Cheap Entertainment

Back to reality.

After a week of work it was back to reality. Well that may be stretching it a bit! Watching things on TV and playing video games with a five-year-old may not count. But for me it is just great.

Take the TV show WWE Raw aka ‘Wrestle Mania’ for example. There are several things you could say about it immediately:
It has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
It is pure entertainment masquerading as “sport”.
It encourages kids to try dangerous things.

Let’s take the first two points in the above examples. Yes. Obviously, both are correct.

As for the third point; Dani did not need telling. He said it before the TV show did. “You must not try this at home or school”. They have a slot (or two) in the shows when they actually tell the viewers that the wrestlers are paid entertainers. Trained athletes who suffer great pain for their trade. They cannot be accused of taking themselves seriously.

Table Match Anyone?

All that aside the show was great this weekend. It included something called a ‘Table Match’. It certainly got Dani bouncing about excitedly. That one didn’t take much explaining to the kid. Basically, the winner must smash his opponent through a table. Breaking the table in two in the process. Simple right?

You can say what you want about this “sport” – and I certainly laugh at it – but they really are fantastic athletes. They display incredible strength, fitness and agility. In most cases anyway.

Above all it’s hilarious. Now that’s what I call real.

80s Arcade Games

Now I was never a big fan of arcade video games. Or “gaming” as the hip kids call it now. And not just kids. This is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Once the kids are hooked it is hard to get them away from the screen. And they stay there as adults.

I received a small, retro arcade game for Christmas and we had almost forgotten about it. Not so Dani. He just found it and insisted we play it. I found some batteries and off we went – largely into the unknown. These were pure 80s retro games. 8-bit technology graphics and similar daft sound effects.

Needless to say we were both useless. Dani because of his age and me? Well because I just never really played these things. So, it was just a good laugh. Until that is, I thrashed him at one particular game. Then he didn’t want to play or even talk to me. A huge sulk followed. Bad loser? I wonder where he gets that from?

On a more serious note though I do worry about the amount of “screen time” (as they now call it) that he is getting. I have heard a few pros and cons on that subject and need to write a post on that in the near future.

It’s a kind of magic…

Then – again out of the blue – Dani found one of his Christmas presents. A small green plastic soldier attached to a parachute. We can all remember those right? He insisted on going downstairs to watch it fall and then try to catch it. Meanwhile I was to throw it off the balcony. We live in a 3rd floor apartment – I am not sure I have ever mentioned that.

So Dani went downstairs and out of the sky flew this toy paratrooper. He caught it and was so pleased with himself. Now all was well with the world and he was my friend again. As if by magic…

SuperZings Invasion

SuperZings – More than Superheroes (they say).

The latest craze sweeping kids’ brains at the moment is the SuperZings (pronounced in Spain Super Things). An ever growing collection of (now) several hundred characters an inch or so high.

It’s all in the Name

They remind me a little of Cutie Fruities which were around when I was in school in the 70s. Little fruit (and vegetable) characters that you stuck on top of your pens and pencils. Are such things known as pencil toppers?

The marketing angle is not unlike the huge Pokemon craze of the 90s (which of course made several returns). Multiple whacky characters to collect and swap with your friends. The names tell you what the character is and clearly there is no end to what they can make (and sell) as any ‘thing’ can be a Superthing.

Their names are as crazy as the toys. Naughty Socks, Joe Cookie; and Frenetic Fries  – basically looking like a box of French fries from that place with the golden arches and some clown.

Like Taking Candy from a Baby…

The photos below show some other examples. It’s easy enough to realise that this can go on and on. Not unlike the Lego minifigures in that respect.

The Superzings come on their own for 70 cents. With a “vehicle” for €2 and with some kind of tower/prison cell (or similar accessory) for €4. All-in-all it’s a great way to take the kids’ pocket money.

We each bought one the other day. Mine was Choc Shock, Dani’s was Battle Butter and his mum’s was Hoops (basically a basketball hoop with a face etc).
Battle Butter vs Choc Shock – Sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen.

Over 4s Only?

The marketing geniuses have been setting up Superzing play areas in shopping centres. We accidentally happened across one while doing a supermarket shop. As the play area was about to open we decided to let Dani enter. They had a strict age policy. One of the adults in charge was asking the smaller kids how old they were. If they said “three” they were not allowed in. When the parents complained (more like questioned) they were shown the wrapper the little toys come in which does clearly display (if you look for it) that sign. The one that shows these toys are not suitable between the ages of 0-3.

