Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Goodbye Tumblr

Tumblr

Tumblr has been in the press this week for their decision to ban all 'photorealistic' visual pornographic content on the platform from December 17th, singling out 'female-presenting nipples' as particularly offensive to its new philosophy. Because, as we all know, female bodies are just inherently sexual.

The move follows Tumblr's removal from the Apple app store on November 16th, because of the site's inability to prevent the upload of CSA imagery.

Calls for Tumblr to improve its filters and respond more proactively to reports of illegal content are nothing new. Porn bots, hate speech, and much much worse have circulated relatively unchallenged for years thanks to a lack of investment in staff moderation and functioning filters. The new bot installed to flag NSFW (not safe for work) content is just more of their standard incompetence; check out the scandalous nature of the post I had flagged by the automated system:

flagged Tumblr post
Same sex love confession and hand holding from the 1928 film Geschlecht in Fesseln

I should probably state here that I have never been a great fan of Tumblr. It's like somebody combined the worst aspects of a bunch of other social media platforms, then mangled them all together to create a spectacularly ugly interface. But, after LiveJournal began purging mature content - on a similarly indiscriminate basis - in 2007, fandom communities started migrating to rival blogging platforms.

The then up and coming Tumblr emerged victorious and, before long, if you wanted to engage in pointless discussions about what the lighting choices in your fave TV show said about how much the protagonists loved each other, your only real choice was to sign up. Now history is about to repeat itself, with countless fannish blogs affected by the new rules, via fanart, movie and TV show gifs, and anything else the site decides is undesirable to advertisers and shareholders.

I've blogged before about my objections to blanket bans on porn - namely that they don't work. Tumblr says that the new rules are about empowering individuality and encouraging creativity. But their own anti-porn bot can't tell the difference between 'female-presenting nipples' and Wart Jr. Tighter TOS and better moderation was something I would have supported, much as I disliked the clunky features and general indifference towards site users. An ill thought out and badly implemented purge is just the final straw.

So it's farewell to Tumblr, hello to whichever platform emerges to replace it as the primary fandom hub!



If you have a Tumblr blog you fear may fall foul of the new policies, you should back it up ASAP. You can also export your Tumblr to WordPress to keep your content online.

Fandom friendly alternatives to Tumblr include Dreamwidth (LiveJournal codefork), Pillowfort (still in beta), and posting your content to AO3 (you need external image hosting for fanart, etc, read more HERE). You can also sign up to Fanlore and make sure all your usernames and fannish social are listed so people can still find you.





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Thursday, 29 November 2018

Marianna Q&A

Interview with Marianna

An interview with Marianna. :)


What Is Your Favourite Colour?  Blue.


What Is Your Favourite Food?  Strawberries.


What Is Your Favourite Treat?  Bubbles!


What Is Your Favourite Subject In School?  Playing in the home corner. There are cups and food.


What Is Your Favourite Sport?  I don't know.


What Is Your Favourite Hobby?  What are hobbies? [Explains - gets nowhere...] Apples. I'm making them at school. We're doing 'ah' for 'apple'.


What Is Your Favourite Movie?  Mary Poppins.


What Is Your Favourite TV Show?  Midge! [1960s kids' classic Mary, Mungo and Midge]

Mary, Mungo and Midge


What Is Your Favourite Book?  Hmm. It's... Charlie Rascal!


What Is Your Favourite Animal?  Giraffes.


What Is Your Favourite Song?  Katy Perry. I like the one where she's wearing a lollipop dress.


What Is Your Favourite Vegetable?  I don't really know.


What Is Your Favourite Fruit?  Grapes.


What Is Your Favourite Place To Visit?  Nanny Wendy's.


Where Do You WANT To Visit Some Day?  A castle.


Who Is Your Best Friend? Lily-May and Kaitlin.


What’s Your Favourite Thing To Do With Dad?  Drawing on his computer.


