Monday, 27 October 2008

Psychometric Tests

In preparation for applying for jobs I got a book out of the library on psychometric tests - describing the purpose and style of the different types of test used by employers when they recruit staff.

In general I would say that I am not a 'visual person'. Whilst I may notice the animals and plants around me more than most people I am generally quite unaware of my surroundings. I can rarely remember the type of cars my family own, let alone their license plate numbers. I never know what eye colour people have (though I do try to look people in the eye when I talk to them) etc.

Of the type of questions that come up in IQ type tests the ones I struggle with the most are usually visual. This is an example from my book. Please can somebody help me understand how to do these...

Neither Ian (a visual person) nor Mum (very good at puzzles in general) can do it either. I've put the answer in a comment to this blog and would greatly appreciate it if someone could explain how to get it. Thank you!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

A new blog

I have started a new blog, the reasons for which will become apparent when you have read the first entry:

Friday, 29 August 2008

Pensthorpe Gardens

I often use google image search to get ideas for gardens. My favourite gardens that I've visited are at Pensthorpe ( in Norfolk. I was originally attracted to Pensthorpe due to its water gardens and associated wildlife, but the flower borders left a much more lasting impression.

My absolute favourite is their millenium garden, designed by Piet Oudolf ( Paths wind through enormous borders featuring colourful perennials and grasses. Careful planting has resulted in a most spectacular display from early summer right through the winter. Some of my favourite pictures are below, but see gap photos for more details.

In late autumn and winter the grasses and seedheads dominate the gardens.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008


I'm not generally keen on the phase lots of celebrities are going through at the moment - having odd pets, particularly small yappy dogs. I do, however, adore this little honey bear featured on the BBC today...

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Book blog

Having been inspired by my father I've started a new blog about books

Both Ian and I will be contributing, but I can't say with what frequency. I feel very inspired to read at the moment, Ian having put up lots of shelving in the lounge. For the first time in a very long time the majority of my books are on a shelf. This has made me realise how many of them I haven't yet read and others that I want to reread. I suspect many will have to wait til winter though as it seems such a shame to stay indoors when the weather is good and the garden needs so much attention.

ga or wa?

Could someone who actually studied grammar at school (or anywhere else) please explain to me the difference between the topic and the subject of a sentence. I'm asking because my Japanese grammar book assumes that I know and I don't and I'm therefore unsure of when to use some particles...

'When the topic of the sentence is different to the grammatical subject, the grammatical subject is followed by ga (the topic is followed by wa)'

I have an example:

I don't understand English: Eigo ga wakaranai desu (literally, English ga don't understand)

I don't eat Japanese food: Nihonshoku wa tabenai desu (literally, Japanese food wa don't eat)

I'm sure I should be able to figure this out, but I can't seem to. Help please!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

If you're feeling lonely...

There's an article on the BBC website today about talking to strangers - whether or not people consider it polite, are willing to strike up a conversation and if the weather is the best subject to start on.

Often I read the comments section at the bottom of BBC articles. I really liked this one...

'The other day someone gave me a helium balloon shaped like a panda, and I had to take it across London. If you want people to talk to you, take a panda! I simply couldn't believe how many people (guys, girls, groups, couples, individuals, young, old) stopped to talk to me, to ask the panda's name, to ask if he was dangerous, what he ate... In a city where usually no one speaks to anyone, an anthropomorphic balloon is an instant bond with - apparently - everyone!'

So now you know what to do if you're bored and have no one to talk to!

Thursday, 17 July 2008


I commented to Ian today that one of our sunflowers has a bud on it. That got me thinking about how much money we could save on bird food if we had room to grow a few sunflowers each year, which got us on to a conversation about sunflower oil and the fact that we weren't entirely sure which part of the sunflower the oil comes from. Of course it seemed sensible that it came from the seeds, but then as Ian pointed out, 'why is it not called sunflower seed oil'?

As you'll no doubt know the oil does indeed come from the seeds, or rather what we refer to as the seeds. In fact these are actually the fruit of the sunflower, the true seeds being encased in an inedible husk. I guess the fact that we call it olive oil and not olive fruit oil means that sunflower oil does follow the same pattern. In addition to the seed not being a seed, nor is the flower actually a flower - it is a head of numerous flowers crowded together.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008


I'm currently reading 'autumn bridge' by takashi matsuoka, the sequel to his excellent 'cloud of sparrows'. They are primarily books about Japan in the 19th Century, but autumn bridge actually jumps around from the 14th to the late 19th century. This may sound confusing, and it is (especially when your bookmark falls out), but I'm really enjoying it.

Through reading these two books I've learned lots of new Japanese words and lots of Japanese history. The trouble is that I've no idea what is and isn't history. Like the Bernard Cornwell books they contain information on a number of major events and characters and are very well researched. Unfortunately whilst it is generally easy to determine who is and isn't 'made up' in the Cornwell books my lack of knowledge of Japan makes this much more difficult.

