Friday, September 26, 2008

Is this you?

Nobody except Lurch knows I'm a blogger so I was asked at work to discover as much as I could about bloggers for a project on consumer segmentation. I spent a lot of time investigating, but that doesn't mean I'm neurotic. This is one article that summarised a lot of others, thought you might be interested!

Computers in human behaviour (somebody tell me how to do a link!!)

The Big Five personality inventory measures personality based on five key traits: neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, and conscientiousness [Costa, P. T., Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Normal personality assessment in clinical practice: The NEO Personality Inventory. Psychological Assessment 4, 5–13]. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that individual differences on the Big Five factors are associated with different types of Internet usage [Amichai-Hamburger, Y., & Ben-Artzi, E. (2003). Loneliness and Internet use. Computers in Human Behavior 19, 71–80; Hamburger, Y. A., & Ben-Artzi, E. (2000). Relationship between extraversion and neuroticism and the different uses of the Internet. Computers in Human Behavior 16, 441–449]. Two studies sought to extend this research to a relatively new online format for expression: blogging. Specifically, we examined whether the different Big Five traits predicted blogging. The results of two studies indicate that people who are high in openness to new experience and high in neuroticism are likely to be bloggers. Additionally, the neuroticism relationship was moderated by gender indicating that women who are high in neuroticism are more likely to be bloggers as compared to those low in neuroticism whereas there was no difference for men. These results indicate that personality factors impact the likelihood of being a blogger and have implications for understanding who blogs.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back down to earth

So we're back in the swing of things, with a vengeance. It's a busy time of year again and after all of the reflection time in Africa we've returned to a life of non-stop action. We've finally had two viewings on the house. One while we were on holiday and the feedback was very good but they weren't in a position to buy. Then Lurch went to Madrid with work and his parents came to stay. The estate agent's call meant that I cleaned and spruced for five hours, refreshing the house with Crabtree & Evelyn India Hicks room fragrance for a mere £21 (it's worth it to mask that cigar smoke) while the in-laws took charge of the children. I was so excited! There was a knock on the door and a middle-aged Geordie, dressed in the most expensive, gorgeous pale green and cream silk coat, appeared in a perfumed waft. 'Is there a pub in the village?' she asked and I knew in a flash that all of my efforts were in vain. I was right, she thought it was overpriced and needed a lot of work doing to it, you can tell when people think an en-suite jacuzzi is standard that quaint and old is not for them. C'est la vie.

Things have been moving on the family front. Pete and Wendy are having the worst of times. My lovely but very immature nephew was thrown out of University for failing a resit and has transferred to another university near Pete's house so that he can commute daily and get back on track. He's got a £7,000 drinking debt. Pete said the interview with the Head of Economics was one of the most excruciating 15 minutes of his entire life. The other twin has decided to stay in Canada for another gap year. Poor Wendy is having terrible problems with chemo. It's making her so ill that she's had to be hospitalised to be re-hydrated to be well enough to have the treatment and she's so tired she can't even watch tv in bed. Claire's eldest son, on the other hand, has got into Cambridge to read Economics and her second son was told that his art gcse was one of the ten best in the country. Vel's too scared to tell Pete.

Danny Boy told me his interview re: underachievement with the Head of Year went very well, I asked him what his focus targets were, 'I can't quite remember' was the answer. Lurch has had a long chat with him and I'm hoping it's done some good, but how do you get the balance between independence and making sure they do their work? The Terminator is back at cubs and was given a trophy for his area success in wrestling, he's been waiting for it for a while but his face was like thunder. 'What's wrong?' I asked him in the car 'look at it!' he replied. It was engraved with the words 'runner up'. 'I was joint winner' he announced 'I've seen a shop near Tesco that does engraving, I want you to tell them to scratch out runner-up and replace it with winner, I'll pay' he said. How can two boys be so different?

Back to the football season too; the highs, the lows, the goals, the substitutions, the injuries, all the drama is there for the taking. I might as well just get used to it!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Family holidays part 2

We left Livingstone and decided to go to Lake Kariba. Lurch said no problem it's mostly tar roads so it should be quick. He hadn't been to Zambia for four years and there hadn't been any investment in the roads. We set off on the main road from Livingstone to Lusaka. I have never seen anything like it in my life, it looked as though a meteorite shower had just fallen, it was chock full of pot holes and everybody was driving on the side,in the middle to the left and to the right to avoid them. We joined a dusty, snaking conga for three hours, led by 4 Jeeps in convoy driven by men with very short shorts and very long grey beards, wearing maroon polo shirts with 'the Jesus film project' embroidered on the front. We didn't stop to ask them what they were filming.

Zambia is full of people on shiny, aluminium bicycles; echoes of the famous scene with Paul Newman and Katherine Ross in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid everywhere - old couples on bikes, whole families pedalling along on one bike and even a man with a live pig strapped on the back, we didn't see one overweight Zambian in the villages. Danny Boy had become fearful of African towns, we couldn't understand why but he explained that the poverty was scaring him, so we picked up hitchhikers from villages who sat next to the boys in the back of the car, I'm not sure if that helped or hindered DB's understanding. The Terminator, on the other hand, remarked that the people smiled a lot more in Zambia than Yorkshire and looked a lot happier, he wondered whether it was because they didn't appear to be at school or work much. Lurch told him it wasn't as simple as that but I had to agree with The Terminator, Zambians did seem really relaxed and cheerful.