What’s Your Favourite Thing To Do With Mum?  Cwtch with her.


What’s Your Favorite Thing To Do With Bracken?  Smooth her.


Will You Get Married?  No. Little girls don't get married. [when you grow up?] Yes.


What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? I want to show people how to read. [Presumably having learned how to do so herself first...]


What Is One Thing You Want To Learn How To Do?  Paint.

bear mask


What Is One Of Your Greatest Talents?  Dancing!


What Is Something That You Wish For?  I wish you could be my best friend. [Aww!]


What Is Something You Wonder About?  I wonder about my baby. [Her doll.] I wonder about whether she pooed her nappy.


Who Is Someone That You Miss?  Lily-May. Because I'm not in school.


What Makes You Nervous?  My baby, because she poos in her nappy.


What Makes You Happy?  Drawing in my drawing books. You and daddy and me holding hands. Because we're crossing the road. And we're going to the park with a roudabaout, and a see-saw, and a climbing frame. And a swing!


What Age Do You Look Forward To – And Why?  4. Because I want presents for my birthday.




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Saturday, 17 November 2018

Fake It 'Til You Make It

Threatin CDs - from https://www.threatin.com/

I have been avidly following the story of Threatin this week, a big American rock band responsible for the smash hit 'Living is Dying'. Never heard of it? Well, Threatin are actually just a dude named Jered Eames who faked his way to a European tour. Seriously. You can read the full expose at Metal Sucks, but the short version goes like this:


Friday, 16 November 2018

Christmas Gift Appeals

Spread the Joy this Christmas with Charity Gift Appeals

I don't think anyone would argue against the idea that Christmas is more commercialised than ever. The average spend per child is now nudging £200, and research suggests that most of us won't finish paying for this Christmas until at least next April.

For some this kind of spending - or anything like it - simply isn't an option though. Across the UK over 120,000 children will spend Christmas homeless in temporary accomodation, or worse, and over 70,000 in the care of their local authority.

In Torfaen, social services run an annual Santa Appeal to ensure some of our most vulnerable children and young people don't miss out at Christmas. To take part you need to ring 01633 647539; you will be given the first name and age of the child, and a reference number to put on your donation. Gifts must be left unwrapped so they can be checked, but a donation of wrapping paper or gift bags is very appreciated! Once your gift is ready, you need to take it to one of the three drop off points by Monday 3rd December.

Cwmbran Library, Gwent Square, Cwmbran Shopping Centre, NP44 1PL.
TYPSS, The Studio, Oldbury Business Estate, Cwmbran NP44 3JU.
Civic Centre, Glantorvaen Road, Pontypool, NP4 6YN.

You can also donate non-perishable food to make up hampers for young people aged 16 and over who are living alone. In fact, food donations - along with essentials like toiletries, loo roll, nappies and sanitary products - are desperately needed throughout December and January when pressure on food banks is at its highest. Check out the Eastern Valley Foodbank website to find out where your nearest drop off point is.

If you don't live in Torfaen, or are unable to spare much, there are plenty of other options to help you spread the joy this Christmas. (There are so many good causes out there that it's impossible to include them all, so in this post I have focused on those which involve donations of objects, or money for a tangible thing - eg. £10 to buy a toy, animal sponsorship, etc - rather than just general cash donations.)


Christmas Presents


APPEALS WITHIN THE UK

In addition to googling for your local appeals, there are some UK wide schemes which would be grateful for your help.

 Salvation Army Christmas Present Appeal. Donate new and unwrapped toys and gifts for children who might not otherwise receive them. You can generally drop them off at your nearest Salvation Army church.

 Giving Tree. Run by KidsOut, this scheme involves donating gifts worth £5 - £10 (or cash) which are then distributed to children in refuges. The idea is that it replaces 'secret santa' exchanges at work, but individuals can take part too.

 Cash For Kids - Mission Christmas. Operating across Scotland, England, and N. Ireland, this scheme asks for the donation of a new and unwrapped child's gift and drop it off at a local participating store.

