Xmas In The Shops.

May I be the first to say to you this year, “Merry Christmas!”

Yeah I was walking around Asda yesterday and was a little surprised by what I saw:

asda xmas

I mean I am old fashioned. I think it’s nice to get Halloween and bonfire night out of the way first before worrying about tinsel and trees and wrapping paper. I haven’t seen a single pumpkin in the shops yet and I love carving up a pumpkin or two at this time of year, mostly because I’m tight and the dim flicker I can get from the tea light inside saves me having to put the lamp on as I sit here and type – that’s 10 pence saved right there! Although I did spot the Halloween costumes in the supermarket about three weeks ago so they haven’t forgotten about it.

I forget though, it’s easy for me to have highly strung opinions on things as daft as Christmas. We do live in a time of austerity and let’s be fair poverty. People who are paid monthly will only have October and Novembers wage packet so pick up and then the big day is as good as here and so I understand spreading the cost as thinly as possible over as long as possible is what people need. It’s not really supermarkets being capitalist pigs (which they are anyway) they are simply offering a solution to people. But even with that knowledge it winds me up.

It winds me up that the next two and a half months are going to remind me all about Christmas, put the pressure on me to buy as many gifts for as many people and have no excuse because – there isn’t one for not knowing Christmas was coming! After all it’s everywhere (and certainly will be before October is out you can take that to the bank). It lays the guilt on you all of the time. Plus I don’t like the pound value being put on the festive season. It should be about family and it should be about relaxation and taking a break and it should also be a time for being grateful to those people who can’t take a break at such a time, you know the police, the ambulance men the doctors, nurses and firemen who are all there to make sure we are OK as we sit around on our fat asses watching TV stuffing chocolate and turkey and pudding and mince pies into our faces until we feel sick.

The saddest thing for me about it all is I’m getting more and more Bah Humbug as I get older. I’ll be living in a cave alone, through the autumn and winter in thirty years time no doubt about it.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and good luck with the New years resolutions.

Merry Christmas & Peace.

Well I shouldn’t but…. (aka Big Riddle Answers)

The first thing I have to say about The Big Riddle is that having a go at each question, regardless of how long it may take to solve is a rewarding experience. I for one spent 10 days completing 50 questions and did get a little bit of help and advice from a couple of people as well as looking at the hints on the website and the Facebook page. I’d strongly advise you all to try your best to do it yourself as there really is no accomplishment or mental exercise is simply taking answers and putting them into a quiz just to con all of your friends and family that you are cleverer than you actually are. Doing the quiz properly is a great achievement and I can only share the answers here after working my ass off to find them and by having to bang my head literally against a wall until I passed out.

I can’t wait for further quizzes like this from The Big Riddle and so I’d first like to ask you all to go and like their Facebook page. The more people that do that the more likely it is that they will do more mind taxing projects like this, I hope you do ‘like it’ and I hope they do more too as I’m really looking forward to them. I’d like everyone at The Big Riddle to know that I’m not posting this here for any other reason than to offer some help to people who are stuck on questions and close to giving up. Better they do sneak an easy hint or even an answer and continue hitting your advert rich site than simply going away, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now as I’ve said, like their Facebook page and please don’t cheat for the sake of it. Use what I’m sharing here to avoid going crazy at a question you cannot solve. And if you do use any advice here please leave me a comment on how useful this page is as an aid to the overall set of fifty riddles posed.

That said, let’s start helping people!

The idea of the quiz is to use lateral thinking which is simply, think like a robot not a person (Google, Edward De Bono for more info). The obvious answer isn’t going to be the answer, but the answer is always there. Before you do use any of my advice here I’d say think about things such as: Can I click on anything on the page? Is there any help I may find on the error page of any given question? Have I checked the source code for clues? Have I saved a copy of any given image and looked at the properties? Can I use Google to solve questions about Hexadecimal values, binary etc etc. Can I open the image file in another tab and manipulate the URL or can I simply manipulate the URL to move forward as it is already written? Do I understand Longitude and Latitude and could I find a point on a map using it? Can I simply scroll a webpage downwards? If you can do all of the above then you will already have most of the tools that you require to answer a huge portion of the questions. The reason that only 0.5% of people complete all 50 answers is simply because many everyday people may not think to look at the source code or even know what the source code of a web page is.

