Monday, 28 July 2014

Reusable vs Disposable

Greetings underlings! This is informative message, so listen up.

Ok, hang on. This is a talk about periods. So any of you uncomfortable with that idea, feel free to shush and get over it. It’s a thing, it happens to half the population twelve (ish) times a year and are a part of that cycle which can create new life.

There are lots of more icky things I could talk about.

SO, now that’s out of the way, I want to discuss the various types of protection. No, wait, come back. SIT.

The truth is, most of what you find on the supermarket shelves are awful. They’re bad for environment, they’re bad for your wallet and they’re not exactly that nice on your body, whatever their marketing campaigns say. Tampons (I said sit!) are bleached to within an inch of their life and you put that inside of you.

But lets just focus on the environmental aspect for a small moment. Every single pad and tampon you use ends up in landfill. We’ve stopped chucking away bottles, cans, cardboard and food, amongst other things and yet we still buy one-use sanitary protection. Why? Because there isn’t any alternative?

If you answered yes to that question, then I have news for you. Because there are alternatives and all of them are better for you in almost every way.

For those of you comfortable with the idea of tampons, there is the Mooncup, made of soft medical grade silicon. It’s comfortable, safe and much more effective. Tampons can leave fibres behind, cause dryness and, as mentioned before, they’re bleached white. And, worst of all, they have been linked with TSS or Toxic Shock Syndrome. Don’t know what that is? Here’s a quote from Better Health:

Women who have their period (are menstruating) are most likely to get TSS, as it is thought to be associated with tampon use. The underlying mechanisms are not fully understood, but one theory is that the bacteria naturally present in the vagina can over-grow in the presence of a blood-soaked tampon.

The Mooncup, on the other hand, doesn’t actually take in the blood and because it’s made of silicone, there’s nothing for bacteria to grab onto. (Stop me if I’m getting too scientific.)

It does take a few attempts to get it placed right but then can any of us say we got to grips with tampons on day one? Once you have it where you want it, the likelihood of seepage is very slight. Tampons, on the other hand, have a capacity and, once that’s reached, it’ll hold no more. When you decide to empty the Mooncup, it has a stem you can pull – much like the string tampons have but which sits inside of you a lot better. Just wash it out – if you’re using a public toilet, the advice is to take a bottle of water or to wipe it out with toilet paper – and simply re-insert. For more information, I heartily suggest checking out their website,

But the main message? A single Mooncup is around £20 and will last you a very, very long time. Depending on what brand you use, how heavy your period is and how long it normally lasts, you could be seeing the financial benefit within a year, perhaps two. It’s brilliant for the environment – even the packaging can be recycled – and at no point do you have to worry about what it’s doing to your body.

So that’s the Mooncup but what about those of you who prefer pads? Well, take a quick skip around the internet with the words ‘reusable sanitary pad’. There are a lot of sites out there who’ll supply you with well made, comfortable, beautiful and, most importantly, reusable pads, from Ebay to places like GladRags, an American company specifically set up to provide sustainable solutions. Find them at . Sadly their postage and packaging for countries other than their own are a little too high for me, but there are plenty of UK based sellers too.

These pads are generally designed with the environment, your body and your wallet in mind. Yes, they are more expensive than buying disposable but, much like the Mooncup, the initial money spent is recouped by not having to buy more. You clean them by chucking them in the washing machine – don’t use conditioner in the wash or the pad won’t be as absorbent – giving them a bit of a stretch when they come out and putting them somewhere to dry. GladRags will sell you a special soaking pot if your pads need a bit of extra help to get the stain out. And yes, they will stain a little over time but the patterned ones generally help disguise that somewhat and, if you wash them quickly enough, you may never get a stain at all. You can get pads in all the various types that are on offer as disposables, including everyday panty liners.

