Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Social Network Reviewed

Mike and I watched The Social Network again this weekend and I realised we haven't reviewed it before, so here it is, our thoughts on the third time of watching.

It is worth saying that I am a social network junkie. I have a facebook account with 454 friends (as of today); I tweet as myself, as a blogger and as a careers advisor; I blog and even vlog occassionally.   I have reconnected with friends online and I've made friends online.  I get social networking. 

Mike was an internet early explorer, he introduced me to the online world; but he prefers to stay as an internet lurker.  He reads discussion boards, reads the news online, watches tv online, but he does not wish to share anything of himself online.  He does not get social networking.

That said, we both loved the film; first time, second time and this time.
The casting is perfect, the acting believable and the story compelling.  We of course have no idea how realistic the film comes to real life; but it certainly captivates, intrigues and captures what social networking is all about.  But it does so much more than that.  The film shows how hard it can be for those who see the world differently and set out to change what they can; there's misunderstanding, alienation, upset, despair, hope, dashed hopes, complicated relationships and confusion.  Facebook was a step change in friendships, and it has changed the world forever; but amidst that it has not as yet provided the happiness the founder desired in the arena of human relationships.

The film shows how ideas are never as simple as being completely original, how complex it is to separate one person's idea from anothers and how complicated our lives of intellectual property rights have become.  In reality can anyone ever say their idea in the 21st century is completely original?  Every tune is based on chords set out hundreds of years ago, every plot has been told before, every character has been lived somewhere.  But is that a bad thing?  No, there is always room for change and development, but only some of the ability to bring that about.

The story of facebook's development also demonstrates how money can destroy friendships and lives, even when it is of very little importance to some of those people.  Greed and power take over so easily, and in their wake lie broken hearts and friendships.

Wow, this is less of a review and more of a social commentary.

Can you tell we liked the film, and it got us thinking and talking.  What more can you ask for.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Origami for children

Rachel was given the book "Origami for Children" for her birthday.

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I had put off trying to have a go with Rachel, expecting it to be fiendishly difficult, but I was wrong. Every project is ranked by difficulty as 1, 2 or 3. We started at the simplest and created a cat, a dog and a penguin in quick succession.

Basking in our success I gave in to Rachel's pleas for an origami balloon and was completely dumbfounded when it inflated as promised in the final step.

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The book is everything it promises in the title; origami for children with the instructions and paper you need to make one of each. We are mighty impressed with our creations

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Rachel tells a joke she wrote

Rachel's first silent sunday

The photography bug

We gave Rachel our old camera for christmas, she was thrilled with it and used it a bit on and off but in reality the menus were all a bit much for her. But over the summer she really got interested; she started working out how to zoom and became fascinated in what things look like when you photograph them from different positions and distances.

It's been fantastic to watch and it's taught me a lot, together we've explored and learned and produced some photos I wouldn't expect - just wait for silent sunday coming up.

Here she is concentrating on getting a shot of her decorated bug art work

And taking a photo of me taking a photo of her

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Leaves, conkers and more

Over the last four years we have been collecting autumn treasures; this is our autumn collection. I know we're far from alone in collecting conkers and acorns and autumn leaves; but Rachel refuses to let them go and needed a way of keeping her collection safe throughout the year and beyond. This is how we have retained our collection over the years.

We collect them, dry them on the windowsill. Then I dry them some more in the oven for a few hours at a very low temperature. After they've cooled I varnish them in clear nail varnish, perfect.

The acorns are the simplest, they just need drying on the side and then in the oven. I tried varnishing them but it made them look very strange, so we leave them au-naturel.

By the far the biggest risk and the greatest success has been the laminating of leaves. It was four years ago, when Rachel was just two, that we had the most amazing autumn colour. We spent days and days collecting leaves, it became her activity of choice for many weeks. These leaves were truly beautiful and I wanted to preserve them. I tried varnishing them but they fell apart. I tried drying them but that was disastrous. And with no other option left I decided I might as well try laminating them; and what a success it was. It was easy, quick and four years on they remain as beautiful as the day they were collected.

We adore our autumn collection and I use it with kids throughout the year as a way of bringing a tactile factor to their play. Have a go, bring that aumtumnal joy to your house all year around.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Save the children #healthworkers campaign

Every year 8 million children under the age of five die. They are dying of completely avoidable causes, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. No parent should see their child die because they can’t get basic treatment.

