Sunday, June 29, 2008

Off On Holiday

This June has been the first month since I started this blog that I've only made three posts. Oooops. I'd like to get back into the habit of regular blogging now that the sour taste left by the press association palava is finally starting to diminish...but lately I'm finding I haven't got time.

I stand very little chance of remembering what we've done since the 15th June when I last posted, but here's a brief round up with photos. Tomorrow morning we're off to St Bees for anything up to three weeks, depending how we feel :-))

Summer Solstice/Litha
We had a low key Litha, due to lack of time (recurring theme, lol), but Emily and I did enjoy decorating our festival tree, and Emily made fabby outfits for the God and Goddess, plus spare :-) Mei Lin and Jasmine made fantastic orange summer solstice cookies with us too - they were very scrummy indeed.

Grandad's Birthday
Grandad's 79th birthday was celebrated with a big Chinese meal for all the family, which was much enjoyed.

Emily carried on with her gardens project, doing a lot of work on trees, identifying them, ageing them, drawing them, writing about them, pressing leaves, investigating the uses of wood and learning about the differences between coniferous and deciduous trees, among many other things. She also tried an experiment to see how much water a tree evaporates through its leaves, by sticking a leafy twig in a glass of water topped with oil, against a control glass of just water topped with oil, measuring the surface area of the leaves and seeing how much the water level dropped over a few days.

There was also lots of maths, English, poetry, art and other random happenings that I now can't remember - she was a busy bee, in any case. Oh yes, and we studied bees. In a somewhat astonishing turn around, Emily now loves bees. And in an even more astonishing turn around, Emily now loves spiders. This should cause some amusement to anyone who remembers seeing Emily turning into a sobbing, hysterical wreck whenever a bee ventured within a 50 metre radius of her :-)) I've always liked bees, but I refuse to join the spider love-in, thanks very much, having had to dispose of no less than seven in the last 24 hours. For my benefit, not Emily's. Which is bizarre.

Emily also had fun trying out some of Gramps' ancient (as in, real camera, pre-digital, lol, although since he had these when I was a kid that does make them pretty ancient) camera filters :-)

Grown Up Work
We've had to work our socks off preparing nearly a month's worth of deadline in advance so we can go away tomorrow. It's been horrid. Enough said.

ODP versus BOTW
I've worked as a volunteer editor at the Open Directory Project for the last eight years, working my way up through editall, then meta editor and then finally, in April, I was honoured to be asked by their staff to become one of the small team of administrators/admins. I've donated thousands of hours to work there and I've personally handled well over 100,000 edits. However, about ten days ago I was asked if I'd like to work - for money - at the Best of the Web directory as well. Since the money's quite good, and money is something we desperately need right now, I agreed, and have been impressed with what I've seen there so far.

So far so good. However, there are some senior editors at ODP who are completely obsessed with who is or is not working at BOTW and who tend to make the atmosphere very unpleasant for those who choose to do both. Despite the fact that ODP's staff knew I was working for BOTW and were fine with it, the issue blew up yet again in the forums, with one person in particular throwing around ridiculous accusations and questioning the honesty and loyalty of anybody choosing to work in both projects. Call it childish vindictiveness, if you like. I know I did, and still do. Anyway. I've had enough of the petty politics that seems to obsess too many senior editors at ODP. I resigned my meta and admin privileges, and have gone back to being an editall/catmv editor instead. Those who want to question my integrity now will have to do either behind closed doors in the meta forums (which of course I have resigned access to, so I no longer much care what's said) or to my face in full public view of all editors, either of which is better for my sanity than tolerating being accused under my nose but behind closed doors.

Meanwhile, I'm thoroughly enjoying working at BOTW. One day, ODP will figure out for itself that it needs to crack down on those who adore spreading malaise through the directory and its editors. Until that happens, the problems there will continue. People don't volunteer in order to have that kind of rubbish thrown at them. Resigning those hard won privileges, which I took great pride in, wasn't easy - but I've really had enough. The whole thing ODP vs BOTW thing is such a non-issue, but some people seem to have have nothing better to do than bitch. Throwing hurtful and completely unfounded accusations at someone who's spent as much time and effort there as I have is really not a clever move. I wish ODP nothing but the best, but I will be drastically reducing my time and effort spent there from now on.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Beans, Beach & Birthday Barbecue

Oooh, look, only just over a week since my last post. I'm getting better.

