Neil Turner's Blog http://www.neilturner.me.uk Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002 Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:34:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 App of the Week: Pushbullethttp://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/09/app-week-pushbullet.html http://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/09/app-week-pushbullet.html#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:34:43 +0000 http://www.neilturner.me.uk/?p=11585 This week I’m looking at Pushbullet, a service for pushing data between multiple computers and devices. Pushbullet joins a crowded market with several other competing services, including Boxcar, Pushover and Instapush. But what makes Pushbullet stands out is that it … Continue reading

App of the Week: Pushbullet originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Screenshot of Pushbullet on iPhoneThis week I’m looking at Pushbullet, a service for pushing data between multiple computers and devices.

Pushbullet joins a crowded market with several other competing services, including Boxcar, Pushover and Instapush. But what makes Pushbullet stands out is that it works on desktops as well as mobiles, and it supports multiple types of push notifications, including those with attached files.

On mobile, there are iOS and Android apps, and on the desktop there are extensions for Firefox and Chrome. There’s also a rather basic Windows app which is in beta.

Pushbullet’s purpose is allow you to move between devices more seamlessly. For example, if you found an interesting link on your mobile, you could copy the URL, paste it into Pushbullet, and then send it to your desktop to open in your web browser. You can also use it to transfer files, such as photos, from a phone to a desktop. Or, send a file from your desktop to your phone to carry it with you, or send an address from your desktop to your phone so that you can follow directions whilst on the move. Any content that you send is also saved to an inbox on Pushbullet’s servers for later retrieval if needed.

Pushbullet also integrates with IFTTT. This means that you can be sent a copy of any new file added in your Dropbox public folder, or be notified if it’s about to rain. And, if any of your contacts use Pushbullet, you can use it to send them data too.

In the past I’ve used Dropbox to move files between mobile and desktop, but Pushbullet offers a more direct way. You don’t need to make that file available to every machine that you use, just the one where you need it.

I get the impression that the Android app is a bit more advanced than the relatively basic iOS app, but the latter was updated this week so it is clearly under active development. Similarly the Windows app seems very beta at present. There’s no OS X app right now.

App of the Week: Pushbullet originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Cancelling Dropbox Prohttp://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/08/cancelling-dropbox-pro.html http://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/08/cancelling-dropbox-pro.html#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 08:59:57 +0000 http://www.neilturner.me.uk/?p=11581 At the weekend, with a heavy heart, I cancelled my Dropbox Pro subscription, and reverted to a basic account. I’ve been a Pro user, paying $99 each year, for almost the past two years. But when Dropbox emailed me to … Continue reading

Cancelling Dropbox Pro originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Dropbox Pro cancel email

At the weekend, with a heavy heart, I cancelled my Dropbox Pro subscription, and reverted to a basic account.

I’ve been a Pro user, paying $99 each year, for almost the past two years. But when Dropbox emailed me to say that my Pro account was up for renewal in a couple of weeks, I didn’t feel like I could continue to pay for it. $99 is a bit less than £60, which is money that I could spend on other things.

But there’s also the issue that I’ve already paid for four years of extra storage for Microsoft’s OneDrive, from when I signed up to Office 365. Whilst the Office 365 package only provides an extra 25 gigabytes of storage, I was using less than that with Dropbox. So it was hard to justify continuing to pay £60 per year for something that I was barely using.

This isn’t to say that I will no longer use Dropbox – it’s still my favourite cloud storage service, and besides, I have some shared folders that I need to keep going. But I’ve shifted all of my photos over to OneDrive, since they take up most of the space. So I’ll be using both in tandem, at least for now.

Dropbox is now one of the most expensive cloud storage services, when compared to Microsoft, Google, Amazon and the rest. I may be tempted back if its prices drop (and I noted this in the survey that I was asked to fill out when I cancelled). Also, I’m looking forward to seeing how Apple’s iCloud Drive service turns out when that launches in the autumn. Though iCloud’s extra storage tiers are also rather pricey – 100 gigabytes is £70, which is more than Dropbox, and the next smallest is 20 gigabytes which may be too small. Perhaps Apple will also drop its prices nearer the launch, as I expect more people will be upgrading.

I do feel a bit sad about downgrading my account, even though it makes financial sense. Perhaps as and when Dropbox lowers its prices, I’ll come back.