One little girl had to wait outside with her dad while her older brother played inside with Dani and the other kids. A little harsh I thought as that sign is only for guidance and is not legally binding. Still, in this age of litigation what group open to the public is going to take the chance of a youngster swallowing a small toy under their supervision. Also, it surely means up to 36 months ld. O the kids of 3 years old are actually outside this boundary, even if only by a month or so. Otherwise why doesn’t the symbol say “4 years and over”?

None of this debate bothered Dani of course. He was in his element. As were plenty of other kids. These toys, incredibly simple in their concept, have really struck the right chord.

Here is a link to a two page poster of some of the Superzings characters:
Superzing characters1

Electric cars – Do me a favour

One of the aims of this blog was to capture hopes and fears for my son in the years to come. This is a long one but please stick with it. It has a humorous side too. So what will his future look like? Here is one thing that may or may not transpire….

Electric Dreams

We are constantly being bombarded with news items about how in the very near future we will all be driving electric cars.

What do you think this old dad thinks about that one? Simple: Not in my lifetime. But here’s why I believe it will not happen in Dani’s either.

Unwittingly helped by Tesla…

Probably the biggest and most well-known electric car company is Tesla. Owned by the brilliant entrepreneur who goes by the name of Mr. Elon Musk.

I had heard that their car batteries could be charged in about 20 minutes – just enough time to top up at a motorway service station while having a coffee eh? So while I was browsing their website I got into an online conversation with one of their “experts” (the unlucky Alec). This is the exact conversation as emailed to me following its abrupt end.

The online chat…

Alec: Have a question? Chat with a Tesla expert.
Me: How long does it take to recharge battery?
Alec: Hi At a supercharger 45 minutes or at home about 7/8 hours
Me: So how would that work if everyone (or a lot of people) owned an electric car? For one thing the grid would never cope with it. Between 5 and 7pm when everyone plugs in the substations would crash.
Alec: They could install batteries in their household to store the energy from day time and charge their cars with this  Or alternatively energy companies could load balance using battery storage systems, a lot like Australia do at the moment
Me: But if everyone was doing that or some mix then local substations would be tripping all hours of the day. There are not enough power stations anyway without this. They are closing the larger power stations in the UK. It is not only that. The type of power stations required would need to be either nuclear (decades away in time to build etc), hydro (do-able but not on any politicians radar) or pumped storage (like the one in North Wales – which took 10 years to build in the 60s, so would take about 20 nowadays!). Infrastructure is so way off, so far off that the electric car thing will drop off a cliff edge some time in the near future. Probably when that critical number is sold and power cuts abound.
Alec: It would take those timelines or even longer for the nation to shift away from petrol and diesel cars to electric. The government and energy companies have time to sort this.
Not really, the government have put plans in place for all cars sold to be fully electric by 2040, times are changing now
Me: No they don’t. Mostly because governments have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. They play to the gallery – which at the moment wants to hear about an electric car future, or at least possibility thereof. Not all good ideas are feasible unfortunately. When the reality check kicks in (power cuts etc…) people will demand their old cars back.
Thank you for contacting us.
Chat session disconnected.

Oops… No more of that.

And that was that. They cut me off. (And who can blame them I hear some of you say.) Admittedly I was being a little mischievous. But that was the point. The questions did not fit with the standard answers. That online live chat thing now seems to have disappeared from their website. I guess that tells a story in itself. Don’t get me wrong. As an engineer I am full of admiration for most of the things Tesla are building (or attempting to build).

Who are you calling a Cnut?

My main point is not only where will all the electricity come from but how will the surge in demand be handled? Wind and solar power we are often told. But guess what? You can’t control the wind or the clouds. Mind you there was once a Danish monarch who thought he could control the ocean’s waves. He went by the name of King Cnut. More like stupid Cnut if you ask me. But he is now in good company. With a myriad of politicians; half believing, some lying to us about the prospect of everyone driving all electric cars in about 20 years time.

Nah… Even with greatly improved battery technology the problem is what happens when everyone tries to charge their car after work? At the same time!? The reality is, not only do we not have realistic new power sources; the government (in the UK certainly) are doing absolutely nothing about replacing the existing power sources. This inability to address a known  problem while simultaneously telling us that we will all have to drive electric cars is something that should concern everyone.