Personally, I use a Mooncup and, aside from the occasional starting issue of placing it, I haven’t looked back. Because I’m a bit paranoid, I use a panty liner during the first few days, just in case. It works incredibly well for me and I feel a lot better for having made the switch. Aside from any other issue, I don’t have to fret about rushing to the supermarket because I’ve run out.

If you use disposables, it’s time to reconsider. If you want to see what others think, check out GladRags and Mooncup for review after review of women who changed over to reusables and couldn’t be happier.

You won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Mini Companion Cube™ Instruction Manual

Thank you for buying the Aperture Science Mini Companion Cube™ 

Please read the following pages to familiarise yourself with all aspects of your Mini Companion Cube™.

The benefits of owning Mini Companion Cube™ 

-Heavy enough to hold down a whole piece of paper
-More portable than the average sized weighted companion cube
-Will soak up all the love and affection you desire to give it.*
- Mini Companion Cube™ can absorb radiation and it is advised to use your Mini Companion Cube™ in the event of nuclear fallout. If death occurs, please return faulty Mini Companion Cube™ to the Apeture Science laboratories for testing along with your receipt.

*Apeture Science is not responsible for the Mini Companion Cube™ in any way and cannot be held accountable if the Mini Companion Cube™ does not return your affections.

Care of your new Mini Companion Cube™
Apeture Science recommends the following products to keep your Mini Companion Cube™ happy and healthy for life:
- Specifically designed to release a citrus smell when squeezed, the Aperture Science HappyLemon™ will entertain and please your Mini Companion Cube™ and keep its coat looking shiny. (HappyLemon™ - for when life gives you too many ****ing lemons)
- Apeture Science Cake, available exclusively from Apeture Science laboratories. Please submit yourself for testing and we will provide you with enough cake to feed your Mini Companion Cube™ for a month. (Nothing says love like a piece of cake made with science!)

Do not place your Mini Companion Cube™ in direct sunlight.
If Mini Companion Cube™ gets dirty, gently wash with acid.
Do not feed you Mini Companion Cube™ meat, baked beans or full fat milk.
Do not allow your Mini Companion Cube™ to wear hats, shoes with laces or necklaces.

CAUTION While your Mini Companion Cube™ can be used to wedge open doors, distract feral animals and as a stepping stone when traversing lava, Aperture Science does not recommend:

- Using your Mini Companion Cube™ in space. The Mini Companion Cube™ is allergic to several species of creature common in space. In the event of your Mini Companion Cube™ coming into contact with tribbles or wookies, please wash your Mini Companion Cube™ thoroughly before putting it in a quarantine vacuum for a period of 30 days.
- Allowing small mammals or children near the Mini Companion Cube™. This may cause the Mini Companion Cube™ to become depressed and/or suicidal. It is recommended to keep your Mini Companion Cube™ out of reach, preferably in a high place. For access to high places use the new HandyPortal™, your very own portal gun for use around house and home, available from your local Aperture Science megastore.
- Damaging your Mini Companion Cube™. This includes damage by knife attack, bombs, fire, water, decapitation, blunt force (including sledgehammers and car crushers), silver, stakes and garlic.
- Allowing any robots near your Mini Companion Cube™. All types of Companion Cube will suffer at the hands of robots so it is advised not to allow any robots to play, speak or maim your Mini Companion Cube™. Apeture Science cannot be held responsible for misuse of the Mini Companion Cube™ but any data collected from accidents, along with relevant corpses, documentation and Mini Companion Cubes™ can be used to offset doctor or funeral fees.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A Conversation Over a Game of Blackjack

