Wednesday, 28 January 2015

We're getting a cat

After a lot of consideration and months of indecision, we are getting a cat. As parents we thought it would do the kids the world of good to have a pet, and as a person in my own right, I've always fancied having one.

I don't know what it is exactly that attracts me to cats. Partly is because they're cleverer than rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters (and much less likely to escape than hamsters) but less smelly and less effort than dogs. I think having an animal in the house will help the kids, especially the boy, who at times struggles with expressing his emotions (well he is a boy).

Are we mad?

Plenty of people seem to have managed perfectly well without cats making too much of an impact on their lives...

Monday, 26 January 2015

Mis-hearing things

Whether it's really down to excessive heavy metal when I was younger (a few Iron Maiden concerts, some exciting Megedeth and whatevs else), I seem to be a trifle deaf these days. Not to the point where I can't hear the sibilance in the early pressings of Pink Floyd's Obscured by Clouds of course but I tend to mis-hear things.

My most common issue is where someone in another room shouts my name really loudly to get my attention and then follows it up with a inter-room conversation at normal volume. To me the conversation sounds like this: "ALEX! *mumble*mumble*mumble*mumble". It's not much help and people end up repeating themselves a lot in our house.

The kids do their best to help me out though by following me from room to room. Fifi has also adopted the habit of repeating what other people say to me. For example, yesterday Ned was sitting on my lap calling me "Mr Poo Poo Head". (that's a proper noun isn't it?) Fifi was sitting across the room but still felt obliged to point out to me that the child sitting on my lap was talking to me and needed his conversation repeated in case I hadn't heard it. Bless.

Anyway, have you misheard anything outrageous recently?

Friday, 23 January 2015

Am I a Pro Blogger?

Time was when I used to look through peoples Twitter profiles, they used to contain the phrase "PR friendly", as though most bloggers would threaten any agency that contacted them with imminent death IF they didn't have that friendly reassuring text to let them know contact was safe. This seems to have passed now though and I'm increasingly seeing the phrase Pro Blogger infiltrate bios.

Pro Blogger isn't a new phrase by any stretch of the imagination; the earliest decent article I spotted dates back to early 2007, so it's been in use for well over 8 years now. However the one recurring theme that occurs in articles about pro bloggers is the lack of agreement on the actual definition of pro blogger. That's okay though; things that evolve organically often have muddied meanings but there is some inevitable baggage that comes with the use of the prefix "pro". After all it's not like there's a guild, a professional body or an entry exam you can take you call yourself a pro blogger. Likewise it's not a title that others bestow on you, rather it is something you can call yourself as easily as you can type it. Pro blogger- there you go, that's me that is.

Obviously that's a little facetious but you only have to google "pro blogger definition" to see the sort of knots people are tying themselves in to define the term. Income streams, time spent blogging, audience size; these are all metrics I've read people struggle to shoehorn into a definition. I've also seen regular deployment of the escape close "there's no real wrong definition", which has made me chuckle.

my first blog post, May 2009!
I write several different blogs on several different platforms, have three different hosting packages, a multi-site Wordpress installation where I host a few sites for friends and family, I've had around 10 million pageviews across the blogs I run in the 5+ years I've been blogging, I've signed NDAs with some mega big multi-nationals, been on press trips, blogger trips, been involved in award winning campaigns, and yadda yadda (lets face it though, who hasn't signed an NDA at some point in their life?!). Oh, and I also file a tax return because that's the right and proper thing to do. But does that make me a pro blogger? Goodness knows but I don't think so because for me blogging in a hobby and I have a full time day job that keeps me occupied. Yes, I take time off to attend events but only when they fit in with my work and private life.

Like a lot of us old timers, I started parent blogging* to keep a record of what the kids were up to (and to stop me watching quite so much Corrie). I fit in stuff around my day job because it's my day job that's important to me. I don't doubt that some of the people I know who blog make an awful lot of money from it- chatting to one chap, he was telling me he makes £8 a day from AdSense but is aiming to up that to £18. That's passive income, which to my mind is the best sort because once you have the content, you have the income stream going forwards. I know others who won't guarantee to feature products they're sent if the package is below a certain value, or have a very high minimum fee for paid for content. That's fine, I'm not criticising it at all. As long as I can read your blog and still find out things that I used to of course. You know, like stuff about you or your family. Important stuff and sort of the whole point of a blog.