It's been a busy week :-) We had our usual Friday on the 6th June, with Jacki and her girls here for the day, which encompassed lots of maths and word roots activities plus copious amounts of giggling. Last Saturday Emily had her first ever go at cooking an entire meal for the three of us - she made a fantastic bolognese sauce and pasta from scratch, it was superb! She was in her element chopping, slicing, browning, frying, boiling and the like; so much so that we decided that each Saturday from now onwards, she can be in charge of cooking our main meal, so long as she wants to (I'm sure the novelty will soon wear off!).

Sunday the 8th was Jon's birthday. Emily had made him a beautiful card plus some homemade incense sticks and cones, and my Mum and Dad organised a barbeque in the garden to celebrate, which was scrummy. Instead of a birthday cake, Emily and I made his favourite tiramisu and Emily created a chocolate fondue with fruit dips in secret for him too. Emily had a ball that afternoon on the trampoline, posing during staged falls for me to capture on camera, lol. Think she got that idea from one of the photoshoots on either America's or Britain's Next Top Model.

At some point around about then, forgotten which day exactly, she also had lots of fun being soaked by Nana and Gramps with the hosepipe in the garden. As you do.

On the Monday night we went to psychic circle as normal and Emily, Mei Lin, Jasmine and Alex spent a happy few hours drawing, chatting and being frighteningly grown up.

On Tuesday we went to Spurn Point for the day; it was an absolute stunner of a day, and the sands there on the north side are really silky and nice, albeit burning hot under bare feet. I was so busy putting suncream on Emily that I forgot to put any on myself and had the worst sunburn I've ever had, complete with blisters on my arms. Fortunately, it didn't start to hurt until that evening and has now (finally) died down, but it's rather put me off sunshine, I can tell you. Before the pain set in (!) we had a really lovely day, with lots of beachcombing and a picnic. Emily and I played at being castaways on the beach and in the sand dunes, since we were practically the only souls there; Emily and Daddy also did tai chi on the beach and had fun watching the ships. Ships were fascinating, actually - apparently Spurn Point has the only full time manned lifeboat station in the country because the waters around it and into the mouth of the Humber are so iffy; we watched the little white pilot boats going to and fro to escort huge cargo ships; because of the geography of the point, it looks as if the ships are going to crash straight into the beach. At the very end of the spit of land the beach just falls away suddenly into a very deep, turbulent channel and the ships go right past you, so close. Weird!

The other weird thing was that there were caterpillars *everywhere*; every piece of vegetation was covered with them, and they were even crawling on the beaches. It wasn't until we got home that we identified them as caterpillars of the Brown Tailed Moth....and found out that not only are their barbs poisonous, but that they've been in the news as having infested Spurn Point and are causing real problems there. Fortunately, we'd warned Emily not to touch them directly as we weren't sure what they were, otherwise she'd have been keen to pick them up. Anyway, we had a fabulous day and will certainly return there soon. It's very pretty even those it's so close to industry. Shame about the state of the water, but so long as you don't want to paddle, it's great. Emily and Daddy found fossils too.

In Emily's garden project she's been doing lots of work this last week. She's taken spider web prints, learned a lot about spiders and watched a spider documentary; the assorted beans and seeds she "planted" in glasses with blotting paper and cotton wool are doing really well; she's had a lot of fun dissecting an owl pellet and idenifying the bones therein; she has been labelling snails and tracking their movements, and she's been looking at lichen, moss and ferns under the microscope, finding out how their life cycles and writing about them.

Emily has also been making lots of progress with finally learning her times tables :-)) In English, we read Chapter Three of Half Blood Prince and Emily then completely re-wrote the scene where Dumbledore visits the Dursleys - she has an excellent sense of comic writing! Emily has also been doing tons of fashion designing, drawing and story writing in general. There's been lots of reading too, both on her own and Daddy at bedtime; they've just finished Warriors: Power of Three - Outcast, the latest in Emily's much beloved Warrior Cats series, and they're in the middle of Ghost Dogs, the second in the Susan Gates Animal Investigators series.

