Star Wars Films UK Classifications

One of my children is playing a Lego Star Wars games, but without having seen any of the films, she's struggling with context. I had forgotten that the rating certificates were so low:

Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Parental guide: Violent. Robots die too, but Binks does not
U Buy it at Amazon
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Parental guide: Violent. Lightsabers cauterize
PG Buy it at Amazon
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Parental guide: Violent. Death, fear and fried chicken
12A Buy it on Amazon
Buy the Prequel Trilogy at Amazon
Episode IV: A New Hope
Parental guide: Violent and scary
U Buy it on Amazon
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Parental guide: Family issues (also violent)
U Buy it on Amazon
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Parental guide: Violent baddies and violent furries
U Buy it on Amazon
Buy the Original Trilogy at Amazon (the remastered one)

Looks like my kids won't be watching these for a few years, but the big question is: What order do we show them in? 4,5,6; 1,2,3; (7,8,9) or 1,2,3; 4,5,6; (7,8,9)?

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Performance reviews at work - make them count

I've had performance reviews every year for the last twelve years - it's part of the job when you're a full time employee. I've been fortunate in getting on well with all of my managers, but some reviews have been rather blah, blah, blah. They're worst when I'm nervous, or overly optimistic. They're least useful when my line manager is mildly, generally disapproving or provides vague platitudes. I've spent the last decade learning how to improve on that. Here's what I've learnt.

A good review should be

  1. Interesting: If you don't find it interesting, how can you honestly learn from it?
  2. Insightful: You and your manager need to be well prepared, honest and thorough. That way, you might get feedback detailed enough to be actionable and broad enough to make a difference
  3. Inciting: Be sure to take notes - if you do this right, you should leave the meeting with praise to keep you buoyed up and criticism that needs action

If your review is not those things, you need to

  1. Crave feedback - it's easier for other people to see our weaknesses
  2. Continuously review - not just at review time, but ...
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Sansa clip volume problem

I recently updated my Sandisk Sansa Clip firmware and found that the volume was dramatically reduced.

One of the key reasons for leaving behind my iPod Nano was that it was rather quiet. Now, before you tell me how I should be looking after my ears, I should say that playing music was just fine. However, I listen to a lot of podcasts and the audio level is often rather low — hence the need to pump up the volume.

Now, it seems that the E.U. have called for a limit of 80dB on the volume of mp3 players. The only sensible way to implement this is to limit the volume scale on the device so that the normal volume of music is restricted to 80dB. This makes my podcasts really quiet!

The solution, for the Sansa Clip, is very easy:

  1. Turn on your Sansa Clip
  2. Make a note of any settings you would like to keep (we're going to reset them in a minute)
  3. Select 'Settings' from the main menu
  4. Select 'Reset All'
  5. Select 'Yes'
  6. Select your language of choice (English for me)
  7. Select 'Rest of World' as your region
  8. Optionally:
    • Scroll through the settings menu to 'Volume ...
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Sterilising water for feeding babies - is boiling enough?

Our thirteen-week-old daughter had a very slightly dicky tummy, which was enough to make us wonder what the cause might be. One of the first things we needed to rule out was dodgy water in her bottles.

To make up the bottles, we boil freshly drawn water in our kettle. We leave it to cool for about half an hour (boiling water in plastic bottles can apparently release more Bisphenol A) before pouring it into freshly sterilised bottles, which are then sealed.

I remember advice for campers indicating that water should be boiled for some time to kill pathogens. Whilst our kettle boils the water thoroughly, it only maintains a rolling boil for a few seconds. The question is, does this kill the nasty microbes?

According to Survival Topics and The Backpacker's Field Manual by Rick Curtis

“Boiling is the most certain way of killing all micro-organisms. According to the Wilderness Medical Society, water temperatures above 160°F (70°C) kill all pathogens within 30 minutes and above 185°F (85°C) within a few minutes. So in the time it takes for the water to reach the boiling point (212°F or 100°C) from 160°F (70 ...

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Never Smint your dog

I've just been reading about Xylitol, the sweetener used in Smint, Orbit Complete and lots of other sweets and chewing gums. It's a bit like the aspirin of the mint-world. It helps re-mineralise teeth, improves bone-density in osteoporosis sufferers and helps prevent ear infections. It has no known side-effects, other than a mild laxative effect at high doses. Unless you're a dog. Even small doses can cause hypoglycæmia (low blood sugar levels) in dogs, which can be fatal.

Charlie says, "Don't play with matches and keep your Smints off the floor."

[Updated to add: Paracetamol is equally dangerous to cats. In case you were interested.]

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How long should I keep my financial records?

I've got stacks and stacks of statements at home, because I thought I had to keep them, for tax assessment purposes, for seven years. I've just done a little research, and found that I can recycle rather a lot of that pile.

How long must I retain my records?

Individuals not carrying on a business who are required to complete a tax return will normally have to retain their records for at least 22 months from the end of the tax year to which they relate.

There are a couple of exceptions, which make it prudent to keep them for a bit longer. I'm going for three years, and I'll keep all my P60s too, but that'll really be a weight off my shelves!

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No smoke without... cigarettes?

An article from Ananova about a smokeless cigarette says:

The smokeless and tobacco-free cigarette uses a rechargeable heating coil in a plastic cigarette-sized stick to dispense nicotine without smoke.

The company promises that dragging on it releases “a similar taste” to cigarettes without the health issues from tar, arsenic, cadmium and formaldehyde that a normal cigarette contains.

The question raised at the end of the article is, “Which aspect of cigarette smoking is bad?” Is it the addiction to nicotine, or is it the harmful chemicals that go along with that?

If it’s the life-threatening effects of tobacco – the carcinogens in the smoke and so on, then if smokers will accept the substitute (and it is affordable) then there is every reason to use a substitute.

The obvious way to reduce smoking related disease is to reduce the number of people who smoke. However, despite plenty of effort from the government, among others, stop-smoking campaigns are not working. We are creatures of habit, and while we dislike change, we are even more hostile to change that’s imposed upon us. This may be borne out by research that shows that approximately 40%-60% of patients with a smoking-related disease ...

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