I’m on Flickr

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I’ve recently joined Flickr. For those who don’t know, Flickr is a photo-sharing social media type thing.

I’m mostly using it as backup photo storage (you get a whole terabyte free and can make photos private so only you can see them), but as I upload things I’m setting some of them to “public”.

You can check it out here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/122055452@N04/

Here’s a little selection of things I’ve uploaded recently.

We found a lot of old photos in the cupboard during a clear-out one day, and I had them digitised. This tree is still there:

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From a trip to see the HMS Belfast in 2009. We slept on the ship!

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2009 again – we got locked in a Police van during a visit to the station.

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And some of our recent activities:

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The hills are alive

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With the sound of kiai.

Last weekend, I took part in “The Welsh Experiment”, the first Shorinji Kempo training seminar of its kind (in the UK, that we know of).

Around 25 of us took to the Welsh mountains, shakujo in hand, for a weekend of training and mindfulness.

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We split our time between learning the basics of shakujo (that’s the big sticks we’re all carrying in the picture) and some of the more complex kata, and various forms of meditation and mindfulness practices.

The weather (amazingly) behaved remarkably well. Stereotypes of Welsh weather, and the weather forecast, agreed that we were likely to get wet. Some people got slightly sunburnt.

The first day did have some very dramatic looking panoramas, the sort you get in training montages from the 80s, with rows of students disappearing into the mists.

The mists didn’t photograph well, so here’s another kind of drama:

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On day 2 we climbed Pen Y Fan before breakfast, then did some more training.

The afternoon was devoted to seiho, which is “correcting methods”. In its simplest form, it is pressure point massage, but it’s actually so much more.

We spent a lot of time over the weekend thinking about our connection to the universe. Every moment, every action or inaction we take affects not just ourselves but others. Every thought or word affects not just others but ourselves.

The mountains are one with the sky.

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Girlguiding consent forms: 3 myths busted!

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If you are a Leader with Girlguiding, the chances are that you have heard at least one of these complaints, probably all of them.  Consent forms, while necessary, are often regarded as a pain in the mik’ta *.

A lot of people have trouble opening them.  It’s not just the technically incompetent, either.  Some people can open them on one computer but not another.  The complaints range from

“I can’t update to the latest version of adobe, I’m on a work computer and I don’t have admin rights.”

Which, alas, I can’t do anything about, to

“I have a Mac, so I can’t open them.”

Which is just wrong.

What’s the problem?

Girlguiding use forms with expandable boxes for Adobe PDF forms.  I believe the technical term is “dynamic XML”.

This means that you can fit in as much information as you need, but it also means that a lot of non-adobe “PDF readers” can’t cope.  If, as we do, you email out consent forms to parents and ask them to print and return, you will inevitably get a lot of complaints from parents.

3 myths debunked

1. I have a Mac, which means I can’t open the form.

Wrong.  I have a Mac, and I can do it just fine.  This problem arises when people use the mac Mail app’s “quick look” feature.  Quick look isn’t intelligent enough to cope, so people panic and assume there’s a problem with the file.  However, if you save the file and open it with Adobe Reader it works perfectly.

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There are very clear instructions on the Girlguiding website (members area, under “Forms”).

2. I only have an iPad, which means I can’t open the form.

Same problem as the Mac – people see the quick look “please wait” message, and assume that they can’t do it at all.

For added fun, the “Adobe Reader” app can’t read the files.  That’s the point people usually give up.  I gave up for a long time, myself, but I recently discovered the solution, and I’m so excited that I just have to share it!

CloudOn LogoSolution:  Download “CloudOn“, a free app.  It connects to anything that supports the “Open in…” dialogue, including email, dropbox, and so on.  You can open, edit, and save Microsoft Office files as well as Adobe PDF forms.  Anything that you create or save can be uploaded to Dropbox or emailed directly from the app.

It’s a bit fiddly on the iPhone, because of the screen size, but I imagine it’s ok on an iPad.

Other apps may also be able to read the files, but once I found this one I stopped looking.  If you know of any others, please mention them in the comments.

3.  I only have an Android tablet, which means I can’t open the form.

Actually, I’ve never heard this one, but since I recently acquired a tablet that runs Android, I thought I’d test it out.  The answer turns out to be the same as for the iPad: the standard Adobe app can’t cope, but CloudOn can.

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So there you have it!  Never again do you need to complain about struggling to open Girlguiding forms.  Tell all your friends, because they will love you for it!

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* Stargate joke.  Sorry.

Special Edition Goal Update

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I originally said that I would only mention my 2014 goals once a month, unless something important happened.

I had exam results.

I took two exams back in April, and the results came out last Thursday.

I passed one of them!  Yay!

But I also failed one.  Boo.

For a while I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.  I think I was more nervous about these exam results than I’ve ever been about any results before.  I knew that the results of these exams would determine whether I qualified as an actuary or not.

If I passed both, then yay, I was going to be an actuary.

If I failed both, I was giving up.  I clearly wasn’t good enough (this was not, as you might recall from earlier posts, my first attempt at them).  And I would have been sad, but also relieved to be off the merry-go-round of studying and waiting.

Passing one and failing one is perhaps the worst outcome.  Now, I only have one more exam to do, so it seems silly to give up.

But I’m so fed up of studying.  And the last few months, with no studying to do, I feel like I’ve really got on top of some other things which were slipping, like Brownie admin, Kempo, and general tidiness of the house*.