There was no hiding it. Cthulhu’s hand was awful and the others were getting annoyed with him folding. He had to play his pair of twos and live with it.
‘It’s Yig’s summoning day in two days,’ said the collection of eyeballs from his left. Yog-Sothoth was terrible at blackjack and usually cheated to stay ahead. Distracting the others while he detached one of his eyeballs was the normal tactic. He’d send it in a wide circle around the table to get a good look at everyone’s cards.
‘Oh me, really? I’m not doing another pub-crawl. The last one was a disaster. I fold.’ Nyarlathotep, in his Egyptian pharaoh form, grimaced and slapped his cards onto the table face-down. He jabbed a finger at Cthulhu. ‘And no-one is allowed to invite that bloody flying spaghetti guy.’
A murmur went round the room, punctuated by in inarticulate scream from one of the lesser ancients, Fred. They all remembered the Pastafarian god getting wildly drunk and passing out somewhere near Mexico. He’d trashed the place.
‘I believe his drink was spiked, to be absolutely fair to him,’ said a small shadowy figure from the other end of the table. He leaned forward to quietly snap his cards down. ‘Stick.’
Fred screamed in agreement.
Cthulhu wondered if he could get away with faking a cold and avoiding the party but was stopped in mid-thought by the roaming eyeball of Yog-Sothoth. He batted it away with a tentacle.
‘And he did throw a very agreeable ball last year,’ continued the figure. The swirling darkness of the land in between others shifted revealing his face to be roughly square, haggard and framed by well-groomed hair and moustache.
‘True,’ Nyarlathotep said, shrugging with one shoulder. He curled a gold beaded lock around his finger. ‘But he ruined our last party and this is Yig’s millionth. We should at least try to make it fun and if that means we don’t invite the spaghetti monster, I won’t be too upset.’
Fred screamed his request for cake.
‘Of course there’ll be cake,’ Yog-Sothoth assured him.
‘Really?’ Nyarlathotep said.
‘There has to be cake! It’s his millionth. Who doesn’t have cake on their millionth?’ ‘I don’t recall you having cake,’ said the figure.
Yog-Sothoth frowned at him, which was quite a sight, considering he was made entirely of eyes. ‘I don’t have a mouth. Cake would be pointless. But Yig has a mouth.’
‘Couldn’t we just get him a human to consume?’ Nyarlathotep asked and settled back into his chair, clearly bored.
‘Excuse me,’ said the figure, who was human.
‘Obviously not you, Edgar.’
‘Regardless, I would find it rather poor to be present during a consuming. Cake will suffice. Yog-Sothoth, my dear entity, play your hand or fold.’
Yog-Sothoth sighed. ‘I’ve got nothing. Fold.’
‘Cthulhu?’ asked Edgar.
He had to play them. They’d whine if he didn’t and he hated it when they whined. Especially Fred, who sounded like a cat being forcibly introduced to a cheese grater. ‘STICK,’ he said. ‘TWO TWOS.’
‘Ah, I do believe I am victorious,’ said Edgar, revealing a jack and an ace. ‘The pot is mine.’
‘So what are we going to do for Yig’s summoning day?’
‘Disco and a meal out?’
‘I don’t dance,’ said Nyarlathotep sulkily.
There was a pause as the other ancient ones briefly considered the idea of making a joke about walking like an Egyptian, before discarding it.
I don’t dance,’ Nyarlathotep repeated, who knew exactly where their minds had gone.
Edgar nodded. ‘That may indeed be wise. Please, let us retire. I must admire my winnings.’ He picked up the pot by the handles. ‘..I am certain we are meant to play for something…different.’
‘Nah,’ said Yog-Sothoth firmly. ‘I’ve seen the humans. They always play for a pot. Don’t they, Fred?’
Fred agreed.
Edgar shrugged and tucked the pot under one arm. ‘Inform me of Yig’s intentions, please. Until then, I bid you all goodnight.’ He left the land between others via the escalator.
The ancient ones waited until he was definitely gone. ‘He’s so weird,’ whispered Yog-Sothoth. ‘And he always wins the pot. I swear he cheats.’
‘You like everyone,’ Nyarlathotep accused.
Fred screamed a warning seconds before Yig materialised at the table.
‘Sup guys! Who won?'

