Archive for September, 2008

Yet another reason to like Google

Google Reader may well be driving me up the wall at the moment (every so often I get sick to the back teeth of Bloglines and emigrate elsewhere, swearing that this time, it’s final…) but there’s a huge reason to love Google, no matter what:

As an Internet company, Google is an active participant in policy debates surrounding information access, technology and energy. Because our company has a great diversity of people and opinions — Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, all religions and no religion, straight and gay — we do not generally take a position on issues outside of our field, especially not social issues. So when Proposition 8 appeared on the California ballot, it was an unlikely question for Google to take an official company position on.

However, while there are many objections to this proposition — further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text — it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 — we should not eliminate anyone’s fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.

Can’t remember where I saw this but the hat tip belongs to … someone. Lol

The cost of living

Before moving to south Wales, both B and I worked in a supermarket, which not only meant we were eligible for the staff discount, we were also in the right place at the right time to stock up on the reduced to clear items, from bread to veg, that were being sold off at silly prices to avoid dumping them in the skip (and, for the record, in defence of supermarket staff across the country, we were only allowed to shop in our time, so could only make said purchases on our breaks). These two things, combined with the fact that we put two large pigs in the freezer and our hens were on a daily egg-laying frenzy, meant that we lived relatively cheaply.

As a result, while I knew that the cost of living has risen drastically in the past year, I wasn’t expecting the shopping bill to be as high as it has been. And the scary thing is that we don’t eat the expensive stuff. Never have. There are a few items where we pick the branded item out of personal preference, but on the whole, we can’t actually tell the difference so buy the cheapy-cheapy stuff as a matter of routine. Which means that we don’t really have anywhere to cut our costs.

So for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying Lidl and Aldi and I have to say that they really aren’t that much cheaper that Asda, which is where we normally shop. Aldi certainly isn’t cheap (I was quite taken aback by their prices, I must admit) and while Lidl is great for the cupboard items (flour, herbs etc) and offers fantastic value on items you can’t really get anywhere else, I haven’t found it to be that competitive and for the sake of just a few quid, I’d rather have the range of products on offer in a supermarket like Asda. Especially as I’d have to go there anyway, as they do the cheapest dog food I’ve ever come across. 95p for a 2kg sack of complete dog biscuits! A bargain!

Ok, there are things we could do to reduce our costs – it just means that quality will have to take second place. I hate that, but what choice is there? Bye bye fresh veg and meat, hello frozen…

Next year should be a bit different, as I intend to have a garden full of fresh produce, which should cut costs for a good long while – especially if I can find a way to store a lot of it for winter. Not counting the potential for jams etc!

But, that’s then and this is now and I wish I could understand why healthy living costs more than crap.

Moving on …

How is it that we’re still in the situation where if you are on a metre, you get charged more than if you had free access? Our rented flat has both electricity and gas on a metre and the costs are appalling. We barely use the gas – the boiler’s switched off unless we need hot water for washing up, we don’t cook long elaborate meals (see above)I frequently get in the bath after B, and the heating isn’t on. What the hell we’re going to do when we need the heating is not something I like to think about but tomorrow’s October, so that time approaches fast.

So why the hell do they get away with charging us more for exactly the same product?

What really irritates me is the knowledge that if we were in a position where we could afford our own home, our living costs would be greatly reduced. I wouldn’t have to drive back and forth everyday to do the pigs and chickens so my fuel bill would be negligible. We wouldn’t have a metre. We could install a log burner (and an open fire!!) to reduce our heating bills. I’d definitely invest in going off the grid when it comes to water. We would pay less each month for a mortgage than our rent. I’d be home all day so I could do useful things like bake my own bread, make loads of stews and soups for the freezer…

But, sadly, that’s a pipe dream and a post for another day (there’s one brewing, I can feel it).

Flying the rainbow flag

Rainbow flag

Rainbow flag

Hurrah, yet another gay MP has done the deed and “married” * their partner at a Civil Partnership ceremony. This time it’s the turn of Parliament’s only openly gay woman, the Treasury Minister Angela Eagle and her partner Maria Exall. I have met them both (no, I’m not name dropping, there’s a silly and childish story involved) so I think it’s ok to say congratulations and mean it.

So, that silly and childish story. Three years ago, I was a delegate at Labour Party conference. I went to the reception they have at the start of conference and I don’t know how, but I ended up chatting to a group of people that included Angela and Maria. Then they announced that Blair was due to arrive at any minute. “Oh bloody hell”, said one of the group. “I can’t, I really can’t.” So we headed outside for a cigarette instead. I was in the middle of the group, ahead of Angela and Maria. “Faster, he’s coming”, hissed a woman’s voice and I was pushed through the doorway…

I came within about an inch of head-butting the PM, who was a lot closer than anyone realised. Apart from me. I knew exactly how close he was.

With a startled expression on his face, he looked over me at Angela and Maria. “Leaving so soon, Angela?” he quipped and pretended to be deaf as we skittered off, giggling like naughty schoolgirls. I pinched a cigarette, smoked it and then wandered off to find another party to crash, lest I be duped into beating up other world leaders.

Hat tip to NightHawk.

* Let’s not kid ourselves that it’s the same thing. Close, but no pie. No, I don’t know why I said that either.

The blogroll

The blogroll on my old blog used to be huge. Bloglines bulged all day, each day. As a result, I skimmed the majority of posts and clicked the ‘mark as read’ option as a matter of routine. I hated being away from my computer for a day because it would take me the rest of the week to catch up.