Cancelling Dropbox Pro originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Easing lactose intolerance with lactasehttp://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/07/easing-lactose-intolerance-lactase.html http://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/07/easing-lactose-intolerance-lactase.html#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 09:18:30 +0000 http://www.neilturner.me.uk/?p=11577 When eating out, I have a bottle of lactase enzyme capsules to help me digest foods containing dairy and ease the symptoms of lactose intolerance. Continue reading

Easing lactose intolerance with lactase originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Lactase enzyme It’s been about a year since I discovered I was lactose intolerant (or at least, worked out why I was frequently bloated and having to go to the toilet more often than most people). Since then we’ve switched most of the dairy-based food we eat home with lactose or dairy-free alternatives. This has meant that we now buy a lot of our groceries online from Ocado, as their selection of such products is much better than the other supermarkets in our area. Ocado is a little expensive, but unlike our local Tesco, they sell a variety of flavours of Swedish Glace, a soya alternative to ice cream.

That’s all great when I’m at home, but not so good when I’m out and about. Whilst most coffee shops will make a drink with soya milk instead of cow’s milk (and Starbucks now do it at no extra cost, yay), good luck trying to order a dessert at most restaurants that doesn’t come with cream or ice cream. I’m particularly looking at you, TGI Friday’s.

For instances like this, I have a couple of bottle of lactase enzyme capsules – one for each bag that I take out with me. Lactase is the enzyme that breaks down lactose in your digestive system, and sufferers of lactose intolerance cannot naturally produce enough of it. These capsules therefore top up your lactase, so that you can digest foods containing lactose. One taken just before a meal should mean you can eat normally.

I say ‘should’. I’ve been using the pictured capsules for a couple of months now, and they work most of the time. However, despite having one just before a big ice cream in Dublin, I still felt awful the following day.Whilst the label suggests taking one at a time, maybe I should have taken two on that occasion.

Lately I’ve been taking these lactase capsules before any meal that hasn’t been prepared at home – in restaurants, or with takeaway food – regardless of whether it looks like it contains milk, cream, yoghurt or cheese, as you sometimes can’t be sure.

The lactase capsules are not cheap though, with a bottle of 60 capsules costing a little over £10 from Holland and Barrett. Thankfully they do have regular sales and at the moment they’re buy one, get a second for half price. Holland and Barrett sell a number of products of questionable effectiveness, but these capsules do seem to work in my case. And no, I’m not being paid to make this recommendation.

It is nice to be able to have a bit more freedom when eating out, without having to worry about how you’ll feel the following day.

Easing lactose intolerance with lactase originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Astro-lol-ogyhttp://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/06/astrology.html http://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/06/astrology.html#comments Sun, 06 Jul 2014 09:40:31 +0000 http://www.neilturner.me.uk/?p=11573 I’m a little behind on reading things from the internet – my Pocket list peaked at 119 unread items last week – so I’ve only just got around to reading this piece from io9 about how astrology isn’t as harmless … Continue reading

Astro-lol-ogy originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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I’m a little behind on reading things from the internet – my Pocket list peaked at 119 unread items last week – so I’ve only just got around to reading this piece from io9 about how astrology isn’t as harmless as you think. Astrology is the decidedly non-scientific studies of the position of planets and stars to create horoscopes, rather than astronomy, which is the actual scientific study of celestial bodies. Despite this, around a third of Americans believe astrology to be a science and around a quarter of Americans believe their horoscopes.

The percentage of women believing in astrology is higher than men, which should be obvious to anyone who has read womens’ and mens’ magazines. Whilst I never read either, just about every womens’ magazine has a horoscope page in it.

As you may have guessed, I don’t believe in astrology. I do know my ‘star sign’, which is ‘Gemini’, but I don’t believe that this pre-disposes me to any particular behaviour.

I don’t know Christine’s star sign. I could easily work it out from her birthday, but why bother? I don’t need a fortune teller to tell me whether we’re compatible or not just because of when our birthdays fall – our marriage, and the fact that we’ve been in a happy relationship for almost five years now should be testament to that.