 Refuge. Committed to safeguarding women and children against domestic abuse, Refuge enable people to buy individual gifts or parcels to help the charity's service users - these range from Christmas dinner (£5) to law parcels offering legal support (£100). In return Refuge sends out a thank you card which you can then gift to friends and relatives.

 MHA Christmas Friendship Appeal. MHA are a charity which runs care homes and retirement living complexes across England and Wales, and every year they appeal for people to send Christmas cards so that each of their residents can receive an unexpected Christmas greeting. This is such a lovely scheme that even those who couldn't otherwise afford to donate can get involved in.


Presents


APPEALS AROUND THE WORLD

 Operation Christmas Child. This is probably the best known gift appeal in the UK, the idea being that you fill a shoebox with presents and essentials which is then shipped off to needy children. The format is particularly well suited to schools, and over the years I've taken part numerous times. However the cut off date is relatively early - November 18th this year - and there is some controversy over Samaritan's Purse, the evangelical US organisation which runs it.

 Link To Hope. Another Christian shoebox appeal, but this one doesn't include evangelical literature with the boxes and does not discriminate when it comes to their distribution across Eastern Europe. The nice thing about this scheme is that you can also do boxes for the whole family, or for the elderly, which broadens out the scope for getting involved. Registration has closed for 2018, but it might be one to keep in mind for next year.

 Good Gifts. 'Changing lives one gift at a time.' The great thing about this scheme is that you can be sure you're purchasing something the recipient needs with your donation - be that song sheets for a community choir (£12), or a toilet block for a school in Africa (£450).

 Oxfam Unwrapped. There is a huge range of charity gifts available here; from a poverty busting pig (£23) to a pile of poo (£12)! You go ahead and buy the thing online, and then Oxfam sends you a gift card to present to your friends and family. You can add on little extras to go with the card like flower seeds or chocolates too. I've bought Marianna a chicken through it this year. :)

 AquaBox. Raise funds for emergency aid boxes and water filtration kits. Another similar scheme is ShelterBox which provides tents, thermal blankets, and other emergency supplies.


Animals at Christmas


ANIMALS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

 Adopt an Animal. These schemes make great gifts for people because they tend to include lots of extras, such as cuddly toys or regular updates on the animal's welfare. No matter what kind of animal you're interested in, there's a package out there for you! Providers include Durrell, WDCWWF, Born Free, World Horse Welfare, Wildlife Aid, Wildlife TrustBlue Cross, and more. Many farms and zoos run an adoption scheme too, so check out your local one for further info.

 Protect the Environment. You can buy acres of rainforest to protect them from development, help species conservation, or dedicate a tree, woodland or bench to someone special. (No judgement if the someone is yourself!) There are a number of charities which offer this kind of service, including World Land TrustWoodland Trust, and Kew Gardens. Local councils and parks also tend to offer tree adoption and suchlike, so check out those close to you.





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Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Review: Angel & Rocket

Angel and Rocket Review

Angel & Rocket is a family run childrenswear brand with an online store and a boutique in Marlow. Launched in 2014 the brand has gone from strength to strength, with a babywear range and party pieces available at John Lewis, Next and Coast. I was lucky enough to win a £50 voucher recently from The Frenchie Mummy and couldn't wait to put it to good use!

Marianna has been, er, gently reminding me for months now that she wants a 'Pollyanna' dress. I've only myself to blame for introducing her to Hayley Mills' back catalogue. Still, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to fulfill the request. There are some absolutely gorgeous party dresses on the website, but the most Pollyanna-esque was deemed to be the Agnes Check Dress with Detachable Sequin Collar (£38).

Agnes Check Dress with Detachable Sequin Collar

The dress is so cute, and I liked that the detachable collar meant it had added value. The collar does up with popper fastenings and can be worn under any dress. 100% cotton, the dress is also machine washable which is always good news when it comes to kids' clothes.