I used Google Chrome browser to conduct the riddle. It is recommended that you don’t use Internet Explorer as it’s not as responsive for all of these answers.

THE FIRST PHASE.

Question 1. Lateral thinking will solve this for you. Think of the word SEA. What is in the middle of it?

Question 2. So literally what is “everything” backwards?

Question 3. Scroll page down, scroll down, scroll down, and you’ve got it. Remember this answer for later.

Question 4. You are on step 4, you want to be on step 5. I wonder what you do here? Take a look at the URL and see if you can make anything happen by changing it.

Question 5. The number of the beast is 666 in common Western belief. So if you had to make it appear upside down you’d write it as?

Question 6. Do you like maths? What’s 5 squared?

Question 7. What is at the end of the word “page”? Your mouse pointer is good at this question.

Question 8. Faith can move a mountain, but can you?

Question 9. How many Facebook likes does this page have?

Question 10. If you rotate the symbol 8 by 90 degrees you have the symbol for…? ∞ ‘To ∞ and beyond’ you might say if you’re a Buzz Lightyear fan.

Question 11. This is a Roman numeral question.

Question 12. Ctrl & A.

Question 13. One for the lads here. Just fiddle with your knobs boys (and the girls can too!)

Question 14. This is a simple mathematics question. The answer is nothing really. I mean it truly is nothing at all. It’s nothing. Numerically speaking of course.

Question 15. An online binary calculator will solve this problem for you in a matter of nanoseconds.

Question 16. If you typed those digits into say a text message on an old style phone like that Nokia what would you spell? The letters are on each number on the keypad to make it even easier.

Question 17.  If you right click on the image and search for it with Google you may just find the answer. But if you know your flags you may just know the answer anyway.

Question 18. What’s your Morse code like? I bet Google images has a Morse code alphabet image on it.

Question 19. What is the size of the image file of the scales in kilobytes?

Question 20. I made so many mistakes with this question that I ended up checking the Wrong answer page for the answer, I must’ve made twenty mistakes and each time I did the answer was before me but it took ages to catch on.

Diploma1

THE SECOND PHASE

Question 21. Correct the spelling error in the URL. Simples.

Question 22. Does your keyboard have a space bar? The answer is just one press away.

Question 23. Same solution as question 3 only you need to press the big red on button too.

Question 24. The English word for this Tamil word is the answer. You can copy and paste this straight into Google for the answer.

Question 25. How many light years?

Question 26. Longitude and latitude will give you a location that is the answer. It’s also the same answer as Question 3.

Question 27. A letter can be written beneath each traffic light. Sting was sending one of these in of his song ‘Message in a Bottle’.

Question 28. If you mix the three colours represented in Hexadecimal you will get another colour and the answer is the Hexadecimal code for it. What would FFFFFF look like as a twitter hashtag?

Question 29. Google images search for Braille alphabet should be all you need here.

Question 30. 29 out of 30? But that was the last question? You mean 30 surely?

Question 31. The password is encoded you want it to be – decoded.

Question 32. G is Green and Orange is O could Grey be G too?

Question 33. I see the scientist isn’t married otherwise the answer would be on a different finger.

Question 34. One has three letters, four has four letters, three has five letters, eleven has six letters, fifteen has seven letters. Think of the next lowest number with eight letters when spelled out.

Question 35. The image file for “Expertise” has a pic size in it that could also be understood as a maths question. What is the answer?

Question 36. Do you know your periodic table? What are the next 3 chemicals after Boron?

Question 37. Use the polar coordinates to find a value that is a digital clock time of day. I’ll give you a clue: XX:45. That gives you a maximum of 24 answers it could be.

Question 38. If you are using a 60 inch monitor you will probably see the answer. If not save the image and zoom in. Easiest way to do this is open the image and scroll in using the wheel on your mouse.