On Tuesday the world leaders are meeting at the United Nations, and Save the Children are calling on David Cameron to set an example to the rest of the world. They’re asking him to put health workers at the heart of his government’s plans to save children’s lives in poor countries. 

Today I signed the Save the Children petition, and today I am asking you to do the same. There are currently just over 40,000 signatures on the petition. Save the Children would like 60,000 by the time of the summit. That’s two days away. Two days to get all those signatures. 

Can we do it? 
With the help of us all they can! 
Together we can make a difference.

If you believe that no child is born to die, please sign the petition, and keep the politicians working towards that goal.

To support this campaign the bloggers @helloitsgemma and @michelletwinmum are trying to get 100 bloggers linked up with a 100 word meme before Tuesday.

What you need to do:
1. Go sign the petition NOW! http://e-activist.com/ea-campaign/clientcampaign.do?ea.client.id=7&ea.campaign.id=11203&ea.param.extras=tracking:website

2. Write your 100 words about a great health professional you have encountered in your life. Add a link to the petition and include some information from Save the Children about the #Healthworkers campaign at http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/50_health-workers-save-lives.htm 

3. Link to a number of other bloggers and ask them to do the same.

4. Link your blog post up to @michelletwinmum blog by Tuesday at http://mdplife.blogspot.com/2011/09/lets-make-chris-proud-will-you-join-us.html

4. Tell the world; by Tweet or facebook or good old word of mouth.

My 100 words:
A great health worker is my topic, the trouble is that I'm not sure which to pick.  It could be my midwife who cared for Rachel and I through her pregnancy.  Or the special care nurses who saw her through from the brink of exhaustion to strong enough to come home with us.  Or the health visitor who helped me deal with my miscarriage grief and post natal depression.  Or perhaps my GP who holds my complex health needs gently in the palm of her hand.  But really I want to celebrate the much derided NHS which provides free at the point of need health care for us all.  A fact we don't fully value and which most of the world only dream of.

Chess club beats MindLab

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If you have kids at school in the UK then I'm sure you've had fliers home and the hard sell from Mind Lab UK.  They are an organisation which brings strategy games into school as a chargeable extra curricular activity amid promises that it'll help your child's education.

I know many people love them and its popular with the kids, but I've been suspicious of them from the start.  

First off it was the way their fliers stated they were providing input to the curriculum, as if they were providing a free service.  Of course it's no such thing; the club is at a price and if the school want them in classes that's no where near free either.

Secondly it was the fact they ran taster sessions with the kids who came home saying "please can we do mind lab, we'll do better at school.". I calmly explained to Rachel that it's just playing clever games and we cox do that at home.  To which she responded "no you can't, these are special games".

Thirdly it is the fact that when I looked in detail at their offerings it is literally no more beneficial than playing Draughts, Chess or Backgammon with your kids.  It's about planning strategies and holding future possibilities in your mind whilst acting now.

So I taught Rachel chess and she took to it like a duck to water.  I've also taught her draughts and she loves the way she can play it with friends.  It's not rocket science, it's fun and guess what ... It's free!

We play games as a family; anything from scrabble to monopoly through UNO and top trumps with chess, draughts and dictionary in the mix.  It is time together which has it's obvious benefits; it teaches losing and winning; it helps with concentration and strategy and I'm sure it ticks a number of numeracy and literacy targets as well.

If I had a choice I'd choose chess club over mind lab every time; now if only I could find the time to organise one.  Watch this space.

Silent Sunday

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Silent Sunday

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Commercialised childhood

I was reading a BBC News article this morning about the way advertisers are changing the way they advertise to and with children.  There are a thousand words I could write on the article theme alone, but they all paled into insignificance when I read this:

An Advertising Association spokesman said "the commercial world is a big part of what makes childhood enjoyable and fun."

When did the world become so skewed that anyone would say the commercial world makes childhood fun?  In my opinion children should be shielded from the commercial world for as long as possible.

Sure they require and enjoy things we purchase for them, but in terms of actually enjoying the commerciality which dominates our life...no, not at all what I want for my child.  What makes childhood enjoyable and fun is play and exploration and social interaction and learning. 

The sad thing is that so many parents now think that..
Play = toys
Exploration = kits
Social Interaction = talking about tv or messaging on the DS
Learning = learning platforms

Don't get me wrong, I have all those things in my house; I adore toys, love kits and am a blogger so clearly enjoy online life; but I also know that for Rachel ....