I was really impressed with the website. It's well designed and very easy to use, and the product images are nice and clear. I liked that they included the model's age and height, as a visual aid to the sizing. Originally I was going to get an Age 5 but, because Marianna's so tall and quickly growing, I went for the 6 instead based on this.

To use up the voucher I also got the pretty Tilly Floral Hooded Blanket (£12) to put away for future gift giving purposes. The only niggle I had was that although free shipping is offered on orders of £50 or over, the way the cart is set up means once you've applied the voucher you then have to pay postage (£4.50) because your order is now deemed to be below the limit.

Angel and Rocket Dress

Anyway, our order arrived beautifully wrapped and we decided to give the dress its first outing last night, for the Remembrance service at Holy Trinity Church. The quality is excellent, and the little touches like the gold zip tag make it feel special. Marianna looked adorable in it - which was just as well. The moment the minute's silence started Marianna began telling me, in an ever louder and more frustrated tone, that her feet were too hot.

I think everyone knew by the time it was over...

Angel and Rocket Childrenswear

Check out the range for yourself at the Angel & Rocket website!



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Sunday, 4 November 2018

This Week - Nov 4th 2018

Say well is good - But do well is better.
Life This Week

It was half term this week so I had a few days off - which was probably harder work what with Marianna home all the time too! I was hoping to get a lot of writing done but it just didn't happen. Anthony fell down the stairs on Thursday and sprained his ankle, so any hope of getting some time to myself over the weekend went up in smoke.

We had a little party at my mum's on Wednesday evening for Halloween - you can see the pictures HERE - and Saturday was pretty busy, with a daffodil bulb planting session in Pontnewydd Park in the morning followed by our monthly councillor ward surgery. In the afternoon I took Marianna back up to Mt Pleasant Hall for Holy Trinity Church's Christmas Bazaar. I spent about £12 and came back laden down with goodies.

The vicar at Holy Trinity, Canon Harald Thomas, was my chaplain when I was Mayor (as well as delivering many fondly remembered assemblies back when I was in primary school) and is generally just the nicest guy. He played the part of Father Christmas for the children - Marianna hasn't stopped talking about her chat with Santa since. :)

Today has been really quiet, just chilling at my mum's and suffering Marianna's choice in viewing material. I did manage to get out for a bit in the afternoon though, to go and help David put up some lamp post poppies around Pontnewydd Village. Thankfully David was the one climbing the ladder. I'm missing Remembrance Day this year as I'm going to a friend's wedding, so it helped me feel a little less guilty about it!

Photo of the Week
TBA

On the Blog

Anthony reviewed a couple of items from Jacamo's AW18 range.


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Thursday, 1 November 2018

Halloween 2018

Halloween 2018

Marianna and me, all dressed up for Halloween...

Northville Community Group were hosting a party at the Working Mens club but we had to give it a miss - Marianna is still absolutely terrified of just about everything associated with the holiday. 'Mascots' (i.e. anything in a mask/costume) are her number one fear, which made for lots of tearful screaming fits as we made the rounds of local fetes, fairs, and festivals over the year!

Marianna with creepy doll face paint

So we had a little party at home instead, and got her involved with doing the face paint, etc, to see that it wasn't real. Anthony did her make up in the early afternoon, as a zombie princess, then after it had mostly rubbed off through play I redid it as a creepy doll before the 'party'.

Then I got to paint my mum green and give her warts and a monobrow. :D

Halloween Witches

Even Bracken got into the spirit!

Dog in witch hat

By the end of the evening Marianna was opening the door herself to trick and treaters, and announced that next year she wanted to go with all the other kids.

What did you do for Halloween this year? :)







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Monday, 29 October 2018

Review: Jacamo AW18 Menswear

Jacamo Menswear

We've been lucky enough to work with Jacamo menswear in the last week, testing out a couple of products from their AW18 range. Seeing as Anthony was the one getting the benefit of this, I made him put the work in and write a review of his choices...