Question 39. The soul of a webpage? Answers in the source code.

Question 40. Subtract the values of the image file names from each other to get the answer.

Diploma2

THE THIRD PHASE

Question 41. Zeros and ones? Zeros? Hmmm? Well 0xFACED is actually a hexadecimal code. But what is it in binary?

Question 42. Computer cookies. In Chrome: Settings, show advanced, Privacy – content settings, all cookies and site data, www.bigriddle.com, click on answer 42.

Question 43. View source code, open first clickable link, error message, view source code of error message, find answer.

Question 44. View source code. Translate the Spanish in green. The Hexadecimal values below will give you a list of colours I think from the RGB monitor range of colours. With the S you began with, together with these colours, you should be able to work out the name of the famous Albert.

Question 45. Before being known as Mohammed Ali this famous boxer was known as someone else. Right click the image and open in a new tab. Look at the URL, what do you think you need to do next?

Question 46. If you save the image and open properties you will find some longitude and latitude values. One of them is – and one of them is +. Used correctly on a Long/Lat position finder (Google for that) you will see the answer very easily.

Question 47. Each letter represents another letter. A=V, B=E, C=I, D=R, E=N, F=G, G=H, I=M, J=D, K=S, M=Y, O=L, P=P, Q=J, R=U, S=A, T=T, U=K, V=W, W=O, Z=C.

Question 48. This is a magic eye poster. Download the image. Google “Magic Eye solver/viewer” upload the image and you should see it.

Question 49. ‘49 out of 50’ is drag-able like when you moved the mountain, as are the next 11 objects that are unveiled. (10 10 100) is a number with a name that inspired the worlds number one search engine.

Question 50. Question 50 is the most long winded of all of the answers. I suppose it’s to make that final step just that little bit more frustrating and confusing. It took me about two hours to work out. I made notes as I went as I did with all of the answers in Phase three, which really did come in handy to keep track of what was working and what was not. OK so, you need to open the source code and then get the huge chunk of code that follows “Base64”. Copy that into a base 64 decoder such as www.base64decode.org. Decode as UTF-8.Copy the result into a real time HTML editor such as www.htmledit.squarefree.com. This should give you two columns of numbers. You will need to plot the numbers into a grid on an Excel spreadsheet, grid size 13×16 or 16 x 13. It won’t matter which. One will show you the answer and the other will show you the answer at a 90 degree turn either way you should be able to read it.

Diploma3

Congratulations, if you get this far without too much help, or no help at all. Like I said at the start of this long post that it’s better to use these answers and solutions as a guide to help you overcome questions that you are stuck on and cannot find any other hints anywhere else. My aim with this post is not to spoil The Big Riddle, its to help people along the road to completing this excellent set of questions that make up it up. I do encourage you all, as I did at the start, to like their Facebook page as this will encourage them to come up with more weird and wonderful riddles for us to sink our teeth (and brains) into.

If you still cannot work out an answer leave a comment below and I will share with you the answer.

Peace.

Vaping and other changes.

Well Autumn and October are here again where has the year gone folks? Remember the Olympics in London that happened what feels like ten minutes ago? Two more years have flowed under the bridge and away into the distance and I cannot believe it. Where does the time go? If you know can you funnel some it back in my direction please? Cheers.

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about Stoptober and well as I’ve been struggling with quitting smoking since May I’m going to give it a good go this month. Over the past few months I have fallen off and on the smoking wagon but have found that vapour cigarettes have helped. I’m using E-Lites at the moment, regular and menthol, which ever they have in the shop really and it really does work. In fact it works so well and seems so harmless that I’m sure it will only be a matter of months, weeks or even days before the news is full of hysterical news reports that vaping is actually harmful, but at the moment it seems like such a simple and easy way to reduce the harm caused by smoking. I can tell anyone reading this who wants to quit: give them a try. You’ll find after you’ve used them for a while going back to a normal cigarette is a very disgusting feeling indeed. You really can feel the harm and dirt that cigarettes do and contain after satisfying your cravings with water vapour and nicotine instead of carbon monoxide and tar.