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Elder Sign

A lot of games I’ve been playing recently have been somewhat depressing. I’ve killed a lot of random monsters, battled zombies and run around demon-infested dimensions. With that in mind, I decided to buy something more light-hearted and uplifting. So Elder Sign was, of course, my first choice, as it’s full of fluffy bunnies and rainbows. It bills itself as a ‘game of suspense and supernatural investigation’ by which I assume it means ‘like Cluedo with hysterical and/or maniacal laughter’. It’s not, but more on that later.
It comes with over three hundred pieces (including cards, various counters and tokens) and the rulebook is almost twenty pages long so it’s not exactly the most simplistic of games. But if you can deal with spending some time to learn the game play, it’s remarkably straightforward. Most turns will consist of similar actions as you attempt to defeat the various monsters, ghouls and fluffy bunnies that pop up so you’ll find you learn the core game play quite quickly. What’s more tricky is keeping track of the other things in play that will affect what you can and can’t do.
The game revolves around one of the ancient evils from the Cthulhu mythos preparing a visit to his, hers or, in most cases, its favourite local museum. This impending visit is so exciting that lots of other terrifying creatures make haste to the museum and proceed to make a bit of a mess. The players, as people investigating the mess, must attempt not only to glue the priceless ming vase back together but stop the visiting ancient evil from getting past the front door (not that they need to – all ancient evils are bigger than the average elephant and are likely to get stuck in the turnstyle on the way in). And thus begins a fight against time as, at the stroke of midnight, each night, the ancient evil gets closer. The players need to collect ‘elder signs’ which, like a preserved shark to any sane human being, makes the ancient evil think twice about visiting. They do this by fulfilling tasks around the museum, which are randomly selected from a deck of cards. The harder the tasks, the bigger the reward if you complete it and the penalties if you fail. After each turn, the play advances the time by three hours, which changes certain cards and refreshes player abilities. Various instances advance the coming of the ancient evil. In my first game, these instances mainly came in the form of complete and utter failure coupled with a certain amount of pig-headedness that I was going to going to conquer the task, regardless of how long it took me and how many characters I killed in the process. Because death is not particularly a problem. I mean, ok, it’s a bit of a set back as you lose everything your previous character had. But you do get to come back with a new face, ability and items so I was quite happy to dive into a fight I couldn’t possibly win. Sometimes I’d come back as someone with a hat, which is always a plus in these situations.
Unfortunately, on my first play through, I did fail to win. Yig waltzed through the door, killed me before I had time to scream inarticulately and set about rearranging the world to his specifications, i.e. on fire.
But I still enjoyed myself immensely and I’m definitely going to bothering other people into playing it.
That said, I don’t actually have to. Elder Sign is quite flexible, as it can be played on your own or with seven other minions…I mean friends. That and everyone wins or everyone loses – it’s a co-operative game, all of you against the lumbering horror stuck in the turnstyle. It does eliminate the chance of people getting annoyed at each other for backstabbing so you can focus on getting annoyed because someone failed a roll and allowed the ancient evil to send the entire world insane. But at least you can be annoyed co-operatively.
One last point to make is that the game is absolutely beautiful. Out of all the games I own, this is definitely the nicest. There haven’t been any corners cut and it makes it a real pleasure to play.

Anyway, Elder Sign is brilliant and definitely worth the investment. Go, get.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

