Alek’s controllable Christmas lights for Cœliac disease

Kyle and Alek testing the Christmas inflatables
Kyle and Alek testing the Christmas inflatables

Every Christmas Alek Komarnitsky decks his house with over 20,000 lights and covers his lawn with enormous, controllable inflatables.  Controllable by you, that is.  Which you can watch live on one of his three webcams.

Check it out: Alek’s controllable Christmas lights for Celiac disease

Alek’s children have an auto-immune disease called Cœliac disease (spelt “Celiac disease” in North America), and Alek uses his website to raise money for research into the disease. So far he’s raised over US $50,000.

You can make a donation online at the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research.

If you have the time take an explore round the rest of Alek’s website:  It really is one of my favourite websites because, even though it doesn’t have the most sophisticated design, it simply contains so much life and love.

Battlefield Play4Free closed beta

Battlefield Play4Free
Battlefield Play4Free closed beta invitation

Look what email dropped into my inbox the other day: an invitation to the Battlefield Play4Free closed beta.  (I’ve obviously edited the image to remove my “personal beta key”.)

I signed up there and and then and over the course of the next couple of hours I…

According to the Beta Testing Agreement I’m allowed to disclose only two things about it:

  1. The fact that there is an official Beta Program for the Game.
  2. The fact that you are a member of the official Beta Program for the Game.

Okay.  There is an official beta programme for Battlefield Play4Free.  I am a member of that official beta programme.  Am I not even allowed to say that I quite like it?

The Battlefield Play4Free Facebook page will tell you more, though.

Blocking adverts

Gary Marshall's big mouth: Shirt happens
Gary Marshall’s article in .net magazine about blocking adverts … next to an advert for Blacknight Solutions

I haven’t used an advert blocking add-on for my browsers until now, and I haven’t looked back.

In this month’s .net magazine regular journalist Gary Marshall has an article entitled “Shirt happens: When does object handling become outright harassment? Whenever you turn off your ad blocker…”

In the article Marshall described how when browsing from one site to another the adverts… well, followed him!

Being spied on

I’ve had the same experience. You know when you unconsciously just know that something’s not quite right?  I had that feeling while browsing the Web a couple of weeks ago.

I tend to ignore adverts on Web pages but this particular one caught my eye.  I wish I’d taken a screenshot at the time.  It was showing me stuff that I’d been looking at on another site a few minutes before.  Not just similar stuff, the exact same items that I’d been looking at.

I felt I was being spied on.

Gary Marshall again:

The ads are new, and they’re known as retargeting. Cookies track what you’ve looked at and follow you around the internet, shouting at you to look at them.

In theory, they’re supposed to offer extra inducements – “I see you looked at this shirt and decided not to buy it. How would you feel if I make it TWO POUNDS CHEAPER! Oh, mercy me, and here I am with a wife and three children to support” – but in practice it’s just the same things you’ve looked at, thrust in your face again and again and again. The implication is that you’re so utterly stupid, you’ll buy any old crap if you see it often enough.

Avoiding adverts

The fact of the matter is that advertising works, and we really are gullible enough to see something on the telly, or glance at it in a magazine or newspaper, and race out to buy it believing that it will help us become happier, more content, more attractive, cool.  That’s just the way that we’re wired.

However, these days Jane and I don’t tend to watch much live TV any more.  With BT Vision we record most of the programmes we want to watch, and then fast-forward through the adverts.

When listening to the digital music service Spotify I realised the other day that I completely switch off during the adverts.  I stop listening, or distract myself with something else.

It’s not a conscious thing.  I found myself, the other day, thinking it odd that there had been no adverts while I was listening.  And yet I suddenly realised there was an advert playing right now!

I’d just tuned it out.

The same kind of life skill that I see Reuben and Joshua are learning even at the ripe age of two when we tell them that it’s time for bed.

I object to adverts on my clothing. I don’t really like wearing rugby shirts that advertise whisky or stout, because I don’t drink.  Why should I be a free advert for alcohol?

I do notice adverts in magazines, though.


I get a lot of emails inviting me to add ads to my blog or website. I always say no.  Well, not always, I sometimes write back … but that’s another story for another day.

I always say no because, although they could potentially raise a couple of hundred quid a year adverts on blogs just annoy me so I presume that they will annoy other people too.

Besides, I’d have no control over what was being advertised on my website.

So … no adverts now or ever on this blog, folks.

AdBlock plus

Once I’d read Gary Marshall’s article I fired up my PC and installed AdBlock Plus for Google Chrome and AdBlock Plus for Mozilla Firefox.  A couple of tweaks later (to let me watch YouTube videos) and I was off…

I’ve not had a single annoying advert since, and to be honest I really don’t miss them.

Of course, the irony of seeing a piece of software advertised in a magazine which led me to immediately downloading and installing it there and then hasn’t passed me by.

How will you get there, Maisy?

How will you get there, Maisy?
How will you get there, Maisy?

Subtitle: How a children’s book sums up yesterday’s snow

According to the BBC News website we’re in for another very cold night.

I drove in to work this morning, but yesterday—which saw Edinburgh and Glasgow airports closed due to the sheer volume of snow; which saw hundreds of motorists spend the night in their cars due to the disruption on the Scottish roads—I worked from home.

Yesterday evening, at bedtime, I sat with Reuben on his bedroom floor and read him book after book.  We read 5 or 6 books in all, including the book above: How will you get there, Maisy? by Lucy Cousins.

It’s an interactive book, which shows one form of transport and by way of clues invites the child to guess by which form of transport Maisy actually used.  For example,

“How will Charley get to the farm…?

[There are images of a saddle, horseshoes, apples and the words “Clip Clop!”]

By motorbike?

[Lift the flap]

“No… by horse!”

And then I turned the page and read this:

How will Maisy get to the airport...? By sledge?
How will Maisy get to the airport…? By sledge?

How will Maisy get to the airport…? By sledge?


MP3 life prediction

The rules: play your MP3s on random play and answer the questions below with the song titles.

What does next year have in store for me?
A.I.M – The Cooper Temple Clause

What’s my love life like?
Circle & line – Brad

What do I say when life gets hard?
Cheepnis – Zappa Plays Zappa

What song will I dance to at my wedding?
I’m the only gay Eskimo – Tenacious D

What do you want as a career?
Emerald lies – Marillion

Famous last words?
Can’t get enough – Queen + Paul Rodgers

Your favourite saying?
Practice what you preach – Testament

Favourite place?
Under the guillotine – Kreator

What do you think of your parents?
Living on my own – Freddie Mercury

Where would you go on a first date?
Nebakanezer – The Black Crowes

Describe yourself!
Don’t fear me – Less

What is the thing I like doing most?
I’m lost – Steve Lawson

What is my state of mind like at the moment?
The blister exists – Slipknot

How will I die?
Death church – Machine Head