With smoking as good as in check my main demon is alcohol. Its something I don’t do by half which some of you may know if you’ve read this blog much or have followed me on twitter. During October I’d like to drastically reduce the amount that I drink to as close to nothing as I can. I’d like to say that I’m going to drink nothing but as a man who probably sinks his own body weight in lager each month it’s probably asking too much, I know I will drink. I’ve often asked myself if I’m an alcoholic and technically yes I am but I don’t drink every day but 3 or 4 nights a week I do. Weekends I drink more when I know I don’t have to drive but I do drink in the week too. It’s something that I could moan about but it’s my problem and I have to do something about it myself and I am. I have no reason to drink really; my life is pretty damned good. It’s basic and boring to many outsiders looking in but I’m happy with it. So I have to try if not for myself for my loved ones, I’m not getting any younger and my heart and liver aren’t made of steel, so its something that I have to do. But give up altogether, I don’t think I could. Alcohol is sadly a thing that my circle of family and friends use to celebrate anything and everything. Rarely do any of us come together and sit and drink Ribena and if I suggested such a thing I’d probably be banished to the naughty step to think about what I’d said.

I suppose it all comes down to a simple choice. Do you want to smoke or do you want to drink? Smoking offers you nothing at all, at least a drink can bring you out of yourself in a social setting or make you feel a little better after a bad day, but then you can still have too much of a good thing. I dunno, I’ve been here before, making grand claims that I’m going to change my lifestyle for the better but you have to keep trying and each time it gets easier to try and more likely to succeed. It’s like that Mark Twain quote says, “Quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it hundreds of times!

Best to keep at it. I won’t bore you with endless smoking and drinking posts, but I may stumble and fall a few more times before I get to where I want to be and I’m sure I’ll make it apparent to you all with silliness, self loathing and utter craziness here.

Take care people.

Peace.

“Unbelievable Jeff!” (aka the Wolves keep marching on)

I’ve not said anything about Wolves so far this season, in fact I said rather little last season as well. It seems I’m only able to get angry about football and since King Kenny has taken over at the helm it’s been nothing but a steady, continuous improvement and upward momentum. At the start of this season a lot of us Wolves fans were not looking too hard at promotion again. Everyone I know who supports the club were confident of a good showing and maybe a mid table existence but that of course isn’t what we’ve seen is it? 5 clean sheets in 8 league games, only 1 defeat that shouldn’t have really been and the best defence in all 4 divisions. Oddly we let Northampton score as many goals against us in the first round of the league cup at Molineux as we have the first 8 opponents in the championship. I dunno whether to salute Northampton or assume King Kenny has not got any plans for a cup run until he’s taken us back into the promised land.

But despite all of this, the one awful thing for me is that if we’d have had an out and out striker we’d probably be sitting on eight wins out of eight. From Ikeme in goal, right through our defence and midfield we have been superb (largely) and are creating plenty of chances but the lack of a proven finisher up front has probably meant we’ve not collected the points total that our performances have demanded and as good as earned. But it does bode well for the rest of the season and if we can get someone in soon on loan to just goal hang and bang in all of these chances I can promise you not a single team in this league will look forward to playing us home or away.

Wow it’s nice to blog about the football, I’ve been pretty short on inspiration recently and a lot of my recent posts have been pretty dull and forced. Actually I’ve noticed recently in blog land that things have been very quiet. Not a lot of stuff going on, the people I follow here on WordPress aren’t as prolific as they have been or are writing about stuff that isn’t taking my attention really. But little to read here has diverted my time from the internet and has helped me Re: my own research on the history of Bilston Town Football Club that I’m sure you all know by now I’m compiling. It’s actually been a really productive time in the last three weeks but I can inform you that it’s still a tough old slog. I can spend an hour or two trawling through newspapers on the British Newspaper Archive for only a few tit bits of information but so far I have at least two or three notes and bits of info on each season between 1894 and 1947 as well as chunks of stuff to write into the seasons between 1947 and 2013. It’s a continuous process and has become an addiction, its something I try to spend some time on every single day now, from twenty minutes here to two or three hours there, but the satisfying part is that with every moment I’m beavering away I know I’m a moment closer to its completion. I’ve probably gone a little too over the top with the pre-war facts, results and statistics but as its very hard to find much else I’m having to work with that information as best as I can. Will it be a work of art? Most people will think not, I of course will as I know the cost in time and money of it all and what ever anyone says at the end of the project it’ll be a success as nothing like it existed about the club before.

