Monday, 27 March 2017

Short Stories - Characters: Tale of Escape (Part 1)

Mrs Tyrell 

Mrs. T walks very well for a woman of 82. She is a happy old lady. Whenever she smiles her eyes disappear into the creases of her face and her mouth cracks into an enormous, denture-filled grin. Her hair is hidden from the elements, wrapped in a silken scarf bar a few soft grey curls bouncing over her wrinkled forehead. She is short, but well proportioned and has a slight curvature to her back but it causes her no trouble save for a few aches and pains.

Every Tuesday Mrs. Tyrell starts her well rehearsed trip around the local town. She pops into see the baristas in her favourite coffee shop. They know her order as she always has a traditional English tea with a handmade shortbread biscuit in the window seat - so she can watch the world go by. Once she’s enjoyed her morning cuppa and rested her feet from the walk from the bus stop, she makes her way to buy the birds their dinner. 

The little shop she visits for bird food has always been her preferred destination. It’s a little dusty, teeming with bits and bobs and a little untidy at times, but its well loved. The staff are always willing to help and are grateful to see she is still well - greeting her good morning and good day. They are quite fond of this old stranger, enjoying her stories and they always look forward to seeing her. The weekly £8.57 means Mrs. T. has completed her shopping for the week. She bids the shop workers a fond farewell and wanders down to the bus stop to catch the bus home.

At home Mrs Tyrell is quite lonely. Her favorite pass time is watching the birds enjoy their dinner from the comfortable warmth of her conservatory. Of course she is always accompanied by another cup of tea and is never without her trustee trolley, which rarely leaves her side. It’s a very old, tatty tartan trolley, but it has served her well over the years. Its mostly for storing her shopping, but on her tired days it steadies her weary legs and doubles as a fantastic cup holder, for transporting tea without spillage to her wicker seat by the conservatory window. When looking upon at this delicate lady, sat in her creaky window side chair. You wouldn’t dream of her tales. But if you spoke to Mrs T. she would tell you the stories of her well travelled younger years. 

..to be continued.

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To see why I have taken to writing go here.

P.S. I welcome constructive feedback. If  you have the time do drop me a comment, i'd love to hear from you. I'm new to writing - I was never any good at it in school - so I'm taking the long practised path of learning by doing. ^.^
Thank you :)
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J4ZZ x


*DISCLAIMER*
This is a work of fiction. names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination of use in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Spreadsheet 101: How to Make Your Own Accounts System for FREE! (Part 2)

In this post I'll show you how to finish creating your simple spreadsheet for accounting at home.
This is a great way to manage your accounts whether you are self employed or just need a way to help budget your finances.

Today we add a 'Summary' to our previous sheet and make it look pretty!

If you haven't seen part 1 of this post, visit that one first, then come back here.
(it will make more sense, I promise.)
Spreadsheet 101: How To Make Your Own Accounts System for FREE! (Part 1)

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Colouring the background.
To colour any part of the sheet you need to drag and highlight a selection the choose the background colour button. This will give you a dropdown colour chart that you can then pick your colours from.
Add borders in a similar way to above. Highlight selection, then choose the type of border you need. You can put a border anywhere. I tend to like it as simple as possible because you can find yourself stuck in front of these sheets, pondering as to where your money went, for a few hours. Lots of lines make my eyes hurt after a while.

Heres my colour scheme and borders. You can see i use shades of colours to help separate different sections. It helps if you need to quickly find a heading. For example within all of my spreadsheets I have ever made the income is always in yellow. Having this colour scheme means, even on a large scale spreadsheet, sections, headings, and subheadings are always easy to find. This comes in especially handy when you are booking in mountains of receipts. Or if you have to introduce a new employee to the job.

From here you are nearly done.
Testing is an ABSOLUTE MUST!
There is nothing worse than finally using a spreadsheet and finding out you have missed something. Be it a formula
(like I did above) or that you need another column somewhere. Typically, whenever I have updated the larger accounts system I use for my fathers business, I have trialled it for 3 months January - April, using it along side any older versions. just to make sure i don't loose any data along the way.


Simple fix. I added the new formula at the bottom of the 'Expenses - other' column. Dont forget to update the 'Total Expenses' formula if needed.

This green section on the side is used for a summary. The summary is designed as a one-stop-shop for all the information on the spreadsheet.

