Friday, December 15, 2006

Golly, Moses, naturally we're punks ...

I think West Side Story got it slightly wrong. I'm developing a theory that it's not that mothers may be junkies or that fathers may be drunks which ails society so. Those are problems, sure, but I'm beginning to wonder whether the root of certain problems lie in school.

Yes, it's easy to blame schools - but by the same token it's easy to blame parents, too. Let me explain.

Since we've home-educated our kids, I've noticed a few things. Their behaviour is different - towards us and towards each other. When they were in school, they had begun to follow the pack mentality that pervades such places. Their self-esteem was driven by how high or low their ranking was within the herd. Their attitude and approach to life followed suit. My eldest son had pronounced communication difficulties and whilst he had good friends, got picked on by kids and staff alike. Just before we deregistered him from school, he had started to say things like "I'm a bad person" and "they don't want me in school". Within a fortnight of leaving school he had started to gain some confidence in himself; he walked taller and spoke more clearly.

I now realise that a major cause of disaffected youth is school. Not school per se, but the abnormally high concentrations of almost uncontrolled children. This arrangement is so divorced from what I'd call "normal family life" that it has a detrimental affect on those involved. I've known since I was at school that the stress makes teachers ill. Now I see that it also affects the children. Without the family structure, kids become anti-social. It's the Lord of the Flies thing: releasing the "beast within". I'm particularly interested to see that small schools we've seen recently (say 100 pupils over four or five years) do not exhibit the same problems.

That's it, really. I'm unsure what the solution is, but the problem is the abnormally large groups of unparented children at school. Maybe we should all home-educate ...

Monday, December 11, 2006

And we all like figgy pudding ...

so bring some out here

*But* are we going to like our Christmas Presents?

I hate shopping. Don't get me wrong: I like getting new things. I don't even mind the mad scramble in the shopping centres. It's not even the spending money that pains me so. It's the making decisions that really gets to me. I desperately struggle to avoid buying the wrong thing. Or, worse: I struggle to buy the right thing. (There is a difference.)

So: will he like this? Am I wasting my limited budget on buying something that will never get used? Will she think I'm being unnecessarily stingy if I don't buy that? The problem is, I always have this feeling that there's a really great gift out there, round the corner - if only I can remember where to get it.

I think I'd be happier going back to simpler times. Before all the retail lunacy, there was a warm-hearted glow about Christmas. Of course I wanted presents as a kid, but I don't remember the greed for bigger, better, more expensive that I see in kids today. Maybe it's that parental amnesia again. Maybe it's the orgy of advertising. Now I feel I'd prefer to give and receive a "little something" - to show love, respect and caring.

Still, little by little I accumulate a collection of things I feel will be well received. Just now, though, I'm a little light on things. And time. I'll keep looking. Thank goodness for on-line shopping!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Food, glorious food ...

Don't care what it looks like

Nutritionalists: Pah! A bunch of self-important bureaucrats if you ask me.

I've always thought that Arthur Marshall got it right: when being interviewed, he was asked to what he attributed his longevity. He said "I've always eaten what I like, when I like" - or something along those lines. Me too, mate.

So where do these people get off with their control-freakery? An where does all that gobbledegook come from? Polyunsaturated fats indeed! What the bugger is polyunsaturated fat? And do I want any? Why should I allow someone in a lab-coat - or, worse, in a suit - to tell me what I can and can't eat? I'll decide for myself, thanks.

I notice that food manufacturers (and I use that term carfully) are now in on the act. Cereal boxes are labelled with percentages of daily recommended intake for salt, saturated fat, calcium and so-on. I don't want to eat by numbers; is it just me? Personally, I would rather get my food the way nature intended. I don't want a carefully balanced, nutritionally-correct meal. Sure, I don't want to eat unhealthily either - but I'd rather let my body decide what is does and does not want. I'm a great believer in that. We are all animals at the end of the day. We are designed to self-regulate our diet. Surely you've noticed that when ill you feel like eating more fruit? It's not a coincidence, people.

I'll get off the soap-box, now. A final thought. (It'll only really make sense to a limited audience.) Those single-finger Twix bars: surely, they should be called "Unix"?

damn! Management-speak. Sorry.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Here comes the sun ...

Dood'n do doo ..

Good thing #1: For the first time this Autumn, I set off before sunrise. OK, it was light, but the sun was not yet up. Alright, I'm getting to the point. There is a short stetch of road on my journey to work where I can look over a low wall to my left and see the countryside laid out before me - over a valley and beyond. This is a really uplifting sight; on a good day it warms the ol' cockles, so it does. This morning, as I approached, the sun peeped over the horizon and lit up the light cloud cover: it was a fantastic sight. That really made my morning and now I feel great.

Good thing #2: I've discovered Firebug. I've not even had the chance to play with it much, but as a web developer I would rate is as WayCoolTM - just from the specs.

Good thing #3: I've just discovered that - despite the fact I've only got a few regular readers - this blog is listed on technorati. Not so clever, perhaps .. but it's added to my general bonhomie. Today I start my campaign for increased readership; tomorrow: blogospheric domination [Mwa-ha-haa].

that's Fall for you colonial types.

bear in mind that I'm riding on the left hand side of the road .. and that this is a narrow road with enough space for a car and a half between my side of the road and the parked cars on the other side.

Friday, December 01, 2006

It's one for you nineteen for me ...

Grrr. Now you know this isn't a political blog. OK, some recent posts are leaning that way, but ...

Today's headline is Motorists 'must pay for road use'. I'm sorry? I thought we already do. The fuel I buy is taxed - to the hilt (honest, no agricultural diesel for me!). I pay a road fund license - for each vehicle (regardless of the fact that I may only drive one at a time). Apparently, that's not paying for using the road though. Not paying enough ...

So: this plan of yon BA ex-chief's. Build more roads .. to encourage public transport use. Eh? What're the public supposed to do inbetween now and this supposed improvement in public transport? Oh, yes. Pay.

OK, better use of existing roads: Of course. I can't help thinking that the minor - untaxed - roads will become much busier. The motorways were supposed to take traffic away from the towns, not drive more traffic into them.

My recommendation would be to encourage public transport use first. Then improving the roads should be much easier.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Every beat of my heart ...

Don'tcha just hate it when that happens?

You're walking along, not really paying attention. Let's say you're going to the toilets, hypothetically. You step towards the door, hand reached out in front of you, anticipating the strangely satisfying resistance of the door closer against your touch. Suddenly you're wrenched from your dream-like state and are aware of falling forwards. Your hand thrusts forward into the slightly astonished face of someone coming the other way. Your heart seems to stop momentarily. You stagger to regain your balance. Someone has just tugged the door open just as you were about to make contact.

It's one of those one-in-a-million chances which turns up nine times out of ten. Or something.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sign your name across my heart ...

This petition thing could become addictive. It seems the much-quoted joke petition (I assume - no, hope) is the exception. There are worthy petitions to be found. Some, it is true that I'd rather emigrate than see made law. No, I'm not going to publicise them - even in the name of ridicule! I reckon that a digital signature in opposition to ID cards, and in favour of private copies of copyright material is worth your time and effort, though.

Go on, you know it makes sense!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Well we got no choice ...

All the girls and boys

Wrong! I strongly believe that if the government have their way, there will be no choice but to follow the doctrine. The latest in a very worrying trend of totalitarian policies is a "consultation" regarding home education. Using the recent keep-the-children-safe bandwagon, the government are trying to strong-arm law requiring LEAs to monitor home-educating parents. This sounds innocuous but will result in the end of our right to educate our own children at home, in a manner we see fit. The only permissible education will be one approved by the government. The only schooling available will be one already acknowledged to be failing.