The primary rivalries among the samurai in the 19th century result from the outcome of the battle of Sekigahara in 1600. This is commonly known as the Realm Divide and cleared the path to the shogunate for the Tokugawa clan, the last shogunate to control Japan.

James Clavell's Shogun is also a fictionalized account of the rise to fame of the first Tokugawa shogun (thinly disguised as "Toranaga"), culminating in the Battle of Sekigahara.

These days one of Sekigahara's few non-martial attractions is the profusion of fireflies in the area. Lake Mishima is home to a particularly famous firefly spot housing hundreds if not thousands on a good day. A Firefly Festival is held there in the early summer.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Myanmar or Burma?

I don't have time to blog this afternoon, but recommend this link to anyone who is confused what we should be calling the country recently hit by cyclone Nargis...

Sunday, 4 May 2008

3rd May 2008

A few photographs from my Bryony and Mark's wedding yesterday...

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Master slow

ooops... accidentally posted this on the wrong blog. Does that ever happen to anyone else?

Having got back from California yesterday I was having a lovely relaxing lunch outside with Ian and william when I noticed that in fact there were four of us sitting on the gravel. Master slow worm was so still that we both feared he was dead. He even let ants run over him, but upon close inspection (and a little encouragement with a twig) he turned out to be very much alive.

This is the second baby slow worm we've had now; I uncovered the first last year, but it wriggled into the grass so quickly I could barely be sure that it was indeed a slow worm. This one was much less interested in getting away and actually stayed where we placed him in the undergrowth for over half an hour.

Whilst watching him we disturbed a frog. Our second frog in the garden and the first since we put in the pond. Very pleased.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Mr Bun the baker

With the addition of some large shelves to the left of the fireplace in the lounge I have been able to display my favourite childrens books for the first time in many years. These include the Brian Jacques Redwall series, books by Colin Dann, Dick King Smith and a few other odd ones. A couple of days ago I decided to reread 'the rectory mice' and was amused to find a reference to the happy families card game and Mr bun the baker.

I spent many happy times playing happy families in my grandparents lounge. Having looked the card game up on Wikipedia I've found that there were many versions, with different families, but some of the other families I remember are Chop, the Butcher, and Sole, the Fisherman/Fishmonger?

Unfortunately I can't find a picture on the internet of the set we used to have, but the daily mail has made a set for the modern age, which is similar in style to the cards that we had.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Ginkgo Biloba

I've always wondered how to pronounce ginkgo biloba and have finally looked it up. Ginkgo comes from the Chinese (and later Japanese) ginkyo meaning silver (gin) apricot (kyo). In Japanese this would be pronounced geen kyoh. Engelbert Kaempfer, responsible for the current awkward spelling as written in his "Amoenitates Exoticae", unfortunately made a mistake by writing kgo instead of kyo when making his notes in Japan. The current accepted pronunciation is GINK-oh.

Biloba (pronounced by-LOH-ba) comes from the Latin for two-lobed (bi from Latin "bis" meaning double, loba meaning lobes), the leaf being fan-shaped with a split in the middle.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Cities of Germany

Ian and I are currently taking a German language course at the University. One week we learned how to say 'city A is in Germany', 'city B is not in Switzerland' etc. Unfortunately we all hesitated as to which cities were in Switzerland and which were in fact in Germany. Coupled with the fact that I can't actually put on a map the German cities that I do know I've decided to put up a very simple map on the blog. Suspect one of Switzerland will appear on the blog sooner or later.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Chinese New Year Presiding Animals

  • Rat (2008, 1996...)
  • Ox (2009, 1997)
  • Tiger (2010, 1998)
  • Rabbit (2011, 1999)
  • Dragon (2012, 2000)
  • Snake (2013, 2001)
  • Horse (2014, 2002)
  • Sheep (2015, 2003)
  • Monkey (2016, 2004)
  • Rooster (2017, 2005)
  • Dog (2018, 2006)
  • Pig (2019, 2007)

Wednesday, 9 January 2008


Over Christmas we were wondering why it is that none of us could picture a cashew shell (whereas most other nuts can be bought in their shells). Cashews - the true fruit of the cashew tree grow attached to a false or accessory fruit, known as the cashew apple (though it looks more like a pepper in shape). The cashew apple is edible and very sweet, but difficult to transport (presumably why we don't ever see them in the UK).

Cashew nuts themselves are surrounded by a double shell. The nut is found on the end closest to the cashew apple. The other end is honeycombed with cells that contain a toxic fluid called cardol that blisters the mouth. For many years, the cashew was referred to as the blister nut.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Isaac Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics

Having watched I, Robot last night I thought I'd put these up on the blog today.

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Leaders of the Soviet Union

  • Vladimir Lenin (really Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov) (1922-1924)
  • Josef Stalin (really Joseph Vissarionovich Jugashvili ) (1927-1953)
  • Georgy Maximilianovich Malenkof (Chairman of the council of ministers under Krushchev from 1953-1955)
  • Nikita Sergeyevitch Krushchev (1953-1964)
  • Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (1964-1982)
  • Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov (1982-1984)
  • Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko (1984-1985)
  • Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (1985-1991)