At the bottom of the summary we need 3 headings.
'Total Expenses' (from the purple section)
'Total Income' (From the yellow section)
and 'Total Profit'

We use our litte formula from the previous post '=cell#'
For example to get the 'Total Expenses' number to appear in CELL 'F35' (purple arrows) we type the formula '=E37'
We use the same formulae for 'Total Incomings' (yellow arrows) '=K37'

TOP TIP: If the cell you need is part of a merged cell always use the furthest left Cell number.
Once this information arrives in these boxes
 (the purpose of our test data was so we knew we had done it right here!)
To find our 'Total Profit' we need this formula to take Our 'Total Expenses' from our 'Total Incomings'
'=SUM(P36-P35)'
'=SUM(Total Incomings - Total Expenses)'
Then we find profit!
If you ever need to view in full screen you can use the shortcut "Ctrl+Shift+J" or select 'fullscreen' from the 'view' dropdown menu.

And thats it!


You have created - perhaps - your first fully functional spreadsheet. 
At the moment it's only one month at a time - so before you use it save a blank one. 
"Accounts BLANK 2016_2017" 
then you always have one as you need it. Everytime you open it to start a new month
'File' -  'Save As'  "Accounts March 2016_2017" and obviously switch out 'March' for whatever month it is, Before you start filling in information!

Remember you can change any of the headings to suit your needs. Thats the beauty of a spreadsheet - Personalisation.

With colours I prefer to stay muted and traditional to my father's first ever spreadsheets but you could make it bright pink, bright green, bright orange. Whatever makes you happiest whilst mulling over your accounts.

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Do let me know if you likes this 2 part 101 - How To Series. I'm always getting asked how I created my Father's Spreadsheet so I'm sharing the knowledge this way :)

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Happy Computing,
J4ZZ
x





Monday, 13 March 2017

Spreadsheet 101: How to Make Your Own Accounts System for FREE! (Part 1)

If you have your own business you know how tedious it can be tallying up all the company incomings/outgoings, working out your tax return, and other similar accounting tasks. Perhaps you've searched online to look for a simple books program and found the cost far to much to validate using it for your small growing business?

I have a solution that I have been using for the last 10 years or more.

Since I was a young teen I've always helped My dad with the accounts for his own small business and over the years created booking in systems, that are far from the streamline paid-for apps of today, but do the job for us very well. A simple spreadsheet design means you can do it at home on the software you already have and its completely customisable to your businesses needs, 
and IT'S FREE!

This is the final result we are working towards. It's a fully functional spreadsheet for one month. At a later date this can be incorporated into a bigger spreadsheet that does a lot more than simple sums.

Of course I'm no expert myself! I still find things on the spreadsheet software that I never knew existed and I'm basically dragging up years of tinkering and a long forgotten GCSE in ICT, but the computing world is ever-changing so you're never going to know it all. 
Just learn the bits you need.

I will highlight a few ideas below to get you started, with a general outline of how to go about building your own spreadsheet. So if you have no idea where to start hopefully this will get you into the swing of things.

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First things first.
Do you have spreadsheet software?

The two main ones I have always used are "Microsoft Excel" and "Apache Open Office".

"Microsoft Office - Excel": I used to use in school and on my older home computers that have it built in. Of course now computers don't come with it installed unless you pay a massive premium, so I stick with the freebies.

"Apache OpenOffice - Calc": Is free downloadable software. It comes as a whole office software just like "Microsoft" (including a word processor, powerpoint etc.) and it does a good job as a replica.


TOP TIP: Whatever you choose to use, if you have more than one computer/laptop It's best to have the same program across all of them - then you dont have to worry about file converting so all the programs know how to open it. Also the following processes are essentially the same whether you have either of the above mentioned programs. I will be working on "Apache Open Office 4".

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Apache - OpenOffice Software.

This software comes with everything you need for typical daily use including a Word Processor and the Spreadsheet - which we will be using now.

Once opened its actually called 'Calc'.

I start off by making the basic layout of the spreadsheet. If you hover your mouse between the line of two columns you can drag to enlarge or decrease the width of the column. The same down the left side.
To make a large heading I merge cells together. Do this by highlighting the boxes you want to merge then finding the merge button like the one above. 
I like all the words centred too. Again highlight like before, then select this button.
Now we have the basic layout, two large headings and narrow columns for our monthly dates.
Type in the numbers 1 to 31. These will be our days of the month, of course not all month have 31 days This can be changed at a later date when you come to save all the months or just left blank.
TOP TIP: Instead of writing out all the numbers you can write the numbers 1 to 5 then highlight them all. Place your mouse at the bottom right of the highlighted section and you should be able to drag it down. This will auto fill wherever you drag to. (31)

