Oi, here comes my engine

September 25, 2012 at 7:01 pm (books, kids) (, , , , , , )

If like us you have train mad boys in the house, but are a bit fed up with the “Th” word, then here are a couple of nice kids books about trains that you might not have heard of before.

(Note – I quite liked the original stories from the Rev W Awdry … I just don’t really like how they’ve been cartoonified since … or the theme tunes they use on the videos!)

Oi! Get Off Our Train

This is one of those books that we’ve now had on the bookshelves for over 16 years (I’ve mentioned it before) … its a great story with a bit of an ecological theme.  It also has great illustrations.  If you’ve seen any of John Burningham‘s other books, you’ll recognise the style instantly.

One Christmas channel 4 played a half-hour animation based on the story.  We have a DVD copied from a video recorded off the TV version, which isn’t perfect. I have tried to buy it, but all I could find was an American version, where they decided to rename it “The Animal Train” – goodness knows why – Oi! is such a great title.

There is an even worse copy than mine on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GTQmm9AzFE – but it does at least give you a chance to listen to the song that was written for it (and works really well).  In fact the sound track is really good.

A great book with a serious message told in an interesting and sensitive way.

Here Comes the Train

Another regular in our household is Charlotte Voake (‘Ginger‘ is another book from 16 years ago that’s still on the bookshelves).

This book tells the story of a weekend adventure to a bridge over the railway to wait for and watch the trains as they whoosh underneath.  This book actually prompted a visit to a local industrial estate in a bid to find a similar bridge.  Of course, most rail bridges these days are pretty much closed in (at least the ones around me are anyway).

Engines, Engines

Apparently this is an Indian counting rhyme that Lisa Bruce has put together with Stephen Waterhouse’s very colourful illustrations to create this book.

This hasn’t been in the house quite so long, but has been a firm favourite of the boys since we’ve had it.  It manages to get quite a number of key landmarks from India into the rhyme as it counts from 1 to 10.

Amazing Machines – Terrific Trains

This last one is just a simple rhyming book with large cartoon illustrations.  There is a book for trains, one for rockets, diggers, and a range of other things too.

So if you would like a change from Thomas, Percy and friends, take a look at some of these.



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All websites evolve to receive humorous comments

September 4, 2012 at 8:27 pm (computers, internet) (, , , )

and those that don’t are replaced with those that can (to misuse Zawinski’s Law)?

And which site would you least expect to contain user-contributed humour?  Ok, well there are probably many, but Amazon is the one that surprises me from time to time.

There are some real gems, where readers have completely gone to town on a product.  What I can’t work out is if the products themselves are genuine?  Take the most recent example I saw popping up on Facebook:

Uranium Ore – $49.95

What the people say:

  • 3 stars – “I purchased this product 4.47 Billion Years ago and when I opened it today, it was half empty.”
  • 5 stars – “Package was leaking when it arrived but I believe that’s an old custom in the industry so I haven’t marked it down.”
  • 1 star – “Product was exactly as described but did not function as a time machine fuel source. This Uranium Ore only allows one to go 15 mph to the mailbox, which is not enough momentum for time travel.”
  • 1 star – “Not only that, the Uranium you see sold above is of low grade and I would not recommend it to anyone looking to blow up a small to medium sized country off the Mediterranean sea.  If you want my advice, contact the Russians.”

If Uranium Ore is not to your tastes, then maybe you might be interested in this one that has hit the online news recently:

Bic Pens for Her – £14.82

  • 5 stars – “But until now, I couldn’t figure out why my life felt so flat, so uninspired, so – very – vapid.  I now know. All this time, I’ve been writing with a pen intended for a man (insert face palm slap with a Homer Simpson “Doh”) instead of one designed for the delicate needs of a woman. Who knew?”
  • 5 stars – “And thank goodness for BIC’s foresight in labelling these pens ‘for her’, because I would never have known that this was the pen for me otherwise. I never even realised before that pens were gendered – they don’t call them men’s pens, even though that rhymes, and I’ve never even realised I was using the wring writing implements. And just imagine if they had simply made a slim pink pen, and men had bought it!”
  • 1 star – “She spent a week attempting to make her own grocery list, but the pages were just filled with hearts, flowers, and other doodles. Unfortunately, she fell behind in the laundry, my lunches were of poor quality (she even forgot to make it once!), the rugs were not vacuumed well, etc. This was becoming a huge problem. We discussed the issue and decided that she would practice with the pens after she put the children down for a nap in the afternoon. Assuming she was on top of her chores and with the stipulation that she not spend more than a half hour a day with them.”