John Carter

I am nothing if not punctual.
Or, you know, the other thing. Late.
Really really late.
On an entirely different note, I watched John Carter yesterday. It was…well it was terrible. And that’s a real shame because it could have been seriously good.
At first glance, it looks like the sort of film made in the first half of the 1900s, with added spaceships and some aliens that are half ant, half human.
After that, you’ll notice the hammy script, which also seems to be nicked from the early days of film. There are a lot of inconsistencies. Johnny boy contradicts himself notably several times and people’s personalities seem to skid madly from believable to cliché. The woman of the film, Dejah Thoris, is a fighter and some sort of sciencey person. But the science bit doesn’t come up all that much, aside from at the beginning to serve the plot line. And she occasionally turns into a damsel into distress and forgets how to use a sword. Also, her accent waddles around from Middle Eastern to the actress’s more native American.
John Carter himself is as boring as no-fat cheese. It looks like cheese and it slices like cheese but there’s nothing to it but dullness and disappointment. He’s not funny and he’s not loveable and he’s not wise. He’s a bloke, who gets transported to Mars and fights a lot. Often, he is sporting a Hercules fancy dress costume. Oh, and he has a back-story, which will seem oddly familiar to anyone whose watched, glimpsed or heard about Gladiator. Except it’s not done anywhere near as well. There are, for instance, no fields of golden crops, blowing in the wind. Mr Carter also doesn’t appear to age, which considering he is ten years older at the start of film (before we go back to the start of the actual story, per se), is…an interesting choice.
It’s really no wonder that it was a total flop. There is so much potential, so much that could have gone right but they tried to make it so big, they were left with an outer shell and nothing in the middle. Visually, it’s a stunningly beautiful film. And the story is, well, perhaps a little rough around the edges. But with a war between a moving city and another, stationary one and the ant people looking on, mysterious men who call themselves messengers of the gods and one bloke from an entirely different planet, it could have been something truly special. There are some characters who should have got a lot more screen time and there are some genuinely funny moments. The aforementioned spaceships are nicely done, although exactly how they work is glossed over as is Carter’s ability to leap vast distances. But it takes itself just that little bit too seriously, as can be witnessed whenever there’s a salute from Carter’s direction. It tried to be an epic.
Even Star Wars, didn’t attempt to be an epic and look at the fan base that created. It would be nice to see someone try to re-make it (John Carter, not Star Wars. You can keep your mitts off that.), with James Purefoy playing the lead role. He gets very little screen time considering how great his character is and if someone could transplant Kantos Kan’s personality onto Carter’s, that’d add more fat to the cheese than is probably healthy.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I bought Divergent as one of my ‘stab in the dark’ choices. I barely looked at the back cover, glancing briefly to make sure it wasn’t a Twilight knockoff before adding it to the large pile of books I wanted to buy.
As a result, it’s been sitting in my ‘to read’ pile for a while, looking at me forlornly. I’m generally less optimistic about books I don’t know anything about. But I decided to pick it up for a spot of lunchtime reading. Sometime later, I put it down again, having finished, and realised it was dark outside. All in all, with a few breaks, it took me just over six hours to read Divergent and that is a test to its quality, not its length.
It’s a tasty mix of The Hunger Games, Inside Out and Harry Potter. There’s a good deal of violence, a love story and a very well built world. It, like the aforementioned Hunger Games, manages to have a fantasy feel without ever going beyond the bounds of what a human can do. There’s desperation, decisions not entirely thought through and something going on at the top that isn’t quite kosher. You won’t find dragons, magic or gods here. Just people.
Divergent is set in a world that could be ours if you add in a massive war and a serious change in politics. The people are split into five group depending on what they think would heal the world: selflessness, happiness, knowledge, truth or courage. That’s the bit that reminds me most of Harry Potter - them gryffindors are all about the courage. Anyway, our heroine and family belongs to the selfless faction, but when she reaches the age of sixteen she gets to choose her faction. If she chooses any other faction than her own, she’ll be cutting most ties with her family. People who change faction are not well liked.
Annnnd that’s all I’m going to say about the plot. Because if I said anything more, it would ruin the book. The blurb is equally evasive and I can’t help but applaud that decision. You really should know as little about this book before you dive in. Because even our heroine’s choice in faction is not certain.
That said, some of the reveals are easy to see coming but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment one iota. They weren’t big plot points, just bits about characters that I guessed sometime in advance of the reveal. The main reveal was pretty well camouflaged.
My only real complaint would be that the build up to the ending was very short and not particularly large. That said I’m eagerly awaiting the second book, out on the first of May.