This quote, from a Discovery News article linked in io9′s piece, is particularly damning:

Both astrology and racial stereotypes are based on a framework of belief that basically says: “Without even meeting you, I believe something about you. I can expect this particular sort of behavior or trait (stubbornness, laziness, arrogance, etc.) from members of this particular group of people (Jews, blacks, Aries, Pisces, etc.). When an astrologer finds out a person’s astrological sign, he or she will bring to that experience a pre-existing list of assumptions (prejudices) about that person’s behavior, personality and character. In both cases, the prejudices will cause people to seek out and confirm their expectations.

If you believe that the alignments of the stars and planets have a fundamental effect on people’s behaviours and lifestyles, then you are making yourself prejudiced. Simple as. Astrology may seem like a bit of harmless fun, but if you take it too seriously it could affect your friendships and your relationships.

Astro-lol-ogy originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Links from Delicious for July 5, 2014http://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/05/links-from-delicious-for-july-5-2014.html http://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/05/links-from-delicious-for-july-5-2014.html#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 10:30:21 +0000 http://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/05/links-from-delicious-for-july-5-2014.html Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Delicious Bookmarks: BBC News – Scottish independence: A layman's glossary A glossary of terms and slang relating to the Scottish Independence Referendum, or … Continue reading

Links from Delicious for July 5, 2014 originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Delicious Bookmarks:

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Links from Delicious for July 5, 2014 originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Le Tour de France comes to Yorkshirehttp://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/04/le-tour-de-france-comes-yorkshire.html http://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/04/le-tour-de-france-comes-yorkshire.html#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 09:13:37 +0000 http://www.neilturner.me.uk/?p=11568 Tomorrow is the Grand Départ of this year’s Tour de France cycle race – probably the world’s best known cycling event – and it’s taking place in Yorkshire. Although it’s a French race, with most of the stages taking place … Continue reading

Le Tour de France comes to Yorkshire originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Penny Farthing

Tomorrow is the Grand Départ of this year’s Tour de France cycle race – probably the world’s best known cycling event – and it’s taking place in Yorkshire. Although it’s a French race, with most of the stages taking place in France, the first stages are sometimes held in other countries. The local tourist board, Welcome to Yorkshire, put in a successful bid to host the first stage, beating other bids. The first two days, Saturday and Sunday, are in Yorkshire, and a third day will see riders bike from Cambridge into London.

The Grand Départ – the start of the first stage of the race – is in central Leeds on Saturday. Initially heading to Harewood House and Otley, the riders will then cycle up the Wharfe Valley up to Skipton, then through Grassington and across the Yorkshire Dales National Park to Hawes (home of Wensleydale Cheese), around to Leyburn, on to Masham (home of the Black Sheep and Theakstons breweries), around the Ripon bypass, and ending up on The Stray in Harrogate. The teams will move overnight to York.

On day two, they will start from the Knavesmire, home of York Racecourse, and head back through the centre of Harrogate before passing through the amusingly named village of Blubberhouses. They will drop down into the Aire Valley to pass through Addingham and Silsden, and onwards to Keighley, before following the Worth Valley to Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters. They will then climb up onto Oxenhope Moor, drop down into the Calder Valley at Hebden Bridge, and then ride up again along Cragg Vale. A sharp left turn will bring them down into the Ryburn Valley at Ripponden, just down the road from where I live in Sowerby Bridge, before again going back up on the moors to cross over to Elland. They will pass under the M62 and go through Huddersfield, and onwards to Holmfirth, where Last of the Summer Wine is set, and then to Woodhead Reservoir on the Yorkshire-Greater Manchester border. Entering South Yorkshire, the riders will then make their way to the end of the stage in Sheffield, near the Don Valley Stadium.

Unlike when London hosted the Olympics in 2012, there hasn’t been much controversy about hosting the Tour de France. This is probably because hosting the Tour de France will cost a few tens of millions, rather than billions of pounds, and the expected economic gain from increased tourism during and after the event is likely to be four times more than the cost. The main controversial issue has been the necessary road closures, but at least these are just for two days and not for several years.

And the event has enjoyed great community support. Most of the shops on the high street in Sowerby Bridge (which isn’t actually on the route) have yellow bikes in their displays, and this is a trend repeated across the county, especially in towns on the route. Various arrangements have been made to transport spectators where the roads are shut, including a 50% increase in train capacity, and high numbers of visitors are expected.