The following quote is from a recent post by Ricky Gervais on his blog it’s largely irrelevant as far as the Bilston town book goes but I do feel the last two sentences are very apt: “The point of art is to make a connection. If people talk about it, it’s succeeded in a way. People have assumed that, because I don’t listen to critics, or take studio notes or whatever, that I think I’m perfect and have never made any mistakes. This could not be further from the truth. Making the mistakes is the point, is the fun, is the important bit. But they have to be my own. The writer Rita Mae Brown said, “Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.” The only difficult bit about this is getting final edit. So much creativity is stifled by people who ‘know better’, or by fear of failure, and before you know it, your goals have been twisted and you’ve forgotten what you set out to do.

Nothing will stifle my creativity and I will have final edit, I do listen to advice but pick very carefully which bits I listen too (if I listen to any at all I’ll be honest.) Anyone can tell you how to do something, but if you do it that way they’ll try and take some credit, so best to stick to your own mind and your own plans I feel. As I often say, it’ll be done when its done and that’s that!

Anyway, enough waffle, speak to you all again soon.

Peace.

That’s the group won then: Switzerland 0-2 England.

Swiss roll anyone? Or should I say we rolled over the Swiss. A lot of people (including myself) had been critical of England since the World Cup finals and were not expecting a clean sheet and a win in the first and arguably the toughest game in European Qualifying Group E.

The first half I thought England were rubbish but in the second half they pretty much had things under control despite the Swiss growing in threat over the course of the 90 minutes. Wayne Rooney didn’t do a lot but he certainly did enough. His counter attack and lay off to Sterling to dink the ball past three defenders for the opener from Welbeck was like watching someone playing FIFA 14. It was counter attacking football at it best and proof that it only takes a moment of creativity to score a goal but it was pretty much all there was to shout about in the first half.

England looked much hungrier and pushed harder in the second half and looked the team more likely to score the next goal. The Swiss are by no means a bad team but they certainly aren’t a class side. Apart from Behrami. I rate Behrami highly, he certainly is a player that will grace the Premier league at some time, and I could see him at a club like Tottenham or Everton and doing a pretty damned good job. Switzerland did threaten on a couple of occasions, Hart making an easy save from a deflected shot and an offside decision that also lead to a good shot that made the England cross bar vibrate faster than all of the atoms in Nagasaki in 1945.

In the end Lamberts simple lay off for Welbeck who was able to take his time and place his and England’s second goal was more than sufficient to keep the media wolves at bay for a while at least and so Roy can enjoy an expletive free press conference tomorrow morning. Although if I was Roy I’d walk in, give the press pack a middle finger and say “Fuck you all!” before turning around and walking straight back out.

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Photograph: Peter Klaunzer/EPA

With the toughest game of the group already won, and other group members being San Marino, Slovenia, Estonia and Lithuania we could all be forgiven for thinking we could win all ten group games in qualifying but as England fans we all know they won’t make it that easy for themselves. And even if they do, we’ll be screwed once we get to the 2016 finals and have to play some proper teams.

Oh well, qualifying is good enough these days. We can’t ask for much more than that can we?

Peace.

Summer, where did you go?

September has crept upon us and flashed itself out of the blue. Where did the summer go? I can’t remember us having much summer, but the little that I do remember was nice. I don’t think many of us will be complaining. Merely weeks ago we were all sweltering in the muggy, humidity that the British summer offers us (“Its not like that abroad is it?” They kept saying, “You know the sun in Spain” – it’s the same sun brainiacs. Weather, climate, that’s what you mean, but now I’m being pompous for the sake of it.)

