All posts by Maybe Magazine

Suicide Squad

Here’s where superhero movies grow up and our morbid fancies take flight. A secret agency recruits a task-force of the most dangerous people on the planet to carry out a highly volatile black ops mission in exchange for clemency.

Suicide Squad is part of the DC Extended Universe franchise, and is essentially similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, looking to a band of untrusted misfits to save the world. Batman (Ben Affleck) appears, but this time he’s seen from the point-of-view of some of his most infamous adversaries. It’s the supervillains who star in this film.

Some have pegged this exposé as the dark horse of 2016, but it’s so much more than that. Given the muscular and abrasive backdrop of writer/director David Ayer (Fury), chances are this will be the macabre ride that fans are wishing for.

Among the principal cast is Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as the cute-meets-psychotic Harley Quinn. Academy Award winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) has the entire world waiting on his performance of The Joker as he daringly takes on a role immortalised by the late Heath Ledger. Thankfully, it’s a fresh Joker, rather than an attempt to replicate Ledger’s Oscar-winning rendition.

Here’s the rub: the success of Suicide Squad hinges almost entirely on Leto’s clown, who for the record looks deliciously insane. Expect nightmares.

Anthony Lowery

Suicide Squad is in cinemas 5th August

The world’s oldest trees

It’s well-known that trees can last a long time. While hazels and apple trees have about the same lifespan as a human (80 years), the oak in your local park is likely to outlive you, your children and your grandchildren – with the right conditions, common oaks can endure 350 years or more.

Trees owe their longevity to several factors, not least is the fact that some species don’t experience the usual side-effects of ageing, such as ill-health and loss of vigour.

Unlike us, trees have a compartmentalised vascular system, meaning that one part of the plant can live on after the rest of it has died. They can also re-grow lost or damaged organs. Some trees even clone themselves, producing thousands of trunks all sharing one network of roots. The original trunk may be long dead, but the organism as a whole continues to thrive.

Somewhere high in the White Mountains of California is Methuselah, a bristlecone pine that began its life sometime around 2833 BCE. At almost 5,000 years old, it is considered the world’s oldest non-clonal tree (a slightly older tree, Prometheus, was felled by a scientist in 1964). Its exact location is kept secret to protect it from vandalism, but visitors can see the grove where it grows.

The Methuselah Grove photographed by Oke / Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Methuselah Grove photographed by Oke / Source: Wikimedia Commons

It is awesome to think of a single tree enduring so long, but even more impressive ages are reached by those plants that can clone themselves.

The Jurupa Oak of California is one example. It resembles a tangle of bushes, but genetic testing has revealed that it is a single organism that began life during the last ice age. Its ability to send out new, genetically identical shoots has allowed it to survive at least 13,000 years of climate change and wild-fires, making it one of the oldest living things on the planet.

Even more ancient is Pando, a quaking aspen that grows in Utah. Known as ‘The Trembling Giant’, this tree has formed a colony of over 40,000 genetically identical trunks weighing 6,000,000 kg (not only is Pando the world’s oldest known organism; it’s also the heaviest).

It is hard to know exactly how long Pando has lived. While the average age of its trunks is 130, its roots are at least 80,000 years old. Some scientists believe it may have existed a million years.

The world has changed enormously since Pando started growing. Sadly, it is now thought to be dying due to a combination of drought, insects and disease, but scientists are doing what they can to save this natural marvel.

Louisa Watson

Websites for small business start-ups

Eleven crucial steps to take before starting to build a start-up business website.