I am becoming rather scared by this government's attitude to the people who elected them. This is going beyond the "Nanny" state. We are closer to a "Big Brother" state than ever before. All we have to do to let them win is ... do nothing.

So: resist! You can sign up as a concerned parent, and be counted. Without this, the government cannot be aware of the strength of feeling. Why should we as parents be told how to raise our children? Sign the petition now! Write to your local MP. Shout from the rooftops!

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher's dirty looks ...

Monday, November 13, 2006

I want to ride my bicycle ...

... and so do the kids.

A recent development chez nous is the kids getting into cycling. I took the dog for a walk on Saturday - accompanied by kids on bikes. We stopped at the playground while I popped into the "little shop" [new, improved, Politically-Correct term .. it's not on a corner]. On Sunday we all got out - again with the dog - and a good time was had by all. Which is nice.

On a tenuously related note, we are officially disappointed with eMusic. I wanted to try it - partly because of the introductory 25 free MP3s offer, but mainly because they (uniquely, perhaps) offer sell MP3s, with full ID3 tags. Most (all that I can find) alternatives sell WMA or some other DRM-infested format. Some, it is true, sell MP3s where artist/label allows it. The result - for eMusic - is that none of the music my eldest daughter wanted was listed. They don't even have Queen (which is where the tenuous link comes in). We're now trialling and MSN music ... Infernal money-grabbing <expletive deleted>.

I still like CDs: they make better Christmas presents. Meanwhile, our digital jukebox steadily takes over my hard disc ...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

People think I'm insane because I am frowning all the time ...

Today's conspiracy theory:

The government have a secret plan to improve the state of our social fabric by stealth. The plan is to encourage young adults to continue living with their parents, re-creating the extended family. This, in turn, is expected to increase the influence that the more experienced generation has over the parents of tomorrow. Their wisdom and calmer approach to life will have a positive effect, creating a more sociable and law-abiding (and controllable) populace, in theory.

This is being achieved by allowing house prices to outstrip individuals' ability to buy them. This was attempted in the '80s, but the place backfired spectacularly as the prices rose too quickly - creating the much celebrated "Boom and Bust". Now, older and wiser, they are succeeding with a longer-term roll-out.

I can't help the thought that many of those families who are best placed to have a positive influence of their offspring are also the best placed to help them with a leg-up onto the property ladder.

It's not a good conspiracy theory, perhaps, but I was struck this morning - as I went for milk at the local shop - by how many people were being picked up in cars and vans; presumably given them a lift to wherever they spend their days.

Postscript: Today's house price report shows that the average house in Britain now exceeds £200,000 for the first time. Now I'm not an economist, but that's a lot of money.

Monday, November 06, 2006

We are family ...

I got all my - um - children with me

.. an eventful weekend. My wife and eldest daughter went off on a jolly to London for the weekend, while I looked after the kids and dog. I say looked after: all I have managed before in this situation is to childmind. This weekend I feel we actually did something - which is nice.

To start with the failures, we did not get to go to a firework display. I knew they'd be disappointed, but I really didn't see any publicity telling me where there might be one we could go to. Youngest child also ended up looking rather beaten about, with a black eye and other minor injuries.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Friday I worked at home. This is often a stressful setup and I did end the day feeling that I'd not achieved enough to avoid feeling guilty - though I didn't get too ratty with everyone. I was pleased to find today that what I'd written did actually work; more-so than I thought it would.

Saturday I was able to start my weekend. I had a plan. I had a list of things to achieve: shopping; library; go out; dog-walk; clean & tidy; cook dinner; chill. To my pleasant surprise we managed to achieve these - and almost had fun doing it. Discovered that the local library has a WiFi access point - though the bloke I asked clearly wasn't aware of it (or indeed what it is). Luckily a woman stood beside him did and was able to confirm that it is open access. I decided not to push my luck and ask whether they used any encryption. Eldest son mused on the possibility of sitting in the library playing on his Nintendo DS over the WiFi.

The major mishap of the weekend resulted in leaving my 3-year-old battered and bruised. During the dog-walk after lunch we went via a steep (a good 40 degree slope) hill. Halfway up the dog was way ahead - so I called him back. He came hurtling down towards us; I looked up to see his face - a picture of wild eyed panic - too close and unable to avoid us. I tried to sidestep, but it was too late: the dog collided with young-un, tearing him from my grip and sending him tumbling and sliding a good 20 feet down the hill. Luckily he escaped with no more than shock, bruises and scratches. A heart-stopping moment nonetheless.

Having just about recovered, we visited my brother and family for a cuppa in the afternoon. I do love being close enough to share time like that. Helped mow his lawn and make a mental note to strim mine tomorrow.

Saturday evening was punctuated by fireworks going off all round the town. Our house is on a hilltop, so after dinner we stepped out into the dark and wondered along the nearby farm track and looked down on the town .. fireworks going off all around us. This didn't quite compensate for being at an actual organised display as far as the kids were concerned, but was rather fun. When we got back home, we found the house across the road letting off a staggering number of rockets so we sat in the conservatory and enjoyed the show from the warmth and comfort of home. And that was another good day.

Sunday was more tasks and chilling. Cooked a Sunday roast for midday - which turned out surprisingly edible. Tidied up round the house. Walked the dog: no injuries this time. Collected a bagful of leaves for younger daughter to produce a collage. Strimmed the lawn. Managed to pursuade the kids to tidy their rooms a little. Got them set up on Google docs to create their Christmas lists. Collected wife and daughter from the station. Had tea. Crashed in a happy heap.

All in all an enjoyable and eventful weekend. I feel dangerously close to having a relationship with my children. Scary.

Sorry - I'll try not to do it again ...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I was working in the lab, late one night ...

When my eyes beheld an eerie sight ...

Not one single Halloween I can remember - which goes back to some years BET (Before E.T.) - have we had people "trick-or-treating". We've lived in a number of houses in a a number of towns and none of the places we've chosen to live has attracted this annual sweet-fest.

I could go into an in-depth analysis of the social and environmental factors which may have caused or at least contributed to this, but frankly even I'd get bored of that.

The reason for mentioning this, as you may have guessed, is that last night made up for this dearth of mirth. Luckily I had expected this and bought in several bags of sweets. We had getting on for twenty groups of kids - for the most part chaperoned by parents - ringing our doorbell at roughly five minute intervals. I didn't step outside, but it must've looked like that scene from E.T. I have to say all the costumes were very good and no-one trashed our bin or caused any kind of damage that I could see.

The one thing which really bugs me, though, is this is yet another colonial tradition we're adopting. What's wrong with Samhain, that's what I'd like to know? A good ol' pagan festival. A proper British one - none of yer Hollywood and candy nonsense.

They did the Mash
They did the monster mash ...

You can't beat a good one-hit wonder! I'm off to make the pumpkin pie ...

Monday, October 30, 2006

When the night has come ...

... and the land is dark

Plunged into darkness once more. (Nothing to do with replacing Justin Hawkins - fun though that may be.) This year - as far as I can tell - I have managed to set all the assorted clocks and other timepieces to GMT. It's true that I found some were already (still) in GMT .. but that's a different story.

This is a major victory. No, really. Every year around January I find some clock still in BST. Likewise in July or so there's inevitably a clock still in GMT. This time, however, I am sure - really sure - that I've got them all. Honest.

My children ask "why do the clocks have to change?" - and I find it difficult to answer. This is a problem as we home educate, so I feel I should have an answer. I could give them the official explanation, some history of the origins and even some insight into the political skulduggery that ensures the daylight savings nonsense persists. The real problem is that I really don't see that there is good reason for it. Come winter I start and end my working day in the dark; tweaking the clock an hour earlier doesn't make it light when I have to get up nor light when I travel home. In the summer it's not a problem: there's plenty of sunlight to go round. It gets light hours before I get up and stays light until bedtime - so why change the clocks then? Sure, most countries have this clock change twice a year but that doesn't justify it for me.