Normally I’m not interested in sport but I’m looking forward to the Tour de France this year, if only to see the places I recognise on TV. Yorkshire is home to some wonderful countryside and it’ll be great to see it broadcasted to the world. Of course, it being Yorkshire, it’ll probably rain this weekend, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for nice weather.

Le Tour de France comes to Yorkshire originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Find out if your web site is blocked by UK ISPshttp://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/03/find-web-site-blocked-uk-isps.html http://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/03/find-web-site-blocked-uk-isps.html#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 09:50:00 +0000 http://www.neilturner.me.uk/?p=11565 It may surprise you to learn that the internet in the UK is censored. Indeed, around 19% of the top 100,000 web sites, ranked by Alexa, are subject to some degree of blocking by British internet service providers (ISPs). The … Continue reading

Find out if your web site is blocked by UK ISPs originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Screenshot showing this site is blocked by TalkTalk

It may surprise you to learn that the internet in the UK is censored. Indeed, around 19% of the top 100,000 web sites, ranked by Alexa, are subject to some degree of blocking by British internet service providers (ISPs). The lovely people at the Open Rights Group (of whom I’m a supporter) have launched blocked.org.uk which will let you see which, if any, UK ISPs will block your web site.

Although (as far as I am aware) there is currently no legislation that mandates that ISPs block web sites, the UK government has pressurised ISPs into enabling filters for adult content which are enabled by default. Individual subscribers then have to actively opt out of these filters in order to be able to browse adult sites – the idea being that it should therefore be harder for those under 18 to see content that isn’t suitable for them. Some web sites are also blocked as a result of court orders, usually for copyright infringement, so the likes of The Pirate Bay are generally unreachable.

Of course, filters are a very blunt tool, hence the reason why Blocked has been set up. The screenshot above is the result for this site, which shows that it is blocked by TalkTalk’s filters. Another example is the feminist blog Jezebel, which is restricted on the mobile network Three. And I’m sure there are plenty of examples of adult web sites that are not blocked.

If you find that your site is blocked, there is some help for getting your web site unblocked, but it’s different for every ISP – there’s no consistent process, and no independent arbitrator or ombudsman. And because these blocks are not enforced by legislation, there’s no legal framework behind them either.

If this sort of thing angers you, then please consider joining or donating money to the Open Rights Group so that they can continue to run campaigns like this one.

Find out if your web site is blocked by UK ISPs originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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App of the Week: Yohttp://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/02/app-week-yo.html http://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/02/app-week-yo.html#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 10:05:13 +0000 http://www.neilturner.me.uk/?p=11561 It’s been a couple of weeks since Yo was released. I suppose you could call it an instant messaging app, except that you can only send one message – a simple ‘Yo’. Nothing else. The interface is very simple, with … Continue reading

App of the Week: Yo originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Screenshot of yo on the iPhone It’s been a couple of weeks since Yo was released. I suppose you could call it an instant messaging app, except that you can only send one message – a simple ‘Yo’. Nothing else.

The interface is very simple, with big blocks of colour to tap on. You can also swipe left and right for additional options. People you have recently sent a ‘Yo’ to, or received a ‘Yo’ from, are listed front and centre, followed by a link to find friends using your contacts list. The red circle at the bottom lets you access settings, and keeps track of the number of ‘Yo’s you have received.

And that’s basically it – it’s instant messaging pared down to be as simple as possible, and then a bit further. So why would you use it, when you can’t actually send a message to other people?

Well, people do, and it’s reckoned that millions are using it already. Perhaps because it takes the thinking out of sending a quick message to someone – you can just send them a quick ‘Yo’ to get their attention. If I could convince Christine to install it, then I could send her a quick Yo to say that I’m thinking about her – having looked through our text message conversations, a lot are simply emoji hearts.

And there’s an API. You can add ‘WORLDCUP’ to your friend list and get a Yo every time a goal is scored, for example – however, because you can’t send anything more than ‘Yo’ in the message, you won’t know which team scored it, who the goalscorer was, or what the score is now. Or add ‘ALEXHERNPOST’ to get a Yo whenever Guardian journalist Alex Hern posts a new article. His short review of Yo is here. And yesterday IFTTT added it as a channel, so I can do this:

I can’t really see myself using Yo much in the future, especially as none of my friends seem to be sad enough to use it. And its recent $1million venture capital investment is baffling. But I am intrigued to see what people get up to with it.