  1. Keep it simple. Custom website development can cost £1,000s, £10,000s, £100,000s. Use free resources such as WordPress to keep your costs to a minimum, at least to start off with. Your website can grow later, as your business grows.
  2. Thoroughly research your competition. What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? What can you learn from them? Keep a list of the best sites found.
  3. Pretend you’re a prospective customer of your proposed business. What do they really want? Remember that a product or service is usually only a means to an end. For example, when you buy a vacuum cleaner, what you really want is a clean carpet.
  4. Devise a slogan for your business. Even if it’s not finally used on adverts or your website, it will focus your mind on describing the purpose of your business in as clear a way as possible, in as few words as possible. Test your slogan on friends and family – does it make sense to others, does it describe what you do?
  5. Consider your search engine key words and terms. Again, pretending that you’re a prospective customer for your own business, what search engine key words and terms would you search for in Google, etc., in the hope that your business would be the first one found? Make a detailed list as these are words that will need to appear on your website.
  6. Devise a logo and colour scheme for your business. Make sure that your logo and colours are in keeping with your business.A logo may be just your name or business name, or also include graphic elements. If suitable, your slogan can also be used in conjunction with your logo.
  7. Consider how many pages your website really needs. One good page may be sufficient, and one good page would certainly be better than lots of poor pages. Only add pages that contribute real value, such as a ‘frequently asked questions’ page.
  8. Devise your navigation. From your number of pages, work out the best, simplest and clearest navigation. Users want websites where they can quickly and easily find the information they are seeking.
  9. Devise your text. Using your list of key words and terms as a starting point, start to construct the text for your web page(s). Be very careful that the key words that people would use to search for your business actually do appear in your text, but that it is natural and well written. Compare your text with competitors, especially the ones that are highest on search results pages. You obviously do not want to copy your competition but you should certainly carefully analyse what they have done and strive to improve on it.
    • Important Note 1: Google and other search engines read the text that is on your page(s). They ignore graphics, colours and design. For good search engine results it is vital that the first paragraphs on your home page contain your essential keywords.
    • Important Note 2: Carefully check your text for spelling and grammar. Mistakes here will send a subliminal message to your prospective clients that your business offering may also be poorly delivered.
    • Important Note 3: Remember that website users rarely read all of your beautifully crafted text. They’ll scan it very quickly, looking for clues that you can provide the solution to their problem. To help them, keep words, sentences and paragraphs short, use bullet points and plenty of ‘white space’ (so they’re not confronted will sold blocks of text) and if relevant, your own photos of your offering.
  10. Consider what you want your visitor to do as a result of visiting your website.
    • Contact you for more information?
    • Buy from your website?
    • Visit your physical shop, showroom or market stall?
  11. Consider how you plan to promote your business and website. A well constructed website will often get good results from free search engine listings. However, to get faster results, supplementary methods should be considered, some of which can be done free or for very little cost.
    • Link exchanges with similar but non competing businesses. (e.g. bespoke greetings cards / florists / bridal gown hire shops)
    • Leaflet drops in target market area (perhaps in conjunction with other businesses)
    • Very small classified adverts in local newspapers and magazines.

Done all that? Great, you’re now ready to start thinking about actually building your website!

Louisa Watson

If you would like further help or advice, please take a look at Maybe’s Business Services. We offer great-value website design, logo design and copy-writing services.

The Gem of The English Rivera

Torquay is famous for its deep aqua-marine sea, beaches, beautiful cliffs and panoramic views. Known as The Gem of The English Rivera, it makes the perfect UK holiday destination.

Dotted all over this quaint town are dozens of shops selling locally-made gifts, and there’s also a thriving shopping outlet right in the heart of the Town Centre. The harbour, meanwhile, is filled with  leisure yachts and fishing boats.

There is loads to do, both day and night. Chill out by the sea, enjoy walks and water-sports, or visit one of Torquay’s famous attractions.

Oddicombe Beach

One of the best-known places in Torquay is Oddicombe Beach, with its distinctive red sandstone cliffs. This shingle beach is a great place to relax on a deckchair or take part in water-sports.

Oddicombe Beach photographed by Derek Harper / Source: Wikimedia Commons
Oddicombe Beach photographed by Derek Harper / Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hike up to the cliff-top to enjoy the magnificent view across the bay, or take the Babbacombe Cliff Railway, which runs from the top of the Breccia cliffs all the way down to the water edge. Facilities include beach huts, a shop and a newly re-furbished cafe.

Babbacombe Model Village

A few yards from Oddicombe Beach is Babbacome Model village, one of the best model villages in the UK. Visitors of all ages can enjoy this miniature world, which portrays English life over the last 5 decades.

Babbacombe Model Village photographed by MANHATTAN RESEARCH INC / Source: Wikimedia Commons
Babbacombe Model Village photographed by MANHATTAN RESEARCH INC / Source: Wikimedia Commons

The village includes over 400 model buildings (including stately homes, factories, shops, farms and a hydro-electric dam) and is inhabited by 13,000 figurines. A tasteful hint of humour is incorporated into the design and features, while the award-winning miniature landscape gardens are a delight in their own right!

Living Coasts Zoo and Aquarium

Living Coasts offers up-close experiences with some of the resident marine animals of Torquay. Here you will meet otters, octopuses, seals and even penguins. There are also games, talks and panoramic underwater viewing areas.

Enjoy local food and stunning views at the Living Coasts Cafe, or peruse the Fair Trade jewellery and local art at the Tradewinds Gift Shop, where all profits go towards Living Coasts’ conservation work.