Once you have done the above step you will be able to save yourself time by copy and pasting the dates as a whole column. If you right click the column header (in my case it was 'A') you will get the option to 'copy'.
From there you can right click where you want more dates (in my case this is column 'G') and select 'paste'. This will save you lots of time and effort. Paste wherever you need them - I did it twice more. ('L' & 'P')
Showing result of copy & paste of dates.
You do not need this many dates if you find it 'clunky' however its nice to be able to easily see what date when you are booking in data so try to have at least one visible on the screen at all times.
Add Sub-headings as you need them. This is a very simple spreadsheet, it would be ideal for a small company that does not have many places they purchase items. For example; A Landscaping business has 3 times the amount of columns as this.  (bear in mind you can build past the screen along to the right if you have lots of headings - for larger or more complicated businesses)
Merge boxes as and when needed - if you do this you will need to merge each box in the column underneath too.
If your screen does not show your whole spreadsheet and you need to scroll down at any point, it is handy for the headings to stay put. To do this we can 'Freeze' the selection. Start by highlighting the rows you want to freeze - including a row underneath - select the 'Window' drop down from the top bar and select 'Freeze'
You'll get something like this, with a line cutting across the screen. Now if you scroll up or down (for example scroll down to the date 31(st) and the headings should follow the screen down.
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Thats your super simple layout done. From here we are adding formula which sounds scary but it's easy. Trust me!

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Here we are adding a formula which is going to add up our entire column. From day 1 to day 31.
we place it at the bottom of each column that we want the total of so we know how much we have spent on that particular section every month.
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For those of you who are new to spreadsheet: Each cell has a 'coordinate' (Letter then Number)
For Example - The heading 'Employee', in the above photo, is in cell 'C2'.
Once we know the cell 'coordinate' we can calculate lots of things.
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The most common formula we are using in this super simple spreadsheet will always look something like this
'=SUM(B3:B33)'
This formula tell you the SUM of that range of cells. Basically it adds up the whole column from day 1 to day 31 (another way to explain it is like this: '=B3+B4+B5+B6+B7+B8+B9...' But that's the long, long, long, long, way.

We add the formula at the bottom of each column that we want to add up. From the cell that begins on day 1 to cell with day 31. You can type the whole formula.
Another way to write formulas is to use your mouse once you've written '=SUM(' when click on a cell it will automatically write itself into the formula you are writing.
'=SUM(Cell#:Cell#)'
If you get half way through you design and decide you need another column. there is a simple way to do it. Simply right click the heading of a column and select 'Insert Column'. This will insert a brand new column in on the left of where you selected.

Remember to do a formula at the bottom of the column if needed.

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You may notice that you 'Money' columns dont have an automatic (£$) money sign. This is a simple fix. Highlight all the columns that need to be currency. Then select the button show above.

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For each main section you will want to know how much you have spent in that month. The example above shows the formula for adding all the expenses section together. It's the same formula as before except
 we are travelling across a row instead of a column.
'=SUM(B35:D35)'
Do the same for the 'Income' Section. On this example it doesn't need to do any maths so we simply want this cell to equal the one above
 '=K35'
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That's the main structure done!

Its almost a fully functional spreadsheet and with a few more tweaks it will be a work of art.
For now I hope this helps you even if its just understanding the basics of a spreadsheet so you can move onto bigger and better sheets.

I'll be back to show you how to finalise the spreadsheet, make it pretty and create a summary of the month down the right hand side. I will link it HERE once its posted.

Perhaps If this was helpful to you would you like if I show you how to create a bigger spreadsheet with 12 months and a finalised year-to-date summary that will even work out your tax for you?
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For now,
Happy computing!
J4ZZ
x

P.S. In the meantime Wiki - 'Apache' have some great information on spreadsheet self teaching. A quick hunt around the internet and I found this site that will help you wil basic understanding of formulae.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff REVIEW

I've just finished reading Illuminae... IT WAS GOOOOOD.
ERROR.

I have to thank my friend Cat over at Tackfiction for the recommendation and for gifting it to me in a time of need. (I had a bit of a drama with a click and collect at WHSmiths!)
 Cat is an awesome human and she does brilliant book reviews on her blog - I always need to buy the books afterwards!
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Illuminae is book #1 of "The Illuminae Files" by joint authors Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff.
It follows the story of Kady. A young 17 year old girl who thinks that breaking up with her boyfriend was the worst thing in the world. Before her planet got invaded by large greedy corporations.
The book is set in 2575, its very futuristic - lots of spaceships - and most of it is set out in space. Unfortunately a deadly plague, strikes its way through the spaceship fleet and we follow Kady, and friends, as they struggle through the new battles life throws at them.

Here is the book blurb:

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I'm not sure where I found the reading time in between work this week. Actually, almost all of the time spent reading this book was supposed to be sleeping time. One night for example I read 350 pages, starting after dinner at 9pm and reading through till nearly 3am. (With my eyes half closed)... I had work at 6:30...that next work day wasn't a very productive one.

I devoured this entire book in under a week. All 599 gorgeous pages. Seriously you should get it even if its just to look at it's prettiness!