This is where it gets a bit tricky and possibly drops into the realm of semantics; where does the pro blogger stop and the freelancer begin? Companies will want either their product or words (and backlinks) on your blog for various reasons but the moment you start writing for other sites, are you still a blogger or are you a freelance writer? What is a blog anyway? Time was it used to be a regularly updated journal of what you were thinking or doing but now it's a styling format you can apply to a website. Most bloggers have tried to move away from the simple blog post list format into something that looks more akin to a magazine style. I've certainly done it on a few of my sites, so perhaps we're better off referring to ourselves as webmasters or site owners rather than bloggers?

Personally I think the biggest indicator on whether someone is, for the want of a better word, "pro", is their motivation behind what they do. Do they have 12,000 twitter followers because they have found 12,000 like-minded people or because they can charge more for a sponsored tweet with 12,000 followers? Are any of their social media interactions, you know, social, or are they all just advertising for either stuff they've written or brands they promote? That example is perhaps harsh obviously because someone running their blog as their primary source of income can do it well or do it badly but to my mind, it's all down to the motivation really isn't it?

*my earlier blogs/sites are lost to the mists of time; not even the Wayback Machine can find them, which is probably for the best isn't it?

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Featured post: Touring the London Olympic sites

It's ironic that a couple of years after the Olympic Games in London, a city right on my doorstep, I found myself at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, watching some exciting 100m action on the track. Ironic because we didn't actually make it to any of the Olympic Games events in London, even though it was right on our doorstep.

In our defence our lack of Olympic attendance had a lot to do with a new addition to our family, who was only 6 months old at the time, and a bit to do with the predicted crowds, over zealous sponsors and general lack of ability for the English to organise anything. Still, beach volleyball aside, most of the venues are still there and it's interesting to go and have a look around, especially given the organising committee's determination to make sure that initial white elephant status of the Millennium Dome wasn't repeated.

Consequently the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a venue that is still vibrant and full of activity over two years later. Which is nice and also makes it an interesting place to head to in order to see what all the fuss was about around the Olympics and how that legacy thing is working out.

You can given go up the ArcelorMittal Orbit, which is the fancy name for the very unique sculpture that sits in the Olympic Park. If you're feeling very adventurous and it's the right time of year (check on their website first) you can even abseil down it. As well as the park, which is good for a walk around, you can also watch or even participate in some sports- they've got track cycling at the velodrome, basketball at the Copperbox Arena and even football coaching sessions with West Ham.

If you're not from around our neck of the woods and fancy coming into London, staying over and visiting some of the sites with you kids, you couldn't do much better than booking a family room at somewhere like the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum. It's within walking distance of the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum but also an accessible tube ride away from the Olympic Park. It's also got the Serpentine (and obviously Hyde Park) just around the corner, and whilst there's no sign of the Olympic infrastructure that saw the likes of the triathlon happen, it's still a great place to visit.

As noted in the title, this is a Featured post. All words and thoughts are however my own. I'm good like that.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Bath Time

Room 237?
Bath time in our household has now evolved into a complex routine that future ethnographers will no doubt ascribe a huge amount of ritual significance to. Now that all three kids are properly mobile, invariably don't want to do what you want them to do and just sheer bloody minded, it can take an inordinate amount of patience and effort on my part.

Bath time is normally done in strict chronological order. starting with Ned and working our way up to the older kids. Ned usually fights to get in the bath, demands to play with toy boats, is happy to have his hair washed but has to be threatened with the shower to get him out. While I pop into his bedroom to get him his PJs, Ned almost always makes a bid for freedom, dashing the down the stairs and out of sight- the only way I know where he is is by the shouts of "I naked naked" drifting up the stairs.

Fifi, as is typical for a girl, goes in the bath easily, and only has to be endlessly harassed about not leaving her room looking like a crime scene. And believe me, I know what a crime scene looks like since we were burgled last year. Her bedroom was the only room in the house that actually looked tidier after it had been ransacked.

Last but definitely not least is the boy. The first part of the struggle is getting him up the stairs. This often involves weaselling, threats, and physical manhandling. The second part of the struggle is getting him to get undressed. This can take anything from 5 minutes to half an hour. The third part of the struggle is getting him into the bath- last night for example, he decided to make it a quest to fart in every single bedroom (apart from his own) when he should have been getting in the bath. Once he's in the bath, it's often difficult getting him out again. This isn't because the boy has a fetish about being clean, rather he's an adept at prolonging the bed time routine and not going to bed.

I must admit on occasion I've ended up stomping downstairs part way through the routine, shutting myself in the study and having a bit of a shout because it can get rather too stressful. All in all, the process can take as little as twenty minutes or as long as an hour. No guesses for which it tends towards...

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