Summary

While trying to avoid getting too political I do maintain a healthy (engineering based) enquiring mind. A questioning attitude. Nobody should take what they see or hear in the mainstream media at face value. There will always be something else. Another angle, another side to the story. Isn’t it  ironic that that our wonderful leaders hardly ever mention the one source of power that perhaps could be harnessed and never ever stops. The very same waves that stupid Danish Cnut failed to stop.

 On that note, I suppose there is yet another side to this. Maybe there is something Mr. Musk knows that we are not being told. Perhaps the secrets of safe and abundant nuclear fusion are about to be uncovered???

Footnote: To be fair to King Cnut (aka Canute) he was king of England and Norway as well as Denmark. A powerful man back in his day – the 12th century. 

Happy Birthday – 3 years old

Happy Birthday (to this blog)

Today this blog is three years old. A little older actually but today marks the third anniversary since the first article was posted. How time flies. It almost seems like only a few weeks ago.

Intentions…Goals

Just as I intended from the off-set; I am doing this for Daniel. Nobody else (although I do find it fun sometimes). So that when he is old enough he can read the articles, see the photos and watch the videos. There are plenty of thing that happen that I just never get around to writing about. I realise that I do not write nearly enough posts – by so called “professional” bloggers’ standards at least. But what the hell? I do it as and when I can; and whenever something happens that I want to record online…

Another intention was that I wanted to highlight things that may affect my son. Even way past my own time… There are a couple of things I have thought about recently that I need to capture in a post or two. Things that often pop up in the news. One such thing is the progress of the electric car. While my opinions are obviously personal on such matters I did manage to get the unwitting help of a well-known electric car manufacturer on this particular one. More to follow on that one…

Sad Hill Film

As I was thinking about writing this ‘birthday’ post, I re-read one of my favourite posts (from last October to be precise). The one about the visit to Sad Hill cemetery. Then I found something on Netflix. There is a documentary film available now called “Unearthing Sad Hill”. It tells the story of how the place was restored by fans of the film. It is quite interesting and anyone who likes that film – and that will surely include most people who have seen it – is sure to find it interesting. If you never saw the post about our visit to Sad Hill cemetery then you can see it here: The Good The Bad and The Ugly post

Strikes and Surprises

I went to see Dani’s new baby cousin Roberto the other day. He was born in the same hospital as Dani. Oddly I remembered nothing about the place. It all seemed new to me and yet just over 5 years ago I spent several days there.

Strikes…

One thing I definitely remember was the strike (huelga). Right now, the Madrid taxi drivers are on strike. They are protesting against what they see as unfair competition from online taxi companies such as Uber and Cabify. When Dani was born the local (council) bin men were on strike.

Just before he was due to arrive I took a couple of weeks off work. I definitely recall that the streets of Madrid had litter being blown everywhere. It was the same story all over the city including around the hospital. It was like a third world country. Really very odd. I suppose if we don’t like the term ‘bin men’ we can call them rubbish collectors or even sanitation workers if we want to be PC about it. But hey; there was rubbish and crap everywhere.

Arriving in Madrid right now my main problem is having to take the metro (subway/underground train). Hardly as bad. Having said that I do support the taxi drivers. They have a genuine point. They have to be fully licensed and pay for the right to be ‘official Madrid taxis’. It seems that these online taxi firms can get away with a lot less regulation. It makes a mockery of the so called “official” taxi system.

Similar strikes have hit Barcelona and other major cities in Spain. The problem is that this strike in Madrid has been going on for over week and there is no end in sight. People who support their cause may lose patience. Which brings me neatly on to another thing…

Life is full of surprises

Meanwhile; Dani’s nana came over last weekend and made a comment that was totally out of the blue. She said that she was really surprised how patient I am with Dani. I am not quite sure whether she was referring to Dani being hard work at times or if she meant that I was generally not famous for my patience. Probably the latter. I suppose I took it as a compliment.

She is not the only one to be surprised. I have discovered – much to my own surprise – just how much I enjoy reading stories to him. It is actually good fun. Well I try to make them fun. Let’s face it; some of the stories are not exactly exciting are they? Even the ones I make up myself are often awful. I doubt I will be reading stories on Jackanory an time soon. Is that still on TV? He seems to like them though and that’s what matters.

Back to the strike…

Which brings me ack to the taxi strike. We went to the airport to pick up his mum after her business trip to Australia. He asked why there were no taxis so told him the taxi drivers were on strike. Naturally he asked what ‘on strike’ meant. That was a difficult one to explain but after a few minutes of questions and answers he got it. Or maybe he gave up.

And he was so excited to see his mum…