Places To Stay

  • Vomero Holiday Apartments: Vomero is a Grade II listed building. It has been occupied by a number of famous guests including the engineer Brunel and the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. The building has now been converted into five spacious self-catering apartments, set within award-winning gardens with splendid sea views.
  • Chelston Dene Holiday Apartments: If you’re on a budget, you’ll find excellent self-catering accommodation at Chelston Dene Holiday Apartments. The hosts Rod and Jackie Payne are on-site to help you feel at home. Pets are welcome to stay as well.
  • The Downs Babbacombe: If you would rather wake up to views of the English Channel from Babbacombe, The Downs Babbacombe is a 4 Star hotel offering breath-taking sea-view suites. It is owned by Kate and Ed and is an excellent place to stay. The couple and dedicated staff make you feel part of their family from the moment you arrive to the end of your stay.

Also worth mentioning is award-winning Hanbury’s, just around the corner from Babbacombe Downs, where the best freshly-caught fish & chips is on the menu.

Hope Ilori

See the Red Arrows at Blackpool

Blackpool is one of the UK’s best seaside holiday destinations, hosting spectacular aircraft displays every  August.

This year, the world famous Red Arrows will be there to surprise the crowds with jaw-dropping aerobatics from the 7th to 8th  August. Fans of flying sport will also be able to see the Typhoon, Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster Bomber fly over Blackpool’s South, Central and North Piers.

Red Arrows Air Display
The Red Arrows in flight / Source: bigstockphoto.com

It’s a great family-orientated event, with spectators  lining the length and breadth of the Promenade up to nearby Bispham. The presence of commentators, the press, local dignitaries  and TV personalities adds to the feel-good festival atmosphere.

While you’re there, be sure to see the  Comedy Carpet at the heart of Blackpool’s Central Pier. Created by artist Gordon Young, it’s a huge visual representation of the jokes, songs and catchphrases of over 1,000 comedians.

The Comedy Carpet is  a favourite back-drop for selfie-taking visitors, and reading the quotes  is truly inspirational.

Blackpool's Comedy Carpet photographed by Immanuel Giel / Source: Wikimedia Commons
Blackpool’s Comedy Carpet photographed by Immanuel Giel / Source: Wikimedia Commons

The aircraft display is free and creates a real buzz as tourists flock to the Fylde Coast to watch.  Remember to book in advance, as it coincides with the summer holidays!

Hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, self-catering and caravan accommodation all have their ‘No Vacancies’ signs up, much to the dismay of those who haven’t secured anywhere to stay for the weekend.

Our tried-and-tested top places to stay:

  • The Beach House: 5* self-catering apartments located in picturesque Bispham
  • Queens Mansions Holiday Apartments: 5* self-catering apartments with sea views, also in Bispham
  • Sea-Cote Holiday Apartments: apartments with sea views and a 3* Visit England Tourist Award
  • Chellow Grange Holiday Flats: ideal for those on a smaller budget but with high-end taste, these flats are located on Queens Promenade (a few yards away from the private Formula Go-Karting Track) and have sea views
  • Camelot Sea Front Hotel: a family-friendly bed-and-breakfast right on the South Promenade offering views of the lovely Irish Sea

If you miss this year’s air show, do not despair, as a few weeks later you can secure a spot somewhere on the Promenade to watch the Blackpool Firework Championships, followed by the Blackpool Illuminations that welcome in the winter and Christmas festivities.

Hope Ilori

The Mousetrap

The Mousetrap is the longest-running show in the history of theatre, with over 26,000 performances in London since it opened in the West End in 1952.

The play recently went on tour to celebrate its 60th anniversary, allowing people to see Agatha Christie’s famous murder-mystery at local theatres. Now the tour is back by popular demand!

Our journalist Tom Milsted visited Aylesbury Waterside Theatre to give his verdict.

The Mousetrap

“The scene is set when a group of people gathered in a country house cut off by the snow discover, to their horror, that there is a murderer in their midst. Who can it be?

One by one the suspicious characters reveal their sordid pasts until at the last, nerve-shredding moment the identity and the motive are finally revealed.

In her own inimitable style, Dame Agatha Christie has created an atmosphere of shuddering suspense and a brilliantly intricate plot where murder lurks around every corner.”

– from the official tour website: mousetrapontour.com

The moment the curtains are raised, you cannot help but be struck by the immersive feel of the set.

True to the London original’s design, you feel you’re inside this creaky, dull-lit guest house . You’re not so much as fly on the wall as sat on the sofa next to a dysfunctional group of possible murderers.

The plot is deeply involving, with a stunning climax. There are sterling performances from all, especially the detestable Mrs. Boyle, the melodramatic but charming Mr. Paravicini, and the initially irritating but ultimately lovable Christopher Wren.

Go to see this long running piece of British heritage as it tours the UK, but remember to “keep the secret of ‘whodunit’ locked in your hearts.”