After a hellish journey avoiding Zambians on bikes coming at you in the middle of the road with no lights and unidentified pot holes everywhere we arrived at Lake Kariba and set up the tents for the night. I dragged myself into bed, my ovaries felt like they were exploding and my knees were seizing up. We decided to stay for a couple of days to rest properly and again it was wonderful. The lodge owners were lovely and took the boys out fishing for the afternoon for a few dollars. They came back at dusk saying they had had the best day of their entire lives. They caught about 30 fish and threw the remainder to the crocodiles in the farm on the lake. Danny Boy was thrilled to hear the croc's jaws crunch. Later that night the owners set up a table by the pool with glowing hurricane lamps for us and we had a fabulous feast of fish and chips.

Then onto Lusaka and Chipata before arriving at the highlight of the trip, South Luangwa national park and Flatdogs Camp. Lurch had stayed there before and we were treated like old friends. The park was outstanding and Flatdogs was fantastic; hippos and elephants wander around the camp and you have to check the pool for animals in the morning, before diving in. We also had beds in fixed tents, the luxury! We drove ourselves into the park where Lurch found the bones of a dead warthog. Always one to flout the rules he got out of the vehicle and started kicking the skull to try and dislodge a few teeth to take home with him. The rest of the visitors looked on in horror but fortunately nothing got him and he wasn't strong enough to take a trophy home. We probably should have joined a game drive as there was a leopard kill of a pregnant Impala, a python eating an Impala and 5 week old lion cubs around a buffalo kill! Two Swedish ladies were unable to eat their dinner after the drive and a brave single dad from England on safari for the first time was very worried about what his 9 year old daughter was going to tell his ex-wife about her holiday memories. Nature is red in tooth and claw indeed.

Lurch took lots of photos and we met some lovely people there. The Zambian president also died during this time and his body was flown all around the country for people to mourn, which they did with a vengeance.

All in all a thought-provoking, beautiful but wild holiday. I can't say I look rested in any way, more like the elderly love-child of Worzel Gummidge and a lizard with a greasy t-section if the photos are anything to go by. We will return though!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Family holidays part 1

So we were off! We had to wait until the postman arrived before we could leave as Lurch was expecting a box of cigars from a website in Gibraltar. They were dirt cheap, apparently, and they didn't materialise in the post, little did I know how significant that was to be.

El Vel and Sean met us at Gatwick, took our car home with them and off we flew on the night flight to Windhoek, Namibia. We got about 6 hours sleep so once we picked up the beast with the roof tents we continued to drive for about 4 hours north before camping overnight. The next day we didn't manage to set off until 10am as a result of poor organisation and then drove for another 5 hours, heading towards Zambia. Same thing the following day through the unrelenting scenery that was the Caprivi Strip in the North of Namibia, burning bushes and an arrow-straight road, not even a curve to lend any change. The boys were pretty bored by this stage but being good, reading in the back of the car. I was beginning to feel fractious as Lurch had promised me the driving wouldn't be too bad. Lurch, on the other hand, was metamorphosing into a snarling monster - I had no idea of the extent of his nicotine addiction and he couldn't find a cigar in Namibia to satisfy his cravings. He was horrendously foul tempered.

We finally crossed the border into Zambia and we were all looking forward to staying in the Waterfront in Livingstone, which sounded fantastic in the guide book. 'No need to book' said Lurch. More like 'no vacancies'. We eventually found somewhere else but I was tired, dirty, bones aching from rooftents and roads and bitterly disappointed. As we drove into the campsite we had a huge row and Lurch swore at me. I gave him the international sign of the middle finger when the children weren't looking, but I'm afraid the 6 elderly South Africans on the pitch next to us were. In the middle of it all a lady came and asked me if I would like a pedicure for $15, telling me she could get rid of my cracked, dry skin and restore my feet to human being status. A chink of light! Lurch responded from his foetal position for me 'Don't worry, I'll clip her toenails for free, we're on an economy drive!' I turned on my poor old heel and stomped off to the bar on my own and watched the Olympics with the barman whilst I calmed down.

I returned to the pitch an hour later to discover that the boys had told Lurch they never wanted to hear him swear at me again and he was very sheepish indeed. 'Time for the spa then' he said and I looked around for the beautician but he had his car keys out and actually meant the supermarket Spar. Never mind, all was calm again.

So Livingstone, land of milk and honey, a buzzing thriving place full of enterprise and industry and we loved it.The following morning we ordered a taxi to the Victoria Falls and Benson arrived to pick us up wearing a T-shirt with the slogan 'I'm with Barack Obama, and you?'. We hopped into his taxi which was adorned with white fur that kept wrapping around Danny Boy's neck as we gathered speed, and had a lively conversation about US politics. Then we arrived at the Falls. I have never seen anything like it in my life. The Falls are spectacular and we were awe struck. We spent a morning walking around them and then went to meet Benson at the allotted time to take us home. He wasn't there so we waited for half an hour; Lurch was pacing again and then Benson's friend Pearson came to get us as Benson had been held up with other business. Lurch was uptight and I explained the nicotine scenario to Pearson, who sympathised kindly. Pearson took us to the Spar again and we got a few things for dinner. When we came back to the car he had visited every possible place in the shopping centre to try and locate a cigar for Lurch. Failing in that he then took us free of charge to the Royal Livingstone and Lurch found a cigar for US$150. I reminded him of our economy drive and he didn't buy it so Pearson took us home. We were to encounter Zambian kindness like this on many more occasions. As we were leaving the following morning one of the South Africans came over wearing khaki shorts, displaying his vast naked gut adorned with a silver white scar from open heart surgery. 'When you get to England, open this and think of me' he said and handed over a bottle of South African brandy 'It was good to meet you'. We were astounded as we'd been so awful when we arrived and it made me feel ashamed.