I always look forward to the summer and my mood starts to dip around October as the realisation that getting up in the dark and coming home in the dark is here for another 5 months or so. I don’t expect my mood to go anywhere this year as it’s been a pretty down year all round. 2014 has been a year of one bad event and bad news after another. I’m not talking about The News, I just mean generally hearing about terrible things happening to people I know. It’s been relentless. I’ll be glad when this year is over. Actually on reflection I think that the dark weather may come as a relief as it marks the end of this all round shitty year.

It’s been good on the interest front. The Wolves have been amazing since January and continue to do well but these days my heart isn’t in that as much as it used to be. I suppose football really aint that important most of the time, but its great when you’re great (with nothing to care about you can care about anything.) The book research has gone well too but I’ve had far too many long breaks for my liking and find myself well behind schedule but again dark nights and cold days will give me the reason to lock the door and draw the curtains and get on with that.

One great interest of mine is growing and that has been a terrible year too. I started too late this year, then had problems getting things growing and largely started all over from scratch even later still. It’s not been a complete disaster, its been OK, but I’m hoping for bigger and better things in 2015. But like I’ve said in the grand scheme of things, selfish interests that I’ve bored many of the readers of this blog with, aint that important.

Summer has come and gone, but so will the autumn and the winter too. The seasons keep on rolling around, I hope good news and luck does the same thing too. Its still a little early to be looking at January 1st 2015 but a tiny part of me has a beedy eye on it already. Wishing my life away you may think, but it’ll be nice to wave good bye to this year.

Its been a year where I’ve gradually found it harder and harder to have any kind of inspiration or thoughts that I want to share here. But I’ll still be around and I’ve no doubt the old, talentless hack in me will return with lots to say about nothing.

Right I’ll end this on a song…

Peace.

Remembering Noz.

It’s a tough old world that we live in.

This last weeks news has been terribly hard to take and so sad and heartbreaking. When I say news I’m not talking about “The News” I’m just speaking about the sad news that a friend, a brother from another mother, a man named Mark, has passed away.

I’d not seen him for a short while, and I know his family and his friends are hurting especially bad. His family are like my family and have been for close to twenty five years. I knew his cousins first and his brother and then got to know him. He was known as Noz and I know on occasion I asked him why he was called that but he never really explained it, but Noz you’ll live on in my heart for ever. I dunno what else to say at such a sad time but your passing has touched every single person who ever met you. You were a good guy, a sweet guy, a funny guy and I can say with great pride and honesty that I never heard you say a bad thing about anyone. You took the piss, you had a laugh and you liked a smoke and drink. You were a good honest Black Country bloke and you made everyone feel so happy, you warmed the hearts and damn you were hilarious. I won’t share any memories, they are just for me and the people who knew you and I’m not prepared to incriminate you or anyone else at this stage. I joke of course! It was always harmless fun.

Time spent with someone counts for a hell of a lot more than time spent apart but it’s now both of those positions that are upsetting for me. Knowing I was a mate, knowing I’d been an absent mate in his and many other mates lives in recent years, only tells me I need to be a mate again. Only I can’t now and that is not something I can make amends for. I can only apologise mate. Everyday-life takes over sometimes; I never stopped thinking about you. Every time I was in the garden growing stuff I’d always pass you a thought as you were an inspiration to me, you opened my mind to something I now love and hold very dear. Thank you mate, you inspired me there friend. I’ll grow you a sunflower every year from now on that’s for damned sure.

I just want to end this by saying, a lot of people think that when you have a lot of loss in your life it makes it easier and bearable but it really doesn’t. Death of a loved one, be it family or friend, isn’t like changing a puncture. Eventually you can become really good at changing punctures, so much so that you hardly remember the first time it happened and your heart sank. Every single time the phone goes and you answer it to hear the news that someone you knew and cared about has gone you hurt and it never hurts any less regardless of who it is or how many times it has happened.

Your life feels emptier, because it is.

May you rest in peace Mark and whether you are in heaven, a sunbeam, or reborn somewhere else, just know you were loved and will be missed a hell of a lot by more people than you could’ve imagined. 

Peace and love. 

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