Play = imagination
Exploration = nature and life 
Social interaction = talking and playing
Learning = endless questions

We don't watch adverts on TV and I only allow certain websites for Rachel, ones with advertising are banned.

The commercial world is a part of our lives and that includes Rachel but it is part of life education.  She has pocket money and has learned to save up for anything she'd like to buy.  We have helped her understand that credit cards aren't unlimited money but a way of spending money we earn and save.  She understands that many children in the world have nothing and she's extremely lucky.  

I accept that all children in the western world are commercialised, but I hope and pray it's not a key part of their enjoyment and fun.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Crayola Bug Rocks

Rachel was given the Bug Rocks project kit by Crayola for her birthday.  

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She was thrilled because we've given the kit to other people as presents but she's never had one herself.

I managed to convince her not to try it after Beavers last night, so she made a beeline for it straight after school today.  She was so excited to find out what was inside, there were:
- 4 rocks
- yellow, red, pink and black pens
- decoration stickers
- feet, wings, antennae and eyes
- a game board with dice

After an hour of designing, colouring, sticking and perfecting Rachel had created her own bug rock

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Rachel gives the kit 10/10.

And me; I'm thrilled that it's as good as I hoped when I gave it to other kids.  But mostly I'm loving the fact that this quite prescriptive craft kit inspired Rachel to create her own bug rock baby with a smaller rock she had and the pens in the kit.

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Great kit and fabulous inspiration.

Brooklands Museum

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This week Rachel's year went to Brooklands Museum as part of their transport milestone.  I was lucky enough to go with them and enjoyed every minute.

We were broken into small groups and shown around by one of the museum volunteers.  We started off in the automotive hanger and the kids were allowed to sit in an Ayrton Senna Formula One car.  

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(Me jealous? No!)

From there the adults got even more excited; it was time to go into Concorde, a real live now grounded Concorde.  

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The kids thought it was cool, but it was the adults who really appreciated it.

We saw the first ever British plane, some fighter planes and a bomb or two before moving over to the motorbike and bicycle exhibits.  The kids even got to try riding a penny farthing.

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The kids had half an hour in the educational area in their groups; here they explored a dinky toy sized Brooklands Track, dressed up as aviators in a cock pit.

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They tried an old fashioned phone and even the joys of type writers.  

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A lot of fun was had.

As you'll know if you read our blog, we love Beaulieu; but there's a lot to be said for it's smaller, lower key cousin at Brooklands.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Thirsty Thursday

Today is Thirsty Thursday and I am mighty thirsty for anything but GAVISCON!
I have drunk more gaviscon in the last 18 hours than I have since I was pregnant; and no, I'm not pregnant.

I have had a cough for 9 weeks,
a cough which annoys most of the time,
makes me sick some of the time,
catches my breathe too often
and last night constricted my breathing enough to make me collapse.

And the solution that the fabulous emergency doctor suggested......Gaviscon.
It appears that the reflux of my infancy has returned, joy.
So today I am dreaming of a drink that would quench my thirst and cool my reflux; any ideas?

Why I Blog Hop

I like to blog hop, not every day or necessarily every week; but every month or so.  For me it's not about getting new visitors or increasing my blog traffic or increasing my followers.

I blog hop because I like finding new blogs and reading other people's thoughts.

You could say that I'm naturally nosey, and to be honest I'd be hard pushed to deny that; but I prefer to say that I am a people person and I like to connect with other people.

Bassgiraffe's Thoughts Thursday Blog Hop So that's me; why do you blog hop?

Very unsure about the new blogger interface

I'm starting to sound like someone twice my age...... I'm not sure about this new fangled interface.

I promise I do not automatically reject new ideas or inventions; in fact I'm usually the opposite.
BUT.... This new "intuitive, user friendly" interface is far too minimal for me. 
Where are all the options?
I used to know where everything was and now I'm having to start again.

Rant over, I'm off to practice and learn to get used to it :)
Emma (temporarily 74)

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Ladybird celebration

Ladybirds are held in high esteem in our house; I love them and so does Rachel.  In fact we live round the corner from a "ladybird bush" which seems to be the local hangout for ladybirds of all sort.

So imagine Rachel's joy when she saw this article in Granny's paper:

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A 13 spotted ladybird, back from the brink of extinction.  Fabulous news, we will be on the look out to see when they arrive in our neck of the woods