So now I wait for sundown and ride home in the dark. Could be worse - could be raining. That'll be tomorrow's excitement.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I love to laugh ...

... loud and long and clear

And ........ another week goes by. STOP! Too fast! (or else I'm getting too crumbly - make up your own mind).

I found this today. Made me laugh out loud 'til the tears rolled down. P'raps I'm getting a little hysterical, too. I particularly like:

chromatic abberation : wearing brown shoes with a blue suit

circlular reasoning : see reasoning, circular

.. and, of course

reasoning, circular : see circular reasoning

Must go lie down in a dark room ...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Where's you head at ..?

Ill, ill, ill. I hate being ill. "Just as you thought it was safe to feel human ..." Damn sinus infection. OK, OK .. too much information. Still, I'm feeling grumpy. Be warned!

The perfect antidote (courtesy of Making it up): South Park does World of Warcraft. Brilliant.

Off to find some serious painkillers ...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Woke up, got out of bed ...

... and dragged a comb across my head ...

Blog for Britain!

Today is your chance to crate a piece of history. The National Trust is encouraging people to record a diary of their day on a website, as part of what is being called "Britain's biggest blog".

The trust says the emphasis does not have to be on recording exciting events. Historian Dan Snow said they had wanted to choose a "run-of-the-mill day". Tuesday has been picked as an "ordinary day much like any other of no particular national significance".

So: log on and blog off!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Alif is for Allah ...

Right. I'll start with the conclusion - there is no simple answer.

There'll be no veiled threats - or indeed any more bad puns.

Britain has not been a monoculture since before Jesus - or Mohammed - walked the earth. The television and newpaper media, however, still insist on stirring up fear, uncertainty and doubt whenever our "culture" is under threat. So .. what culture is that, then? The idea of Britian devoid of influence from abroad conjours up images of red-haired faces painted blue and people asking "what have the Romans ever done for us?". Britian derives its strength and identity from being a cultural melting-pot. Get used to it and embrace it.

Now I would be the first to say that anyone choosing to live in our country should make some effort to fit in. I would personally feel somehow uncomfortable living in some other country and pretending I was living in England. I'm also not sure I see the point. There is also a need, however, for everyone to feel part of a community; to retain ther own identity. Look at the British abroad: we huddle together in ex-pat enclaves, drinking beer in Abu Dabi, eating chips in Spain and baring our flesh in Greece.

It is for this reason that there will always be - and have always been - subcultures within our society. This could be the difference between the gentry and the peasants; between the northerners and the southerners; British and Irish; and, in this case, Islamic followers and a mixture of Christians and Atheists.

On the specific topic du jour: veils, I admit that things get tricky. I can see how people may be threatened by a mode of dress they're not used to. Punks were chastised in the '70s for their torn jeans and piercings. Goths are victimised for their heavy eyeliner and oppressive garb. It is the unwillingness to accept this form of dress which is so destructive, however. Personally I find talking to someone in dark glasses very offputting (almost exactly the opposite of traditional Islamic women's dress) - but no-one is suggesting that that's culturally threatening.

I've worked alongside Iranians on a couple of occasions during my career. One particular individual gave me a couple of insights which openend my eyes. I always used to find it peculiar that the Catholic and Anglican churches are so divided when they share so much common ground. This pales into insignificance, however when you consider the divide between Christianity and Islam - though the Qur'an shares much of its text with the Old Testament of the Christian bible.

As with any conflict, the only way forward involves give and take on both sides. It is difficult to see, however, how the divide can be bridged quickly - and every day it is being widened.


P.S: Whilst writing this post, I did a little research .. to check a few facts on Islam, the Qur'an and Mohammed. What I found disturbed me greatly. The first entry from Google is a tirade against Islam in general, its believers and Mohammed himself in particular. Two of the top three hits - and three of the first page of ten hits on Google are anti-Islam to the point of hatred. Now, how is that helpful?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Riding through the ...

... city on my bike all day, 'cos the filth took away my licence ...

Sorry: it just struck me as funny.

I'll get my coat ...

new, improved and now with correct lyrics!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sometimes it's hard to be ...

I've got a sore-throat and a bit of a sniffle.

I hear a comment from over the partition from suited office-type female:
"Oh .. got 'man-flu', have you?"

Where did that bollocks come from? Man-flu. Pfff. I despair, I really do.

Now there was a time, granted, when the female of the species were not treated with respect in all situations. The "trot off the the kitchen, dear" brigade deserved their come-uppance. I do feel, however, that the pendulum has swung in the other direction - and it's time for it to swing back towards centre.

The media is, as usual, at the root of this evil. The hypocrytes who once - and in some cases still do - portray women as trophies or somehow second-class (though often great to look at) now go out of their way to poke fun at all that is male. It is now perfectly acceptable for television adverts to imply or even state categorically that to be male is to be unintelligent and crude. Granted, some men are - but if anyone suggests that a woman is somehow inferior to a man - though in specific cases she may well be - would cause outrage. In fact, even suggesting that women now have the upper hand would be greeted with derision. Women can now get away with all those things which men used to get away with. So ... how are they better? How is that an improvement on those ill-informed '70s?

But I'm straying from my point - which is how much I hate the phrase "man-flu". I hate it; I hate it; I hate it. It is so condescending, so disrespectful, so spiteful. And all this when the target is at a low ebb. Come, on women! Show you are better: instead sinking to the levels you decry, please come up with something better than "man-flu".

OK, it's a fair cop, this is arguably a derogatory description. The individual in question, however, deserves it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I still haven't found what I'm looking for ...

To save you the trouble, I've done the to-and-fro translation. Enjoy:

Taking the last paragraph of my previous post: into Spanish ...

Ahora sería el primer en la línea para la traducción automática del sitio. He pasado la codificación i18n * mecanismos de ManyAHappyHourTM. y recibiendo facturas de los traductores. PERO hasta que es una traducción apropiada, comprensible, gramatically-correcta. No los confíe en. Intente esto en el país: tome un paso del texto; traduzca a una cierta otra lengua (que usa, por ejemplo, Babelfish); ahora tome el texto traducido y póngalo detrás a través en la lengua original. ¿Feo, no es? ¡Pruébeme mal!

Looks Spanish .. but back into English:

Now he would be the first one in the line for the automatic translation of the site. I have passed the codification i18n * mechanisms of ManyAHappyHourTM. and receiving invoices of the translators. BUT until it is an appropriate translation, comprehensible, gramatically-correct. It does not trust them. This in the country tries: take a passage from the text; translate to certain a other language (that it uses, for example, Babelfish); now it takes the translated text and póngalo behind to traverse in the original language. Ugly, it is not? Bad Pruébeme!

I rest my case.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What's that coming over the hill ...

... is it a monster?

I'm properly freaked out. I'm a bona fide techie, but the web has actually spooked me today.

I've put together a website for NCT trained ante-natal teachers who are offering private classes. You'll see it's in English (damnit). I added a stats counter yesterday and have been pleased to see folk hitting the site and browsing its pages - presumably finding the information they need. (I've had reports from listed sites that they get traffic this way.)

This morning I checked the stats and found this monster. In Portugese! Brazilian Portugese! Badly translated Brazilian Portugese! Aaaarghhhh! Run for the hills ....