The format of this book is an odd one. Though it's a very smooth read. I was worried I wouldn't like it because of its structure, that maybe it would be really stop-start and choppy because the story is told through a dossier of hacked documents of all different types. There are computer logs, messages, medical reports, emails, interviews... The list goes on. It makes it a more interesting read than my typical pick (dystopian/survival themed books) as you have to glue together the pieces of the puzzle in your mind, instead of reading in a 'straight line', building up a database of information on the characters. Sometimes, mostly in the AI unit 'Aidan's' sections, the writing is strewn over the pages as though it's acting out what's happening, for example, the pages below are first depicting a spaceship battle then a treacherous walk in low gravity.



One thing I can say about this book is you reeeeally need to pay attention to the time stamps. I am awful at this and always find myself turning back a few pages to work out where I am and which person is talking. (For example: reading a IM feed between two characters and one of them has a screen name - I always forget who is who). This is probably the only thing I didn't like about the book and its only down to my inability to read time stamps properly and retain them till I get to the end of each page! >.< This was not a book I could just 'dip' into.

My favourite character (and favourite parts to devour) were 'Aidan's'.
'Aidan' is Artificial intelligence - a computer - on one of the ships. These parts of the book are written as its logbook. A constant train of thought and processes - including its speech with the other characters. White text on a black background, in capital letters, unmistakably shows we are reading from 'Aidans' point of view, and it's a beautifully written part of the book. A picture painted with every line and short, sharp sentences adding tension as the story progresses. This also demonstrates the fact that 'Aidan' is an all-clever no-nonsense machine. Straight to the point. It's sometimes hard to remember it's not a real living life form and I think this is what the authors wanted us to feel, 'Aidan' has so much personality for computer it's hard not get attached to it.

A few times throughout this book my heart was racing - the description of the people who have been infected by the plague is creepy and the things they do are even creepier...I could  feel my feet running with 'Kady' and I couldn't wait to jump through each page to read what was going to happen next! I was caught with my jaw to the floor and my heart in my stomach a couple of times and again had to endure it and carry on, hoping the authors where just tricking me. (It couldn't possibly be true!)

I am very excited to get my hands on the next book as soon as possible (boo-hoo have to wait till payday!) but I shall definitely be reading it soon. I can't wait!

J4 x

P.S. Does anyone know if this will become a film? 
I ask for the simple fact that I know my boyfriend and other non readers are seriously missing out and would love the story. I'm sad he doesn't get to discover it! He only gets the small not-doing-much-justice descriptions I can give to him :(



Friday, 3 March 2017

J.K.Rowling's Wizarding World - A pop-up Book of Curiosities REVIEW

Can we just take a minute and admire this bundle of paper...Isn't it preeeeetty?

Book of Curiosities...As pop-up books come this is quite small. A5 in size and it only has around 5 pages. However the pop ups are super!

Book Published Date: November 2016
Hardcover
RRP £20

Covered in the typical rich red colours of the Wizarding World, this pop up book 'ensnares the senses.' A bright sleeve covers the front whilst magnets hold the the front together like a vault. Inside the 5 scenes are beautifully designed and despite the shortness of the book I got at least 30 minutes of 'viewing' out of it. The Pop-ups included are from various films in the Wizarding World. Including a couple of scenes from "The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" film, which is a cool bonus, I really enjoyed watching the film!


The details of the pictures within are good but not as special as some of the more extravagant potter merchandise. (For example the Wizard's Collection Box Set - I will show you Harry Potter Nerds this at some point because it's just amazing - a powerhouse of Potter heaven and design!) but of course this book won't come anywhere near close as its at the opposite end of the price scale costing £20 at RRP - I've recently found it on Amazon for a mere £13.37. For this price alone I am impressed.

Below I have a few photos for you to indulge in. Somehow pop-ups will never be given justice in photographs because you cant really see it until you've got it in your hands and get a look at how all the paper has been folded, strategically designed and created with all the 'POPS' in the right places. Sadly I'm not enough of a photographer to fit all the details of the pop-ups and blurbs into my photos with my measly iPhone camera, but each page has either a pull out or fold out section that contains a few lines of text about the scene. Enough to let those who dont know the Potter universe understand what's happening.


 Currently this resides on my bookshelf - not open - as I'm too worried to have it displayed on a shelf due to intricacy of some of the pop ups. By far the most detailed piece is the last page, which is the scene from "The Chamber of Secrets" when Neville gets strung up by his ears by those peskie Cornish Pixies!

Overall its an attractive and delightful addition to my harry potter collection, and though I can't say its my favourite, I enjoy owning it and showing it to my fellow Witches and Wizards. Most Wizarding World fans would like to own it (even just to grow the collection!) and it's just nice it being that little bit different from the norm' of the typical film merchandise.

J4 x