Today I tried on the new deliveries that I’d got from Jacamo. My previous experience of Jacamo extended no further than the adverts featuring Johhny Vegas, so I was pretty pleased to see an easy to use site with a pretty decent looking inventory, that, most importantly, actually carried my size, because the problem that I have is that something is either in my size, or I like how it looks, never both.

I had a long look about the site and for my first purchases I chose the Eterna Double Cuff Formal Shirt (in plain white, size 18 1/2) and the Suede Look Chukka Boots (a size 10 in Tan).

Jacamo Eterna Double Cuff Formal Shirt

I wear a white shirt most days, its part of the uniform for me, suit, tie and starched white shirt, so the Eterna Double Cuff Shirt was something that has to hold up through meetings, public events, and still look good at the end of the day and beyond to the post meeting drinks. And this shirt manages to do just that, the design of the shirt is a solid quality, with a stiff collar that shouts respect, and a plain front that can be worn as is, or be accessorised with ties, waistcoats or whatever.

The added bonus of this shirt is that being made for the taller gentleman, I’m finding that I have enough length in the sleeve, but also I’m finding that the extra length on the torso manages to get over my somewhat substantial gut, which is often a concern I need addressed when buying clothes.

Jacamo Formal Shirt

As for the boots they generally meet my criteria for a really good shoe. Comfortable, looks good, and is inexpensive, normally I have to settle for Two out of Three of these criteria, but in this case I was pleasantly surprised, to hit that high benchmark, the boots really are pretty comfortable, I’ve worn them while walking to meetings and the comfort doesn’t seem to fade, and in terms of looks, the chukka boot is always a classic look, and as for the quality of shoe itself, I know its marketed as suede look, but I honestly don’t think that I could tell the difference, the boots are that well made.

Jacamo Tan Boots

It was a pleasure to use Jacamo and I think I’ll be returning after pay day, as being a bit of a clotheshorse its good to know that there’s well stocked website that carries my size.




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Saturday, 27 October 2018

Trampoline Dream

Trampoline

My mum's next door neighbours have a trampoline. So, basically since the moment Marianna was born, she has wanted Marianna to have one too. I finally gave in and agreed that we'd get a trampoline for Marianna's fourth birthday in January.

Then a super good deal came up online so, even though it's still a birthday present, we put it up this weekend. I say we... My input was sorting out the straps on the anchoring kit and taking some photos. Rhys and my dad did the bulk of the work, with my mum and Hannah there for additional support.

Putting up the trampoline

The pics do not lie, by the way. It was absolutely freezing! Not that Marianna cared, of course. She spent the whole time playing happily in the cardboard box the trampoline came in...

Cardboard Box Fun

The original plan was to put the trampoline in the space behind the washing line, but it wasn't quite big enough. Because the thing is huge, seriously. (It's actually 8ft.) On the plus side it takes up a big chunk of garden I'll no longer have to pretend to care about. The garden is great for Marianna but a neverending chore for me!

Still, in about two hours the trampoline was up and ready for business. According to Marianna it's the best present she's ever had, and even a couple of big kids couldn't resist trying it out...

Trampoline Fun

Trampolining



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Friday, 26 October 2018

Up The Rocket

Rocket Reward Chart

Ever since starting nursery proper Marianna has been obsessed with the nursery version of the school's DOJO rewards system. They have a rocket chart the kids can move up and down for being kind and helpful - or otherwise! A couple of weeks ago Marianna made it to the top of the rocket and got to pick a bottle of bubbles from the treatbox, taking the obsession to whole new levels.

To take advantage of her interest we decided we'd set up our own rocket at home, so as I wasn't in work today we spent a few hours making the chart and decorating the treat boxes. I busted out our Messy Me splashmat and gave Marianna free reign on the latter, using some old storage boxes I had knocking about. The, er, interesting sludge colour was her own choice and, apparently, is very 'beautiful'.