Now I'd be the first in line for automatic site translation. I've spent ManyAHappyHourTM coding i18n* mechanisms .. and receiving invoices from translators. BUT until it's a proper, understandable, gramatically-correct translation .. DON'T trust them. Try this at home: take a passage of text; translate into some other language (using, for example, Babelfish); now take the translated text and put it back through into the original language. Ugly, ain't it? Prove me wrong!

For now, I'll stick with English, thanks.

* Internationalization - though, for legacy reasons it was referred to in our code as l10n


Monday, October 02, 2006

Looking in a window on a rainy day ...*

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breat whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

-- John Keats

.. which pretty much sums it up, really

... Now I'm standing in a doorway with my overcoat on,
It really feels like Summer's gone ...

* or anything by the Fall. Arf, arf.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Stranger, stranger in a strange land ...

I've got an accent - apparently.

I went into a local aerial shop, inquiring after a new aerial so's I can get Freeview. This is, of course, irrelevent. I got chatting with the bloke there and after a little while he asked my whether I was from "round here". No, I said. I told him I was born some 30 miles away but that I grew up on the south coast. "Oh, yes", he observed, "I thought you had a bit of a twang."

A bit of a twang? Aye doon't think soo. Doock.

Meanwhile this weekend we enjoyed the fair weather and took the dog for a long walk along the track. The kids took the opportunity to vent some frustration and yell at the top of their voices how much they hate Derbyshire. To put this in context, the middle two had a chat with some old friends on the phone that morning. I guess this rakes up some feelings of displacement.

In the afternoon we (nearly) all contributed to making a good ol' Victoria Sponge - which we ate with jam and custard. Which was nice.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Stormy weather ...

And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down
In rushing, rising rivlets ...

[I have to stop here for Copyright reaons. Bloody Disney - I'm sure A. A. Milne wouldn't have minded.]

Pah. Overcast, indeed. They weather soothsayers know nowt. Just as well I come prepared, with waterproofs 'n all - else I'd get rather damp on the bypass [and that's the last place you wanna get damp. Boom , boom. ;^) ]

I had a weekend away last weekend and I already need a holiday ... :^(

Grump, grump; moan, moan. Talking of which, I've got'em on DVD - that Rick Wakeman and Arthur Smith an' all. Must go watch it, Mebbe it'll make me feel better.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

In the morning ...

We started this morning with the most impressive 3-year-old stop I have yet seen. A full-blown, screaming, floor stamping, wall hitting tantrum. We have a policy of not rewarding such behaviour with any attention, so it escalated into shouting "I HATE You Mummy!". This was also ignored, so was followed by "Did you hear me, MUMMY! I HATE You!". I love children. In fact he's a lovely and loving child (except, perhaps, when denied a "Crunch Corner" for breakfast). I do, however, wish I'd had my video camera to hand so I could post it here.

Right now it's unseasonally warm and Richard Hammond is fighting for his life in hospital .. which puts it into perspective, really.

... you know it’s gonna be alright

Monday, September 18, 2006

And they called it puppy love ...

Car seats. Boyfriends. Weekends away. Public Performances.

So this week sees the introduction of more stringent legal requirements regarding the provision of car seats for children. When I was a kid .. we had no seatbelts in the back. Yes, yes, I know that there are certain sections of society which have to be protected from themselves .. and I know that there are more cars going faster these days .. but do we all really have to be so controlled? If they're going to make these laws I would be happier if they were enforced. What's the point, for example, when every day I see many drivers yakking on their mobile phones, weaving about on the road. I guarantee that parents will be victimised for failing to adhere to a confusing law, and business types will continue to cause a danger and flout a simple one.

Last week introduced a new phenomenon into our household. Boyfriends. Well, boyfriend singular actually. No, sorry, the daughter in question says "just a friend .. who's a boy". Rather scary either way. I mustn't grumble, though - we wanted them to fit in and make friends. (Talking of which, number one son returned from an evening out toasting "twizlers" with the Scouts full of glee, and could at least name all the kids in his patrol.)

Meanwhile, the Mrs and I somehow managed to wangle a weekend away. Without children. There is a life out there ... and we lived a little of it. It was lovely. We mooched round museums and stuff and popped into the occasional pub for a "quick drink". Anyone into art, and the likes of Picasso and Chagall would've liked an exibition by Matt Lamb.

Last night I made my debut performing a warm-up spot at my local folk club, supporting Mick Ryan and Pete Harris. I say debut: I've gigged for years in bands and doing the odd song or two, but never a "proper" solo spot before. I don't think I embarrassed myself - though I did make a few mistakes (experience is a wonderful thing .. it's amazing what you can cover up if you keep going). Fame and fortune here I come ... OK, perhaps not.


Monday, September 11, 2006

When I get older ...

... losing my hair

It's not every day you're 41. Not a particularly momentous age, I suppose, but I'm reasonably up-beat about it. More so than 40, anyhoo.

I don't hate birthdays. I know people who do. I sort of enjoy them .. though I don't like to make too much of a fuss about them. My family make sure my day is a happy one - though having them being nice to me all day is a bit wierd.

I would insert the song "Happy Birthday" at this point, but given recent legal action against so-called CopyrightPiratesTM, I won't.

Meanwhile, this explains it all. 'Nuff said.

Many years from now ...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wake me up before you go-go

Another academic year starts, and this time we're actually part of it. We've been home-educating for a little less than two years, but it seems like a very long time ago that our kids went to school. Emma spent last night "getting ready for school" (picking her outfit, listening to her music and chatting online with mates - situation normal). I assume she got to school on time ...

Today the kids have been taking the initiative a little and deciding what they want to explorer / learn about. It's gratifying that this is begining to happen as it's one of the biggest leaps of faith with home educating. I have believed for many years that leadership is about facilitating, rather than forcing .. by which I mean that the leader's job is to create the right environment for the right things to happen - as opposed to imposing their ideas on everyone. This applies as much to "teaching" as to management. It's a shame that the necessary trust for this to happen effectively is so rarely given.

Meanwhile, I'm eagerly awaiting the return of Danger Mouse to the Beeb. Hurrah! I can still remember the rather shoddy ZX Spectrum game ...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Well, I thought my pickin' would set 'em on fire ...

But nobody wanted to hire a guitar man

Now this hits a bum note: the MPA mafia has started directing its evil machinations at the hapless guitar tab sites. Can these people not see that they are stifling the creativity of our youth? It's the kids who sit at home copying their heroes who grow up to be tomorrow's performers. Well-known sites such as and have already fallen prey to the money-grabbing fun-suckers.

Somebody please explain to them that by reducing the number of people who can pursue an interest in music, they are ultimately doing themselves out of a job. The real problem with the music industry is too many middle-men are making too much money out of it.

FWIW, I recommend the WayBackMachine as a temporary solution.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

No Problem

It was suggested recently, that this song (written by me some years ago) is no longer relevent. It was written in a time of recession and I guess the sentiments - though replaced by new woes - are not strictly apropos any more. I therefore commend it to the archives, and here for your entertainment.

No Problem
Raymond Lesley

All across the land, shops are closing
People out of work - what is going on?
Busses running late, people have to drive
Trains are breaking down - soon won't run at all

But I say ...
... there's no problem
The politicians told me so
(they said)
We're turning the corner
It'll be OK

Sex is dangerous, there's a virus everywhere
Dope's against the law - what do we do now?
So turn that music down, get your hair cut boy
There's no fun no more - buddy, pass that gun

But he says ...
... there's no problem
The politicians told him so
(they said)
We're turning the corner
It'll be OK

Mysteries abound, like crop circles
There's a UFO - flying round my house
Where do Bic pens go, and plectrums?
Does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight?

... there's no problem
The politicians told me so
(they said)
We're turning the corner
It'll be OK
It'll be OK

PS: I have had to make one of these lines up, as I can't remember the original.