Day before yesterday we had our normal Friday, this time being our turn to descend on Jacki for the day. Since it was Friday the 13th, we made the most of it with the girls doing so me English work about superstitions, and some history about the witch hunts; they all made their own posters encouraging people to join the witch hunt, with some hilarious results.....there were also some pretty hefty, serious discussions in amongst the laughter while we debated the true horror of what had happened, compared and contrasted the devil-worship view of witches against the reality of pagans and wicca witches, herbalists, healers and so on (with Emily proudly pointing out that she wants to be a witch when she grows up, lol) and some interesting views on religion, God and Christianity.

Yesterday, Emily was a busy bee again; with it being Father's Day today, she's been crafting away and has made three gorgeous cards for Daddy, Grandad and Gramps. She also cooked our main meal yesterday; a fabby vegetable filled fish pie with trifle to follow :-)) which we all enjoyed while watching The Golden Compass DVD.

Being busy looks set to continue; we have Litha to celebrate next Friday, during which we'll be making fairy gardens and salt dough sun symbols with Jacki's girls, then it's Grandad's birthday the day after that, and on the Sunday Emily and Jon are doing a tai chi and qigong demonstration at a summer fair thingy. Then we have one more week of manically trying to meet deadlines before we go away to St Bees for.....oooh....several weeks at least. Says she hopefully :-))

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Potter-ing in the Garden

Potter-ing as in Harry, that is. Prompted by a friend's new interest in Harry Potter, Emily's re-visting an old passion. Well, the passion never really left but there's been slightly less of HP in our lives since last summer once Deathly Hallows had been devoured. He's back now, rofl. We're re-reading Half Blood Prince together and Emily wants to do an English activity based on each chapter as we finish it; she then wants to do the same for Deathly Hallows.

We read the first two chapters on Tuesday and Wednesday; on Tuesday Emily wrote two newspaper articles about the collapsing bridge/unseasonsal mists/murders etc, one from the point of view of the muggles and one from the Daily Prophet. On Wednesday, she wrote a diary entry for Narcissa Malfoy following her visit to see Snape in Spinner's End. Narcissa's visit, that is, not Emily's - although with Emily's soft spot for Snape (why else would kitten Voldemort's brother be called Severus?) I'm sure she would have loved to go along for the ride. All good stuff, very imaginative indeed.

We've also been doing lots more work on Emily's garden project. She built a choice chamber for woodlice and tested to see whether they preferred light or dark, whether they preferred damp or dry, and then which of damp or dark was most important by offering a choice between light/damp vs dark/dry. The woodlice, ultimately, were cleverer than we thought they were and opted for crawling *under* the wet cotton wool in the light half, thereby outwitting the experiment somewhat! Emily has also built a snail home, and we're going to keep track of which snails end up where. An experiment is in progress with various seeds growing against wet cotton wall in tall glass jars; Emily has also been dissecting seeds to see the embryo plants/cotyledons inside. She planted pumpkin seeds in the garden too, to join the veggie patch - the plants sprouted in two days and are growing huge.

Went to Jacki's last Friday and had a great day planning renovations to an old caravan and doing mental maths tricks with the three girls. We also went to the psychic circle as normal on Monday night just gone - Emily had a ball with Mei Lin, Jasmine and Alex, as ever. I had a slightly less wonderful time since an elderly lady there saw fit to give me a huge lecture on why Emily should go back to school. Just what I needed in my current fragile state of mind. Gee, thanks.

It's Jon's birthday on Sunday; we're having a barbecue to celebrate :-)) Mind you, how we're going to buy the food is a bit of a mystery at the moment, considering the BBC still have not paid. We were promised last week that a same day transfer would be made ensuring the money had cleared into our account this Monday. So we wrote cheques. All ten of them bounced. The money didn't arrive. £300 in bank charges. Again. That's about the seventh time they've given us a date and then not followed through. Two days ago we were told again that a same day transfer was taking place immediately AND that a cheque was being sent to us. Neither the cheque not the transfer materialised. I'm so running out of patience and am about to well and truly lose my temper on this one......