Painting

Originally I was more ambitious about the rocket but in the end I went with A4 size to stick on the fridge. It took long enough as it was, especially as we had to make another to use at my mum's house. I decided on seven steps for the rocket, so we could use it on a weekly basis. Well, barring any catastrophic meltdowns!

Rocket Reward Chart In Progress

Time will tell how effective it will be long term, but so far it's working well in terms of calming toddler tantrums.



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Saturday, 22 September 2018

Out West

old timey photo time

We had one of those olde timey photos taken at Coney Beach Pleasure Park while we were on holiday in Porthcawl. I look so bad in it! - but Rhys fit right in!

Friday, 14 September 2018

EU Copyright Directive

EU Flag

I'm staunchly pro-EU. I firmly believe that Brexit will be a disaster.

And yet the European Parliament just keeps on doing things that force me to sympathise with my Brexiteer neighbours.

This week they voted in favour of another example of ridiculous overkill legislation in the form of the new copyright directive. As it currently stands it could mean an almost blanket ban on user generated content ranging from critiques, parodies, reviews, memes, reaction gifs, etc.

Article 13 insists upload filters will now automatically search databases of copyrighted material and delete infringements. How these filters will be able to distinguish between 'fair dealing' and outright content theft is anyone's guess. Once you factor in the complexities of local copyright law across all EU member states #13 goes from ambitious to laughable. You only have to look at the problems with YouTube's Content ID to understand some of the difficulties an even larger scale filter will face.

YouTube

Article 11 wants to charge people a 'link tax' for sharing news stories. This move 'shall not prevent legitimate private and non-commercial use of press publications by individual users', which would suggest that blogs, rss feeds, internet celebs, websites running paid ads, etc, can all still be expected to stump up cash for the right to include quotes or information about where that link is taking their audience. Spain already tried a watered down version of this which went about as well as you might expect - Google closed the Spanish version of Google News and traffic to news sites fell by as much as 14%.

Other worrying features of the directive include handing event organisers the copyright of all pictures taken at an event. This would technically forbid you from uploading even a selfie taken at a football match or music festival. Although, again, how enforceable this would be is highly debatable.

The real worry is that rather than comply with complicated and restrictive legislation, providers may simply choose to geoblock their services. We already saw it in response to GDPR, and we will doubtless see it again. The difference will be that instead of blocking access to sales, the copyright directive will be focused on curtailing freedom of expression and restricting the flow of news and information.

There is still time for tweaking of wording and clarification between now and the final vote likely to take place early next year. Here's to hoping common sense prevails and we see significant watering down to both Article #11 and #13.



How did your MEP vote? You can find out HERE. The four Welsh MEPs voted as so:

Derek Vaughan - Labour - FOR.
Nathan Gill - UKIP - AGAINST.
Kay Swinburne - Conservative - FOR.
Jill Evans - Plaid Cymru - AGAINST.



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Monday, 10 September 2018

First Day of Nursery

first day at nursery

Today was Marianna's first day at nursery proper. (She's already been going to playgroup and then Rising Threes for a year.) How cute does she look in her uniform?

I can't believe how quickly she's growing up now!

Saturday, 1 September 2018

30 Days of Detroit: Become Human

30 Days of Detroit Become Human Tag Challenge

Detroit: Become Human is the latest PS4 release from French game developer Quantic Dream. Set in 2038, Detroit has become the manufacturing centre for CyberLife androids - used for everything from childcare to university lecturers. You follow three android protagonists: Kara, a housekeeper android determined to save her child charge from her abusive father; Markus, a one of a kind prototype destined to lead the android revolution; and Connor, a prototype detective android tasked with locating and deactivating 'Deviant' androids who can think and feel.

It's totally immersive and is really forming the basis of my fannish life right now - so many options, so many outcomes! - so here's a 30 Day Tag adapted from one I found on Tumblr.

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