Friday, August 25, 2006

It's cold outside ...

... There's no kind of atmosphere

So Pluto is no longer officially a planet. Hats off to Wikipedia for having their page updated within hours of the decision. Yah-boo sucks to the lead scientist on NASA's robotic mission to Pluto who has "lambasted the ruling", calling it "embarrassing". Only for you, mate. Call it what you like, it's still a bloody great lump of rock some billions of miles* from the Sun - and indeed the Earth - and I'm never likely to go there.

Meanwhile, I can drink my tea, safe in the knowledge that it's good for me. Official. I can't help the nagging suspicion that this research might have been funded by the Tea Council or somesuch. It does gloss over the fact that tea contains tannin and caffeine.

I found this rather fine description of how to control the amount of tannin - and therefore the relaxing effect - in your cup of tea:

How strong is a cup of tea? Some people drink a cup of tea to go to sleep, others to keep awake. Some drink tea to calm their nerves, others for a lift. How can the same beverage possess such opposing qualities? Precisely because tea -- unlike coffee -- can produce both these effects upon the body, it is viewed as a wonder drink.
Tea and coffee both contain the stimulating substance caffeine, but only tea contains both caffeine and tannin. The presence of these chemical compounds together in tea leaves allows tea to act as a calming or exciting agent.

Here is how it works. Once boiling water is poured onto tea leaves, in the first two minutes all the caffeine in the leaves is drawn out. At this point tea is at its most stimulating. Only during the next minute win tannin gradually be drawn out of the tea leaves. This will not only cancel out the effects of the caffeine but after five minutes will actually make a relaxing, calming tea.

Well there you go. I'm off to the kitchen ...

* or Kilometers, if you prefer .. it's still a very long way

Friday, August 18, 2006

Goodbye Blackberry Way ...*

Quick! Fetch the punnet! No, not the pun net .. the punnet! The bumper crop of excellent blackberries ain't going to last long in this weather!

The point, if it's possible to extract one amongst all this punctuation, is that the track from round t'corner across the neighbouring farmland is lined with blackberry bushes groaning under the weight of an impressive harvest-in-waiting. The kids love it. Yesterday after work - when we were walking the dog - they gathered two great handfulls each and ended up smeared in reddish juice and full of fresh fruit. We keep meaning to make a backberry-and-apple-crumble, but haven't quite managed it - yet.

... Sure to want me back another day

* well, not exactly goodbye .. but it's the only song I could think of with "blackberry" in. Yes, I know Google would have found me "Blackberry" by the Black Crowes, but I didn't think of that one .. which is a pity 'cos that fits the post better.

what? it's a perfectly good word for the purpose .. though I can't find its etymology right now. Go read a dictionary. Then tell me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fly me to the moon ...

We enjoyed a long weekend. No work, all play. Very enjoyable it was, too.

Firstly, there was the Heights of Abraham. A cable-car thingy takes you up to a rather impressive peak, with assorted fun at the top - including a falconry display, a cave-cum-lead -mine and a cup of tea.

We also finally got to visit the National Space Centre, which I'd recommend to anyone above the age of perhaps 3. Our youngest is 3; he did enjoy some parts of it but most were above his head - though he didn't get bored.

Finally, having deposited eldest daughter and friend at Alton Towers, we explored Dovedale. I have also recently replaced my lost digital video camera gadget, so this gives me the ideal excuse to post a piccy, too:

Yes, yes, we're shameless tourists - but the sun came out and it wasn't that busy .. so we crossed about 5 times in all. Not one toe in the water - which I think is pretty good going. To be honest, it's fairly easy for someone with an adult stride - but a bit more tricky for a 3-year-old [which is why I've got a slight backache this morning ;^) ].

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hi fiddle-de-de ...

... an actor's life for me!

Well, all-round entertainer perhaps. That doesn't really scan. But I'm digressing: I timidly joined in down t'pub a couple of nights ago to see what the local folk club does of a Tuesday. Seems they sit around singing and stuff. I might go again ...

There seems to be a hotspot of thespian - nay performing arts - societies round our way. In fact, we're considering joining one. This evening's entertainment will be ... down the pub with a local theatrical society. I'll let you know how we get on.

"This weather, eh?" "Pfff - blimey!"
Yup, it's media silly season again. Only The Register seems to be capable of anything interesting to read recently. I do like the little dig at the fabled absence of irony from the US dictionary in their article on "Idioms wilting in the heat". Perhaps their suggestion on "The colour of irony" should be tabled at the W3C.

That's quite enough linkage for one post. Break a leg ...

Monday, August 07, 2006

There's a voice that keeps on calling me ...

Just had an IM chat with an old colleague - and I'd like to think a friend. He's currently in Bogotá, Colombia. Isn't technology wonderful? Memo to me: must get Skype.

Reminded me of an Irish blessing, which I'm rather fond of:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

A wonderful sentiment - and well put.

Down the road, that's where I'll always be ...

Monday, July 31, 2006

I'll tell me ma when I get home ...

Larks in the Park, indeed. We enjoyed an intermittently sunny Sunday afternoon lazing on the grass by the river, listening to live music and eating ice-cream. I reckon it doesn't get a lot better than that.

The band weren't bad, either - an Irish folk combo who played a Bluegrass set as a duo in the middle. To be honest they were lacking a certain something - but they did 'fess up to being one band member down. For my money, even with the missing bass section, they were a little incoherent which made their performance slightly disappointing. Having said that, they were fine to listen to and on the whole it made for a really pleasant afternoon.

My critical assessment makes me realise that a) I'm still an incurable muso, and b) I really ought to find some musical outlet now that we're settled again. I'm now being encouraged to get involved with the local folk scene. I'd like to find some contemporary folk: more like the "Fisherman's Blues" than "She walked through the Fair", if you know what I mean. I'll keep you posted.

On a slightly different note [ahem], I applaud today's announcement from the government's "The Science Select Committee": that drug classifications should be rethought. I reckon this is long overdue - and I'm pleased to see a more objective approach. I'm also interested to see that this would rate the likes of Ecstasy and LSD (currently Class A) way down the list, lower than tobacco (about the middle of the harm rating) and alcohol (which looks like it'd a class A by this assessment).

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Big wheels keep on turnin'

I can't decide whether I must've done something right somewhere along the line, or whether my dear daughter is using some kind of dastardly double-retro reverse psychology on me.

I'll explain: last night, my wife wanted to get "Proud" by Heather Small (ex M People). We decided the easiest way of doing this was to use our eldest daugter's iTunes account. This is, of course, licensed for the laptop which seems to have a permanent residence in her bedroom. [NB: there are a number of tagential threads here .. including, but not limited to the evils that are DRM and the irritating irony of a laptop which never get moved - but I'll leave those for another time.] Having found, listened to and bought the track we browsed through the collection already downloaded. Hang on .. what's this? A mistake, surely? Lynyrd Skynyrd, as clear as day: "Sweet Home Alabama".

But .. but .. that's our music! Teenagers are supposed to rebel against their parents and reject everything from their era. It's not fair!

Actually, I'm kinda impressed that my dear girl has some taste. Music is one of the few areas where we share common ground, and I get a small iota of respect (having played in a band 'n all). I'm planning on making up a CD from her collection - entitled "US College Rock" or somesuch. I've already earmarked Fountains of Wayne ("Stacey's Mom"), Wheatus ("Teenage Dirtbag") and OPM ("Heaven is a Halfpipe").

If I die before I wake ...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hot town, summer in the city ...

.. or should I say, glad I'm not in the city.