Yo is free, and available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

App of the Week: Yo originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Rolf Harrishttp://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/01/rolf-harris.html http://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/07/01/rolf-harris.html#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 19:37:56 +0000 http://www.neilturner.me.uk/?p=11558 Yesterday Rolf Harris was found guilty of 12 charges of indecent assault, dating from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. 7 of those charges related to one girl who was friends with his daughter, and, following his conviction, there may further … Continue reading

Rolf Harris originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Yesterday Rolf Harris was found guilty of 12 charges of indecent assault, dating from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. 7 of those charges related to one girl who was friends with his daughter, and, following his conviction, there may further investigations as more potential victims have come forward.

For people like me who grew up in Britain in the 1980s, the revelation that Harris was guilty of these crimes comes as a shock. He was on many childrens’ TV shows in the 1980s, and later went on to present the prime time show Animal Hospital, filmed in a vets practice. Though somewhat eccentric, and often parodied, his image on screen was generally clean and safe. So I was very surprised when I learnt of his arrest last year, and very disappointed to hear of his guilty verdict.

I’m not, I must stress, disappointed in the legal system, or at his victims, who were very brave to come forward. No – I’m disappointed at Harris, for the horrific things he did in private whilst coming across in public as warm and friendly.

Over the past couple of years we have been hearing more and more about Jimmy Savile, who potentially had hundreds of victims, aged 5 to 75. Many of them were vulnerable people in hospitals. Although he did come across as a bit dodgy in my opinion, despite his charity work (and subsequent knighthood), the allegations only really became public after his death, meaning that his victims never got justice. Harris, though old, was not only alive but deemed fit to stand trial.

Harris will be sentenced on Friday and time in jail is very much on the cards. At 84, it’s entirely possible that he will live out his days behind bars. As much as it pains me to see someone I admired as a child falling from grace, at the same time I hope that Harris gets what he deserves, and that his victims will feel that justice has been done.

Update (Friday 4th July): Harris has been sentenced to almost 6 years in prison.

Rolf Harris originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Blackpool Zoohttp://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/06/30/blackpool-zoo.html http://www.neilturner.me.uk/2014/06/30/blackpool-zoo.html#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 19:52:44 +0000 http://www.neilturner.me.uk/?p=11555 Whilst in Blackpool, we made our fourth visit to Blackpool Zoo in as many years. Although we only visited once when Christine was living there, we’ve visited many of the times that we’ve been back to Blackpool, and yesterday was … Continue reading

Blackpool Zoo originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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Asian Small-Clawed Otter

Whilst in Blackpool, we made our fourth visit to Blackpool Zoo in as many years. Although we only visited once when Christine was living there, we’ve visited many of the times that we’ve been back to Blackpool, and yesterday was one of those.

In some respects its one of my favourite zoos. The keepers are very friendly, and it’s a manageable size – not huge, but enough to see to occupy a full day. We got there at 10am when it opened, and were still there at nearly 4pm. There are plenty of demonstrations to see and over the years we’ve seen most of them.

The sealions are always worth seeing as the keepers actually swim in the water with them. They have been taught to do tricks, but this partly because they can also be taught to lie still, or raise flippers, when they need to do medical inspections. They do the same with some of their birds, including a macaw who was able to place blocks in the right sized holes and open three nested metal tins to get food, during a demonstration.

Me and a barn owl

A new feature for this year is bird of prey experiences. These cost £10 per head over and above the entry price (which is currently £16 for adults), and allow you to hold and do some basic falconry with a barn owl. Christine and I both did this, and I have the claw marks on my arm to prove it! It’s good fun, especially if you like owls, and the trainer is very friendly and patient. Plus, it means I get an interesting new Facebook and Twitter avatar.

We still have a few friends in Blackpool so I’m sure we’ll end up back at the zoo again at some point. Later this year a new orang-utan house opens, and their female amur tiger has recently had cubs. They’re not currently on display but hopefully will be there for all to see in a few weeks’ time. Amur (also known as Siberian) tigers are endangered so this is an important development.

Naturally, I took quite a few photos whilst we were there. The two above, and eighteen others, are in this Flickr set album.

Blackpool Zoo originally appeared on Neil Turner's Blog and is released under a Creative Commons License. Follow me on Twitter - @nrturner

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