This time around, I’m being a lot more selective and am only linking to and reading the blogs that really interest me, the ones I genuinely look at every time they post, the ones where I read the comments, sometimes contribute, and often return to see what other people have written. There are others I visit sporadically, but if I’m not going to read them every day, why pretend I do by linking to them?

So, for now, this is an introduction to the blogs I enjoy reading. They might not be updated everyday but when they are, it’s worth it, whether for the humorous nature of the posts, the witty observations, the common-sense approach or the glorious photos or just because they’re about people’s real lives.

Let’s start with the real life blogs. First up is Jennieworld Today, written by my very bestest and greatest friend (and my Chief of Staff), Jennie, who as well as being one of life’s Good Guys, is a fantastic cook with a special talent when it comes to cakes and cookies. But that’s not the reason we’re friends, it’s just an added bonus 🙂

Then there’s wongaBlog, Skuds and Rullsenberg Rules, who routinely blog about the things that not only get my inner geek excited, but also the TV I enjoy and the kind of politics that I happily endorse. A winning combination 🙂

Storyteller’s World, Sightlines and Welshpurpletree’s Weblog are all blogs about our daily lives that have two things in common. Firstly, they’re all written by creative souls and secondly, because they’re all people known by people I know. Jane used to work with Antonia. The Storyteller is Martha’s dad. And Welshpurpletree is Jennie’s friend. I like that.

Geek Mum and Moose in the Kitchen are blogs I’ve only just started reading but enjoy so much that they’ve graduated from my “new blogs” folder in Bloglines. Ironically, Geek Mum hasn’t posted anything since I subscribed a month ago, but Moose has made me laugh several times, including her recent description of why she’s a “moose in the kitchen”.

I love taking photos but they’re never as good as I want them to be so it gives me huge satisfaction to enjoy other people’s photographs. Which is why I subscribe to a few photoblogs, whose photos say more than most bloggers do in words. I’ve been a huge fan of Blue Ridge blog for years and Daily Walks and Leena’s Photoblog are recent discoveries. All are wonderful.

My political list is deliberately short at the moment. There’s a couple of blogs on probation, but I now find most political blogs, no matter what colour flag they’re flying, to be extremely dull and monotonous. Bitching, back-stabbing and willy-waggling. Or far too earnest and wiling to overlook the negatives just to present a “united front”. Or the opposite, all criticism, no praise. Or simply dull! That’s my current (and cynical, I wil admit) perspective of the state of political blogging and while I’m happy to be part of the Bloggers4Labour network, supporting Labour but willing to criticise when I damn well feel like it, that’s about as far as it goes. For now.

Having said all that, I love politics when it’s done well – and I also enjoy reading a well-executed piece of political commentary. That’s why I like these two blogs, though that’s probably because I know them both in real life so know exactly what they stand for and why. Which helps – judge not by the blog!

The only two political bloggers on my blogroll are Antonia and donpaskini. Go read and learn.

Finally, we’ve got the blogs about smallholdings and self-sufficiency. There are loads of these out there, but these are ones I’ve discovered who appeal to my sense of humour and my way of looking at the world, probably because each and every one of these bloggers cares deeply about their way of life and puts that above everything else.

Friends of Woodmill Farm have Kune Kune pigs and Houdini ponies. LittleFfarm Dairy does a bit of everything, including some yummy looking food, but their main thing is goats. Maternal Gardens describes herself as “a transplant to Maine, I’m originally from Philadelphia, PA. Maine has been a place to live self sufficiently, organically, a little slowed down and “back woods”. And then there’s the blog where I’ve learnt so much, it simply isn’t true. Musings from a Stonehead is an excellent read as well as a seemingly never-ending fountain of knowledge, but watch out for his dry wit…

So, that’s my currently blogroll. New reads will be introduced as and when I discover them, so all suggestions will be gratefully received.

Down in the river to play

The dogs were getting all hot and bothered the other day, so rather than a post-lunch (mine, not theirs) walk across the field, I took them down to the river.

It was a peaceful scene, the sun being in the right place in the sky to be behind the trees that drape so elegantly over the river’s curves, so the sunlight almost fell between the branches and the leaves into the water.

The river - 26 September 2008

The river - 26 September 2008

But then this happened… Continue reading

Eat like a pig(let)

Scrumpy’s piglets have started showing an interest in her food, which is something I’m keen to encourage – but with their own food, not hers!

There’s been a mixed response:

Wurly - 25 September 2008

Wurly - 25 September 2008

Curly (who suddenly went all camera-shy and vanished lest he be captured on film) and Wurly are quite amenable to the idea of eating their own food.

Squeak- 25 September 2008

Squeak- 25 September 2008

But some piglets, like Squeak, think that mum has far more interesting food, like this mango which fell out of her bowl. Naughty girl!

Bubble - 25 September 2008

Bubble - 25 September 2008

And Bubble still thinks that Mama’s home cooked food is best. Bless!!

Piglet cuddles and kisses

Couldn’t resist taking these over the past couple of days.

Just look at the huge grin on Fergie’s face coz she’s suckered Jennie into giving her some cuddles and lovings. Fergles might be the runt of the litter, but she’s the expert at playing the game!

Jennie and (a grinning) Fergie - 24 September 2008

Jennie and (a grinning) Fergie - 24 September 2008

B said some very rude things when she saw this photo. I won’t repeat them here.

Kisses from Cookie!! 25 September 2008

Kisses from Cookie!! 25 September 2008