I've just spoken to my dear family, who are currently picnicing. Round the back of our main supermarket, there is a meadow - complete with a stream - and the river. They've been playing in the stream and letting the dog run round and generally enjoying themselves. Beyond the river is some wonderful scenery with a few houses dotted over the hillside. I'm really enjoying living in a small town. Of course, I'd be enjoying it even more if I were picnicing too and not stuck at work ;^)

... back of my neck gettin' dirty and gritty

Monday, July 24, 2006

Show me the way to go home ...

... I'm tired and I want to go to bed...

I've made another important step forwards towards belonging: I got drunk in my new home town. Not outrageously, of course: just pleasantly. This is probably just as well, as I noticed in the local rag afterwards that there is a new "no drinking" zone in force in the town centre. In fact, things could well have gotten more out of hand if there had been any eateries open at half-past eleven. Plenty of pubs, of course, but no eatieries. Hey-ho.

Note: this escapade is in no way related to the previous rambling post; that came before.

For the last year and a half we've been educating our children at home. This really appeals to my hippie sense of resisting "the system" and having a more caring-sharing lifestyle. It seems that all good things come to an end, however. My eldest daughter has decided she wants to return to school, and has spent the last week of the summer term at her new school. This has caused the middle two to say they want to go back to school, too. I've got a strange feeling of disappointment, like something wonderful has come to an end. I'm sure this will open doors to other, good things, but at the moment I don't know what they are. I'll keep you posted.

... I had a little drink about an hour ago ...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Morning has broken ...

Ah, blessed rain! The ride to work this morning was GREAT.

I have no particular topic in mind at present - so this will be a kind of stream-of-consciousness posting.

I once heard that the Irish writing style is no successful and so distinctive because of the tradition of rambling, stream-of-consciousness conversations which typically happen between Irish people. Often in the pub.

There's a great (apocryphal?) tale about Brendan Behan, who was employed by Guinness to devise an advertising slogan for them. He was given some crates of the stuff in part payment. After some weeks they checked up on him for any progress. He'd drunk the beer and come up with "Guinness: it makes you drunk" or somesuch. I say apocryphal because I suspect there may be much embellishment to this story - though it's reported in his Wikiedia page.

On the subject of the Wikipedia, I learn from the page on "apocrypha" that many religions have texts whic are considered apocyrphal. I also remember from a colleague at work some years ago that the Qur'an / Koran shares much of its text with the Bible - particularly the Old Testament. Funny how two religions based on the same text can have so much fear and loathing between them.

I'm now waiting for Yusuf Islam's new CD to be released. He must have an amazing insight to the differences between Chrisitanity and Islam. I hope it's worth listening to, as I'm going to want to buy it.

At school, when I was 10 or so we used to sing "Morning has Broken" in assembly. Funny how these little things, which seem totally insignificant at first, knit together in the end to make something meaningful.

Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot ...

We're back in good ol' Blighty. Not that France is a bad place. In fact, as the years go by I've appreciated their more laid-back approach to life increasingly. T'was hot, though - but I gather it was hot back home, too.

So, is this genu-wine global warming? Pff! Call this a heatwave? I can remember 1976 ...

In other news: here's a wonderful cautionary tale against buying your medical interventions abroad .. enjoy! ;^)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

We're all going on a ...

Summer Holiday!

Hoorah! Our summer holiday is rapidly approaching.
Oh, No! Our summer holiday is rapidly approaching
.. and we've got precious little ready.

That's this week's evenings sorted, then.
To be fair, we have got the tickets, renewed the passports, updated my driving licence, had the car radiator replaced, and - wait for it - made a list. You know the ones: a back-of-an-envelope, scribbled list in pencil of "things to take on holiday". Our list centres on things to entertain the children.

I hesitate to point out that there will be no updates to this blog for a few weeks. Regular readers will know, however, that I'm not a regular blogger. C'est la vie.

No more worries for a week or two ...

Monday, June 19, 2006

It's a bittersweet symphony this life ...

I don't know why, particularly as I'm not a footie fan, but I feel this particular news item is worth a mention:

Comedian dies covering World Cup

It seems strangely bitter-sweet that someone should die doing something they love - and are loved for.

R.I.P. Claudio Besserman "Bussunda" Vianna

Thursday, June 08, 2006

99 Bottles of beer of the wall ...

Darn it! I'm slipping .. into blog apathy.

At least my blog hasn't disappeared off the net ... What did happen to Stray Toaster?

[a slight pause is inserted here - for comic effect - as one of my colleagues across the office spectacularly spills his full glass of water over the entire desk and surrounding area]

Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Apologising for lack of posting. Well, it's hot: that's my excuse. Yes, I know it's only just started being hot .. but I'm going to stick to my flimsy excuse anyway.

As for news, I've just entertained the office with the Befunge programming language - which they'd somehow got to where they are without knowing about. In case you're wondering, try reading the Wikipedia pages or the Dictionary of Programming Languages. There's even a delightful JavaScript interpreter - so you can try it at home.

What to Befunge programs look like? Try this for size:

>310p0"," >"llaw eht no "v >#v_ ^
^_210p0"--:" v ,
: v " of beer" < :
- >"selttob"00g.^ < <
1 >00g1-#^_$" elttob erom enO" ^
>00g#^_$" selttob erom oN" ^
^_110p0",dnuora ti ssap ,nwod eno ekaT"^
^ <

just copy & paste it into the interpreter & away you go.

Take one down, pass it around ...

Monday, May 15, 2006

And I wish I was on that N17 ...

Well, not actually the N17 - 'cos that's elsewhere [pause for whistful sigh]. Nope: we were on the A6. Doesn't even scan. It did, however, take us on our first Sunday outing to the Peaks. A jolly time was had, too. Even our eldest - who was doing grumpy teenager on account of inadequate sleep - managed to enjoy herself over a frothy hot chocolate (well, you would, wouldn't you?).

We sampled the touristy delights of Bakewell (home of the pie/pudding/tart of the same name). The children even learned something! [Not anything partuicularly useful, of course ;^)] Apparently, the Bakewell Pudding was created by accident as a result of a misunderstood recipe. Or something.

What with this and going to see Little Britain Live on Saturday we're beginning to con ourselves that we might be getting a life.

My family will now be off to collect our new puppy. We'd promised ourselves that our new life in our new house in a new part of the country would involve a dog. And hey - why not. There's loads of rolling countryside hereabouts. Roll on walkies: rain or shine, I'm sure there's something rather therapeutic about it.

... Stone walls and the grass is green

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What a difference a day makes ...

That was then .. this is now.

We are, finally, moved in. That'll learn me to wax lyrical about how straightforward things seem to be. What'll learn me? I hear you cry. Well, the saga continues ..

Almost immediately following my last post [no, not the last post. tsk], we went to see our new house. All full of enthusiasm, we drove to our new home. I stopped off at the estate agents and was greeted at the door with a cheery "hello - come to collect the keys?". But keys there were none. "Sorry - we don't seem to have them yet." It was about that time I started to get that sinking feeling.

A quick visit to the house confirmed that the previous owners had not yet moved out - completely. The brief urge to ram the door, change the locks and sue them for the cost of dumping their remaining belongings subsided and we called it a day and went home, somewhat deflated.

To cut a long story short, all was resolved by the next morning and the removals duly transported our stuff in numerous boxes from old to new and we are now installed. I hesitate to say "moved in", as there is a significant proportion of our wherewithall which is still in boxes. We do, however, have a living room, a fairly clear kitchen and a pro tem dining room in the conservatory. We all have beds and are beginning to sort out the "occasionally used" items (junk to you and me).