Actually, once I allowed it to sink in, and started looking at specifics of when I can take it again, what there is to do, and so on, it’s not so bad.

I wouldn’t say I was looking forward to it, but I’m no longer horrified by the whole prospect of studying again.

Did I need an excuse to use this picture again?

Did I need an excuse to use this picture again?

I’m going to take the Institute’s Exam Counselling service, where they look at your exam script and put together personalised advice for you.  And I’m going to be doing lots of past exam questions.  Hopefully with only one exam to focus on I’ll be able to pass it.

I’ll keep you posted, of course, but don’t hold your breath – the exam results for the September sitting don’t come out until Christmas.

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* although I will admit that my husband does most of the work on that last one.

Party Time

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The end of last week was a bit party-tastic.

After the picnic fun on Wednesday, I had the Division Exec BBQ on Thursday.

That was good fun. We’ve got a pretty good team in our Division, and any “meeting” which involves BBQ, wine, and guacamole dips is alright by me.

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And then Friday was the last Brownies of term for my other unit.  We played a lot of party games, and revisited our code of conduct to see if everyone had been sticking to it.

Just like on Wednesday, I tried to talk to each girl.  It’s pretty difficult with 30 Brownies to get to know them all, and I don’t think I make enough effort in that regard.  The last meeting of term is not the best time to start trying – but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?  And it might mean they leave for the holidays more eager to come back, which can only be a good thing.

We also did prizes for the best Brownies of term, and there was much giving out of badges, too.  Sadly, one of the Brownies is leaving us (to move to Kenya!), so we had some goodbyes to say too.

It’s always sad to lose girls, but I understand she’s already signed up for Kenyan Girl Guides, so I’m pretty happy with that outcome!  I hope she follows through on her promise to send photos.

Presentations and Picnics

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Yesterday evening our Brownies had their last meeting of term.  We borrowed a larger hall than normal, invited the parents, and Lightning and Sunrise put together a presentation of photos.

It took them a while.

Clearly we’ve been having too much fun.

Unfortunately, due to a lorry which caught on fire on a major arterial road at around 4pm, the traffic was terrible – to the extent that only six Brownies actually made it, and most of those were late.

We did a slightly shorter, less formal version of the original plan.  Originally, some of the Brownies were going to talk about the pictures, but none of those girls were there.  Instead we just put on a slide show and jumped in when we saw something we wanted to talk about.

The Brownies who were there gave thank you cards to the leaders. They had badges in!

I also got this badge:

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Briarlands is our County campsite. They’re building a pack holiday house, and there’s just a little tiny bit left to fundraise. Some of the leaders are doing a sponsored skydive to raise the money. If you go to https://www.justgiving.com/skydiveforbriarlands and donate £10 or more, you can have a badge too!

Afterwards, we had a picnic on the school field.  The weather was glorious, and the parents who had made it brought scrumptious food.  And, once we’d eaten, there was plenty of room to run around.

After reading this blog post, I made it my mission to talk to as many of the girls as possible during the evening.  Obviously, this turned out to be easier than I expected!  I had some pretty good chats.

A couple of them were telling me about their school’s sports week.  Most schools have a sports day, with races and prizes and so on.  But at this school, the last week of term is entirely sports.  They go swimming and rock climbing and fencing, play all the normal team sports like hockey and football, have a whole tennis tournament, and generally spend far more energy than they do in the entire rest of the year combined.

Another group were trying to guess my age.  I told them that I was 20 in hexadecimal, which was a whole conversation on its own.  Then we started on famous people – am I older or younger than them?  That didn’t last very long, since none of us knew how old the famous people are.

Finally, we settled on Guiding.  How long have I been helping at Brownies?  First we had to define our terms – helping as an adult, a young leader, or since I started with my Guide Service Flash?  Then I had to explain what a Service Flash was…

By this point they were starting to get the idea that I was making this as hard as possible, with as many detours as possible.

I really enjoy talking to the girls in small groups like this.  It’s something that I don’t get to do nearly often enough.  Usually we’re in a hurry to do things, or trying to organise large groups of girls.  I’d like to plan more relaxed evenings occasionally, but I worry that half the children will complain about being bored.  Perhaps during a craft activity would be a good time to do it.

Do you have time to talk to each girl?  How do you deal with the rest of the Brownies getting restless?

Dragon Boats

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One of the Big Brownie Birthday Challenge Badge clauses is:

Make a Chinese dragon boat with your Six and race it around a course, or try dragon boating for real!

My Brownies chose this clause, but they weren’t satisfied with the first option.  Oh no, they wanted to try it for real.

Unfortunately we couldn’t find anywhere easy to get to that could provide for us, but we did manage a very similar activity – Bell Boating.

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A bell boat is sort of like two canoes which have been lashed together. You can fit 12 Brownies in a boat, with a couple of adults.

Just like dragon boating, you need to work together as a team in order to get anywhere. Our instructor, Ian from the Adventurous Activity Company, was great at getting the girls to think about how their actions impacted on the others in the boat.

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We were sort of in time with each other. Especially once we started singing to keep the beat!

In any case, we managed to go for a wander around the harbour, and found out what a buoy is and what a lock is for while we were at it.

We also played “push-of-war”, which is where half the boat tries to go forwards and the other half tries to go backwards. Whoever gets the furthest wins.

We only took 12 girls – with more we could have had a second boat and possibly some races, but it didn’t really need it, we had a good time with just the few of us who went.

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Even the Big Brownie Boot got in on the act.

It was a fabulous morning’s fun, and I would highly recommend it.