on my desk but it's normally a bit further to the right - I can never figure out where to put it so it sits on my desk!

23 August 2006

Echinacea up my nose

I thinks I'm coming down with a cold or something - headache, sneezing, aching. My wife suggested I take some echinacea. They come in little capsules - bottle said take three, so I did.

One of the pesky things got stuck in my throat, I couldn't budge it not after comsuming gallons of tea and water. What do they coat those capsules with? Super glue!

Well just now the capsule must have decided to dissolve and a cloud of echinacea came back up through my nose ! Words can not describe how horrible the experience was - well, not my words anyway. Normally bad experiences are quickly forgotten but in this case the echinacea seems to have coated the inside of my nose - how on earth do you clear the inside of your nose? I wonder what my prognosis is?

My latest 'Sky at Night' ...

My latest (September 2006) 'Sky at Night' magazine investigates:

'Mystery at the OUTER LIMITS'
'Voyager beams back secrets from the edge of the Solar System'

but wait for it, in big yellow capital letters ...

'PLUS Patrick Moore's guide to Uranus'

Hmmm? They did it on purpose didn't they - surely they did?? Or is it just my infantile mind?

I can just imagine when my kids pick it up - lots of giggles.

22 August 2006

What's that tune? Let your computer do the work.

This is of good novelty value - Tunatic is free software that you can download to your PC that identifies a song's title and artist from the audio alone. All you need is a microphone and internet connection and you're away.

In our family we started playing CDs to see how well it did, we were quite impressed though you do need to make sure that there is little or no background noise. Have fun ...

Cosmic Exaggeration

Irritating, that's what its is. In this BBC article the author writes:

The astronomers were lucky enough to catch the collision just 100 million years after it occurred - the blink of an eye in cosmic time.

Our universe is about 13.7 billion years old and that would make 100 million years 1/137 or 0.0073 of the age of the universe - the blink of an eye?

To contrast this a blink of the eye takes say 0.4 seconds. Let's assume that the average person lives to say 80 years, that would mean that a blink would be 0.00000000016 of a lifetime. Now we don't really know how long the universe will be around for, so let's just assume that we map one lifetime over the age of the universe to date.

So what would a cosmic blink be?

2.2 years!

In fact, I'm always amazed to what extent the universe has developed when you consider how long cosmic events take.

Let me give you an example:
Many of the heavier elements both in and around us can only be created inside stars or as a result of supernovae (exploding stars). The age of our Sun is 4.5 billion years so our Sun has been around for about a third of the time that the universe has been in existence! That doesn't seem to leave much time for the universe to cool down after the Big Bang, sort itself out ... create a star, let the star burn for a while ... or maybe a long while, blow up the star, allow the debris to cool, gather and form a star (do this a few times) ... debris eventually gathers and our Sun forms. But the universe has only got 9.2 billion years to do this, quite a feat.

Furthermore, our Sun is about half way through its life expectancy of 10 billion years. So we couldn't quite fit the full lifetime of our Sun into the available time before our Sun was created. That means that we can pretty much say that the matter in our solar system has never existed in a star system with a star with the same mass or smaller than ours.

But what are the most common stars in the universe? Stars of our mass or smaller - there are more piddly stars than massive stars.

The truth is that stars of 15 times the mass of our Sun would have a lifetime of only 10 million years and it is stars with a mass over 11 times the mass of our Sun that will go supernova. So in our 'blink of an eye' scale, supernova would be sort of a monthly event - you can kind of see how it all fits together and that there is actually enough time.

So it all fits neatly together, there is enough time and we don't need 'The Creation' to make it work - amazing! As for 'a blink of an eye' ... hmmmph!

A happy snappy Jenks am I

I'm so pleased :-) Very, very pleased :-) I have a new camera a Canon EOS 30D with ... (drum roll) ... an image stabilsed lens. These lenses are wonderful as they allow you to take longer exposure photos without a tripod and without a flash. The result - lovely lighting for portraits, no harsh shadows, landscapes at dusk ... wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. When I've figured out how to get photos off the camera I shall post some. Happy, happy, happy :-)

17 July 2006

Budgie watch out

I visited Zimbabwe and took this photo from a helicopter ...

... well I guess it wasn't taken from a crane. I suppose I could have had a particularly bad experience with a bungee jump ... but I couldn't tell a lie. No, I'm afraid it was taken on a helicopter ride - my very first!

Back again

Quite a lot has happened since my last post ...