So life is beginning to take some shape. The shape is embryonic at present, but becoming more real and believable by the day. The crowing of the cockerel which lives round the corner is already familiar - as is the neighing of the horse in a nearby field. The sounds of trunk road have been replaced by children playing and (as you can tell), civilisation has arrived in the form of broadband.

... brought the sun and the flowers ...

Friday, April 28, 2006

Movin' on up ...

Movin on out ...

Well, we've bought a house. Wahooooo!

What's even better is that it hasn't been the feared Aunty Climax [no - not a real person, or a Bond villain .. though it probably should be] so far. In fact, it all happened very straghtforwardly in the end.

Time to break free,
Nothing can stop me

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I'm So Excited! ...

And I just can't hide it ...

Exchange is no robbery, they say. Well, it remains to be seen whether we've been robbed or not - but we've exchanged. Contracts, that is. On our house purchase. Oh, do keep up!

After what feels like a very long time, there is finally light at the end of the getting-settled-in-our-own-house tunnel. This allows a great feeling of relief - tempered by the knowledge that there's a lot of hard work to go before we're actually in. Plenty more putting stuff in boxes - followed by a day's supervising the removals men load and unloading, and finally some days and weeks of taking stuff out of boxes. But then - we've got the house all to ourselves and can do whatever we like with it. (Within reason, of course ;^).) Watch this space for happy blogging on the topic of DIY. I could even start a Squidoo "lens"; now there's a thought ... but would that actually leave enough time to do any DIY? ;^)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Take good care of my ... baby ...

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: A Cautionary Tale

No, not quite Robert Pirsig's well-known story .. but a similar theme.

On t'way 'home t'other day, I came across this bloke. The first I saw were 'is bike in't middle of t'road - by t'crash barriers. [Snap out of it! you're not in Yorkshire, y'know.] Sorry. Anyway, the rider was stood - rather forlorn - on the soft shoulder. Yes, it does affect the story. So: being a good one-of-the-fraternity* biker, I duly slammed on the anchors and stopped.

The important fact here is that he had had a lucky escape. Turns out his chain had jumped off the sprocket and locked the back wheel. He'd left an impressive strip of rubber on the road - skidding from 50 MPH to zero. I have to say I was impressed that he'd stayed upright. I am also of the opinion - and here we get to the point of this post - that he should've taken more care looking after his bike. The reason, you see, for this mishap appeared to be the poor state the bike was in.

Now I have to put my hand up here and admit that there - but for the grace of God - I could have gone. For the want of some decent chain oil I failed to lube my chain for two months over the winter. The result was that the bike sounded like the big end was going, and I'm sure the chain has stretched more that you'd expect. But now I've got me a can of high-qualidy (sic) chain lube and religiously apply same to the chain one a week. I'm a reformed character. As such, I'm gonna do as all reformed characters do and preach at those who need reforming.

So back to our hapless biker. He, apparently, had noticed that the chain was loose and that a few (!) teeth were missing from the sproket - but as the gaps were evenly spread he figured it'd be OK. He had tensioned the chain and off he went. The first evening of his new job. For which, of course, he was now late. More haste, less speed - as my parents say. For added entertainment value, he now couldn't move the bike - back wheel being jammed an' all. As luck would have it, a Police car went passed on the other carriageway and came back our side, stopping both lanes of traffic. We staggered across the road with the ailing bike and not being able to prop it up safely on the soft shoulder, blocked the nearside carriageway.

The moral of this tale, if there is one, is take care of the important details. The trick, of course, is working out which details are important ...

... Be just as kind as you can be-e-e-e

* what should the collective noun be for bikers? Fraternity implies all blokes - which isn't quite the truth. Community is a bit wooly; in both senses. Answers on a postcard ...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Power to the people ...

Have your say! Choose how you'd power the UK.

My personal choice would be as much reusable energy as possible - and preferrably at a local level. Everyone could take responsibility for their own power use: a small wind turbine on each roof; solar-power-assisted heating, solar electricity panels. Reduce consumption, too. Put a premium power-tax on wasteful, unnecessary gadgets. Electric can openers - surely very few people really need one of these? Ban toys with bettery-powered sound effects. Oh, and electric carving knives .. why? If only I could pursuade my family to turn the lights off once in a while ...

Power to the people, right on!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

We're lovin' it like that ...

Get this: Coke-smuggling granny jailed for eight years. Why is it that this just sounds funny? If it was some disaffected youf, then it'd be shameful and somehow make the world seem a slightly less safe place to be. As it's billed as a "granny", it sounds somehow cuter. Ir is that just me?

Of course, when you read the article, you find out she's only 52 - and therefore in solid "Ma Barker" territory. Return to scary. [Note: not "Ma Baker" - as sung by Boney M - though that refers to the same person .. just got the name wrong.]

Good grief! "Only 52" says me. According to my dear daughter, anyone over 30 is decrepit. I must be getting old .. or at least growing up. (Is that worse?)

Here's to senescent crime ...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Dizzy ...

... I'm in a spin.

I've got that "Stop the world! I want to get off!" feeling. Suffering with a bit-of-a-cold (no, not that "Man Flu" - whatever that means), I am rapidly entering a flat spin as the impending house move looms ever nearer. I do love a good mixed metaphor ...

On a different subject: Synical Marketing Ploy Alert! If our greeting card industry is the envy of the world, it is because they successfully manufacture occasions to buy them. Easter is the tip of the iceberg, I reckon. Father's day: since when? Now there's granparent days and goodness knows what else. I'm wondering whether it's not a QUANGO which dreams up "National <whatever> Day"s after all. Maybe it's the Greeting Card Association. I do love a good conspiracy theory ...

Like a whirlpool, it never ends ...

Friday, March 31, 2006

It's Still Rock 'n Roll To Me ...

I want some LED Rims too!

Now I know I'm a synical onld whatsit, but I'd get in there quick before they get banned. These babies are wide open to abuse. I just think that they're missing one feature: animation. Just think .. you could emblazon your wheels with a moving image of - wait for it - spinning hub caps! Now that's what I call a set of wheels ...

Well, are you gonna cruise the miracle mile?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

If a picture paints a thousand words ...

Having been reminded about GPS on Stray Toaster, I present to you, the wonders of GPS Drawing. My favourite is the Brighton Boat. The waterline of the boat is the coast road: nice touch.

Some people really should be given more to do! ;^)

Friday, March 17, 2006

It's a bittersweet symphony ...

Well, well, well.

Our two year (!) search for somewhere to live our lives moved another step closer to resolution on Friday. We finally exchanged contracts on selling our old house, with completion scheduled for this Friday. Now empty, the place looks slightly shabby; but the new occupants seem enthusiastic enough to breathe new life into it. Which is nice.

Meanwhile, our attempt to buy ourselves somewhere else seem confused: we're getting different stories from the Estate Agent and the Solicitor. The Agent says the vendor is happy to move out into temporary accommodation to enable a speedy sale; the Solicitor is saying that the information tey have indicated that the vendor is tying the sale into their further purchase. So .. who's telling the truth? Watch this space for answers to this and other questions ...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year ...

OK, not an original topic .. but I'm getting bored with winter, now. "Next, please!"

Maybe the spring weather is trying to force home the point that Spring only really starts at the equinox - later this month. Maybe it is waiting for our house sale / purchase farce to sort itself out. Maybe global warming is already having effect ...

I was trying to explain to my children that global warming may not - as they had assumed - mean that the UK will be basked in all-year-round sunshine. I tried to explain about gulf streams and pointed out that at the same distance north of the equator, the great lakes freeze over every year. They weren't impressed. Truth to tell, I probably didn't explain it in child language very well - but then, they did spring it on me. The down-side of home educating is that child-led learning means you don't get the preparation time that school teachers get. Ho hum.