It doesn’t stop there … for the busy driver/worker on the move:

Wheelmate Laptop Steering Wheel Desk – $24.95

  • 5 stars – “I am totally blind and now that I have the Wheelmate Steering Wheel Tray, I can keep my fingers on my Braille map while driving
    and don’t have to worry about getting lost anymore”
  • 1 star – “This product simply does not perform well on corners. I have damaged two laptops, spilled coffee, scattered paperclips all over the inside of my car, and incurred a $250 cleaning charge from Avis for an unfortunate incident involving an eggnog latte and a rented Escalade.”
  • 1 star – “Got it as part of my new year’s resolution to be healthier and eat breakfast. Terrible product, every time I turn left or right, my food just spills all over the place. Last week I had a bowl of hot oatmeal fly out of the window and hit a bicyclist. Damn bugger took my breakfast.”
  • and my personal favourite – 5 stars – “You wouldn’t believe how much more interesting my commute is now that I have something to do other than just stare out the window! I’m using it right now to post this review and I never   “

For the audiophiles amongst you:

Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable – $400.00

  • 2 stars – “Transmission of music data at rates faster than the speed of light seemed convenient, until I realized I was hearing the music before I actually wanted to play it.”
  • 1 star – “The cable knew where to go, and hooked itself into the correct ports without help from me – all the while, the choir sang praises to the almighty digital god. With trepidation, I pushed “play,” and was instantly enveloped in a sound that echoed the creation of all matter, a sound that vibrated every cell in my body to perfection. I was instantly taken to the next plane, where I saw the all-father. I knew with my entire soul, that all was good in the world.  But then I realized the cable was blue, so I only gave it one star. I hate blue.”
  • 1 star – “In a nutshell, digital bits should consist solely of “1”s and “0”s. Unfortunately, low quality cables will distort the digital data, causing some “1”s to become values such as “0.93”s or “1.12”s or even “2.08”s, for example. Likewise, some “0”s will be changed to values like “0.2”s or “0.13”s. The problem is that circuits such as digital-to-analog converters and tri-state digital buffers can’t process these distorted bits, and they remain stuck in the cable. Eventually the cable becomes so clogged that data transmission slows to a crawl as bandwidth is gradually reduced.”
  • 5 stars – “The cable installs, at each end, into it’s receptacle with a satisfactory click. I spent hours simply plugging and unplugging it, then it was time for the purging of ear particulate mater.”
  • 1 star – “I purchased this bungee cord because it matched the basket on my bicycle. However, it is missing the hooky things on the ends and I had to tie it to the handlebars. Very poor planning on Denon’s part.  Bottom line: I cannot recommend.”

But I suspect this is the classic one – its certainly one of the first I heard about:

The Mountain Three Woof Moon Short Sleeve Tee – $11.95

Just a couple of the over 2000 reviews …

  • 5 stars – “Unfortunately I already had this exact picture tattooed on my chest, but this shirt is very useful in colder weather.”
  • 2 stars – “I had always known that something was missing from my life and this is it. I quickly bought one for my wife and kids. But to my horror I discovered that I wasn’t able to get one small enough for my cat.”
  • 5 stars – “I was born cold, naked, and unable to care for myself. After I bought the Three Wolf Moon shirt I became a Reality TV Star at Microsoft.”
  • 5 stars – “I sometimes pay a prostitute to wear the t-shirt and visit me in prison just so I can look lovingly upon it.”
  • 1 star – “After reading the reviews i ordered a dozen of these hoping to either bring my wife back from the dead or at the very least meet the wolf god who took her. Neither of these happened. Nothing has happened. Nothing ever happens, and I don’t know why expect online purchases to plug the hole in my heart. Nothing has, nothing will, and certainly not some wolves howling at the moon.”

So there.  Do let me know if (or rather when) you find some more – you might find some among these.


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