Tom Milsted

With thanks to Alison Trimming at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

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A list of useful free software

We review a few bits of software that might make your life easier – from adjusting your screen color to recording audio files. What’s more, they’re all free!


FluxF.lux

Adjust screen colour to save your eyes

F.lux basically adds a yellow filter to your screen, which should hopefully strain your eyes less at night.


GIMPGIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program)

Image editing

A free alternative to Photoshop, GIMP is a powerful tool for editing and correcting images.


7-Zip7-Zip

For compressing and uncompressing files

No need to pay for software to compress and uncompress files. 7-Zip is lightweight and gets the job done wonderfully.


OBSOBS

Screen recording

If you don’t happen to have an Nvidia graphics card that supports Shadowplay, OBS is the next best thing. Capture your screen for use in tutorial videos, for example.


AudacityAudacity

Audio editor and recorder

Capture high quality audio from your computer and edit it all in one program. Easy to use.


Remember, please beware of malware when downloading free software. The general rule is to always make sure to download it from the source website rather than an affiliate website.

Michael Knowles

Make your own Frappuccino!

Iced coffee is a brilliant summer drink. Cool and smooth, it’s the perfect refreshment on a warm day! You don’t need to take a trip to your local coffee shop to enjoy a creamy Frappuccino; you can make one at home with very little equipment.

What you’ll need to make 2-3 servings:

  • A blender (it doesn’t matter what kind, as long as it’s powerful enough to crush the ice!)
  • ½ Cup of double strength coffee (cooled)
  • ½ Cup of milk (low fat or full fat both work fine)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar (don’t tell your dentist)
  • 1-2 Cups of ice
  • (Optional) 1-2 Tablespoons of flavoured syrup. If you like chocolate or caramel, you can add these in too!

Directions:

  1. Bung it all into the blender
  2. Blend until smooth
  3. Pour into cups
  4. Enjoy!

Michael Knowles

4 Film releases to look out for in July

Now You See Me 2

The Four Horsemen resurface and are recruited against their will by a tech genius. Now they must pull off their most impossible heist yet.

NowYouSeeMe-2

Release Date: 4th July

The BFG

A remake of the classic children’s movie about a girl named Sophie who meets the Big Friendly Giant. The BFG may look intimidating, but he turns out to be a kind soul who is outcast by the other giants because he refuses to eat children.

The BFG

Release Date: 22nd July

Star Trek Beyond

The USS Enterprise crew encounters a mysterious new enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test. Who knew exploring uncharted space would be so perilous?

StarTrekBeyond

Release Date: 22nd July

Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne unexpectedly returns when the world is faced with unprecedented instability. Set several years after his disappearance at the conclusion of The Bourne Ultimatum, this sequel shows him dealing with a new program created to hunt him down, while he searches for answers to his past and family.

Jason-Bourne-Gallery-01

Release Date: 29th July USA (6th September UK)

Michael Knowles

What is the Milky Way?

Most of us have heard of the Milky Way – the galaxy of stars in which our planet resides. But what exactly is a galaxy? And how did the Milky Way get its name?

A galaxy is a collection of stars, gas and dust that is bound together by gravity. None of this was known to our distant ancestors, of course; all they saw was a band of cloudy-looking stars stretching across the night sky. The Romans named our galaxy via lacteal (‘road of milk’) because it resembled a milky patch, while to the Ancient Greeks it was the galaxias kyklos (‘milky circle’).

The Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle speculated that the Milky Way was created by interactions between the terrestrial and celestial spheres. About 1,800 years later, Galileo showed that it was a great group of stars, planets and other matter.

We now know that the Milky Way is vast, containing at least 100 billion stars. Imagine how many planets must be orbiting those alien suns! Light takes about 8 minutes to reach Planet Earth from the Sun, but it takes 100,000 years to cross from one end of the galaxy to the other.

The Milky Way is shaped like a whirlpool that rotates once every 200 million years. Its oldest stars are 13.4 billion years old – almost as old as the universe itself.  Our own Sun is a mere 4.5 billion years old and lies about 27,000 light-years away from the Galactic Core, which contains a super-massive black hole called Sagittarius A*.

If you find the size of our galaxy overwhelming, you’ll be astounded to learn that it’s just one of many.  The Milky Way is part of a cluster of 40 galaxies called the ‘Local Group’, which also includes Andromeda.  This itself is part of a super-cluster called Laniakea (Hawaiian for ‘immeasurable heaven’), which is 520 million light years across and contains 100 million billion stars!

There is more to the universe than our ancestors could ever have conceived. As we gaze at the night sky, we could feel daunted by our own insignificance, or we could marvel that we are part of something far greater than we can imagine.

Louisa Watson