Monday, 12 March 2012

By Light Alone by Adam Roberts

It hate it when something I'm really looking forward to manages to dissapoint me so completely.

The premise of 'By Light Alone' is so intriguing, so well thought out that I had to buy it. It sounded like a novel I could really enjoy. The basic premise: a science, wherein people can grow hair that synthesises food from the sun, rendering hunger a thing of the past, has been implemented some time in the past. Food is scarce but the rich still eat real food because they can. In the midst of this, a rich man’s daughter is kidnapped and, for a year, lives as one of the poor, with long photosynthising hair.

All of that you can learn from the blurb. Sound interesting? You bet! What changes has this wrought upon the girl, how does this effect the world in which she lives in?
Not a lot. Without going into too much detail, Robert’s book is not one for people who like fast paced, page turners. It’s a satire of our society today and rumbles along at the speed of a slug. Just to give some indication, it takes over a hundred pages for the text of the blurb to be played out, in which time, I’ve learnt more about the vacuous space that is the main character than I ever wanted to.

For a book so rich in its premise, there is a very meagre amount of actual plot. What there is, is padded out with drivel about the main character’s day, accompanied by mind-numbing passages of intensely dull philosophical thoughts about love or joy or despair or whatever emotion the character experiencing.

I understand why the information is presented like this. The world the character has grown up in is very different from ours and that is simply how he thinks. Never the less, I find myself skipping entire passages so I can move on with the story. While the thoughts add depth to character, they leech any enjoyment out of the book.
Which brings me around to my main point. Why, with such a blisteringly good idea for a world and plot, did Roberts choose the most boring man to be the main character? Why not the daughter, whose life would be infinitely more interesting to follow? Why not one of the poor, into whose village the young girl is taken? George, the father, has nothing to say, nothing to contribute and doesn’t drag the plot with him as much as flounder after it. Because of his background, brought up in a self-serving privileged society, he is completely unlikeable. I cannot relate to him.

I should point out that if you look up By Light Alone on Google, the reviews that pop up first are full up of praise. And I will admit, I’m not exactly the brightest spark. But a pondering book where most of the action is happening off screen just isn’t for me, not matter how shiny the cover.

If you manage to make it past those first 150 pages, what you’ll find is that Robert somehow manages to make all his characters as dull and vacuous as George. We do get to see the world from the perspective of George’s daughter and the wife. And I dislike all of them. Still, despite the changes of perspective, very little happens. Since the daughter got back from her kidnapping, her parents have split up and the daughter broke the fridge. Annnnnd that’s about it.

I’m just not interested in the emotional side of these people, especially as they’re meant to be horribly selfish. If I’m not supposed to like these people – and indeed I can’t – why should I read this book? I don’t care about them, I can’t see much plot on the horizon, why bother?

And yet, I have kept reading, possible due to the sheer horror than so boring a book could ever be published.

The last chunk of story is through the eyes of Issa who – spoilers, if you care – is actually the daughter, having be given a new name or possibly forgotten her old one. And this is about the only vaguely interesting bit of the book and even then, I’d never rate it more than one out of five. Issa travels from a village – it’s never really explained where she is to begin with - with little to no sense of purpose and occasionally something happens. And yes, we do see the world of the longhairs and how civilisation has changed for them. But Issa’s lack of motivation, her somewhat hazy personality and Roberts’s brain meltingly boring prose makes it the same turgid brown as the rest of the book. There’s no struggle within Issa, within George or his family to do anything, they just sort of wallow from one event to the next, never really reacting much, never making a difference.

The shame of it all is underneath the weight of all this rubbish, there is a story and it is amazing. It’s unique and original. It could a diamond and sparkle like the stars. But the diamond is coated in substances best left to the imagination so you’ll never see the twinkles.