Meanwhile, it is snowing outside and I don't yet know whether we're going to exchange contracts this week or not. This is the last (and only) time I'm moving into rented accommodation before my house is sold! It's too much stress to be worthwhile.

Here's to a balmy spring (when it arrives), and the joys of exploring new territory.

Toodle pip!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction ...

So sang the Rolling Stones - at number 1 when I was born, apparently. [Thanks to Stray Toaster for this one.]

This seems rather apposite, today. We seem to have moved a step closer to being able to exchange contracts on our house sale - but the buyer has managed to squeeze another 1400 quid out of us in the process. When selling a house in need of investment, it seems, you get stung both ends. The selling price gets dropped by some amount due to the work needing to be done, and then some more money has to be put aside for the same work when negotiating the contract. Pah!

.. ’cause you see I’m on losing streak.
I can’t get no, oh no no no ...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Mary had a little lamb ...

I can't decide whether this is a good idea or a rather sad sign of the times. Parents are now being offered a chance to learn nursery rhymes. What's up with that? I blame the parents .. Oh, I see.

In other news, another screen icon faces its end. Open All Hours? Not any more!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I hear the talk in codes ...

Roll up! Roll up! Here's your chance to be a part of Internet HistoryTM.

Cast your memories back to somewhere in 1942. Yeah .. well imagine, then. The Germans have begun encryping their radio transmissions using a "complex new cypher system" .. the Enigma. The Allied forces have discovered how to decrypt these and Station X has been set up at Bletchley Park.

For computer-heads like myself, this was a particularly significant development, as the modern computer as we know it has its origins in the "Colossus" machine created by Tommy Flowers - thanks to Alan Turing. (Later ordered to be destroyed by Winston Churchill - go figure!)

In 1995, three intercepted Enigma messages - never before decrypted - were published. Now, Stefan Krah has written a code-breaking program designed to be run by many computers - connected via the internet. This is where you come in. Go to his website. Download the program, install and run*.


* you'll need to have access to port 65500 on If you're behind a firewall and nothing seems to be happenning, consult your network administrator

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I read the news today, oh boy ...

Amongst the sadder news this week (the death of Lynda Smith, TV comedian and a shooting at a Kanye West gig), I found this gem:

Colon Family in exploding toilet ordeal.
Ay caramba indeed! Some surnames are just trouble ... though I'm certan I shouldn't laugh.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Hurry up Harry, come on ...

Heads up! It's National Pubs Week (according to the BBC - so it must be true, n'est pas?). They've even provided a pub quiz. I did appallingly badly. I must repair to an hostelry and study some more ...

This brings me to the question: who makes up these "National ... Week" events, and is there a Central Office of National Weeks? Did CAMRA dream up this week? What would happen, for example, if Alcoholoics Anonymous decided to declare this week National Abstinence Week, too?

Answers, please.

Meanwhile, I'm off to improve my score ...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Run me out in the cold rain and snow ...*

Well, it's not really a winter wonderland - so that song doesn't apply.

I'd like to say that I've had my first experience of riding through snow. That sounds kind'a romantic. It conjours up an eerily quiet and still scene with the lone biker carving his way carefully through the carpet of white.

The reality is, of course, all together more tedious. Sleet is a more accurate description of the weather this morning: frozen enough to fall slowly and get into the cracks and wet enough to cloud my vision and get everything messy.

But, hey! I'm sat at work now, in the warm, watching the drips on the window. I suppose I ought to get on with something meaningful ...

* there ain't many songs which talk of sleet .. thank goodness for the Grateful Dead. As always ;^)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Good Day, Sunshine!...

I need to laugh, and when the sun is out
I've got something I can laugh about
I feel good, in a special way
I'm in love and it's a sunny day

Well, so I'm in a good mood. I'm sat at home, with my work laptop. The sun is shining. The kids are entertaining themselves. I've just got the thing I'm working on .. um, working.

Yes, I know it's temporary - but he, I'm going to enjoy it while I can. Time for a celebratory cup of tea. (Well, it is before lunchtime ...)


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Rip It Up and Start Again ...*

Whoops! Slap wrist for me .. four weeks gone and no news! I'm still in shock, I think.

Well, it's been a bit of a roller-coaster, really. We've had a change of heart about the house we're buying. We've had children wanting to go back to school then not wanting to, then wanting to again. As we're now buying somewhere different (different town and everything) the whole school kermuddle has changed again - but on the positive side, the new location has a great looking school and the local education authority are more friendly towards home educators.

The new choice of home is much closer to our dream cottage in the country [see Just Give Me a Home ...]. It is an eighties box to some extent, but it's a well laid out eighties box - with some improvements along the way. The integral garage has been converted into a downstairs study and a utility room, and a small conservatory has been added. The master bedroom also has an en-suite built in. (We've grown to like en-suites!) The garden is small - but no smaller than we've had before - and just round the corner is open farmland with a bridle path going one way and a footpath leading up the hill the other way. 200 yards down the road there is a good sized playground set in a large recreation ground, which leads on to a deer park.

My brother and his wife have also found themselves a new home. They'll be closer to us - even though our move takes us further from where they live now. It's all change round 'ere.

So, we're going to stay in the old house for the weekend, again. I'm assuming it'll be a bit less wierd this time .. but I'll keep you posted.

T'ra, duck!

* again?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head ...

(following on from the previous post: a cloud appeared ...)

An interesting weekend - all in all. Interesting in sense of the old Chinese curse [you know the one: "may you live in interesting times"]. Well, maybe it wasn't all that bad, really.

On the home front, the valuation report on our house (being sold) was - to quote the estate agent - "disastrous". The value was reduced. Whilst the buyer said that they were happy to procede - albeit at the lower price - we became concerned that their heart was no longer in it. So, to cut a long story short, we discussed with the estate agent, who managed to get us an offer close to the original sale price within the day! I guess they've earned their percentage cut ...

On the weekend front, we travelled the two hundred miles back to our old house for the weekend. As it turned out, the journey was around 4 hours each way - not bad considering we stopped for half an hour for lunch.

We got blown out by some friends we'd arranged dinner with .. with was more than a little piss-off making. However we've more than one set of friends so enjoyed a meal out with people who care. And very pleasant it was, too.

The house is still there - looking a bit weird, all empty and such. One of this kids friends take on it was "your house is boring, now" - which sums it up quite well. We deposited camp chairs and airbeds which helped. It's kinda fun camping in a house, I've decided.

The whole episode could have upset the children, my wife and/or myself. We really didn't know what it was going to feel like - going "back home" as we kept saying. [How long will it take until it isn't home?] In the end, for me at least, travelling back to our (new, temporarily rented) house some how reinforced that fact that it was home, now.

Also, it was great to be back in my own bed.

Night, night.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Just Give Me a Home ...

.. well: I don't suppose there'll be buffalo roaming, but we've found a house to buy! Woo Hoo! [You'll just have to image me stamping round the living room Homer Simpson style punching fists my in the air .. though perhaps not if you're of a nervous disposition ;^) ]

So, what then?
Well, it's not our dream cottage in the country - but it ticks a number of major boxes and above all we felt comfortable there. Oh, and we stand some chance of being able to afford it. Which is nice.

It's an extended 1930's semi on a "through road" - which I think was once the main road in and out in that direction, but has since been superceded by a trunk road to the south. These days (I've travelled along it to work and back) it doesn't seem too busy. As they've built into the roof and extended to the rear there are four bedrooms and a pleasant south-facing kitchen-diner arrangement with large patio windows overlooking a deck and perhaps 80 feet of garden. (That's about 25 metres to you young'uns.) From the deck there are extensive views over the city beyond the jungle that is the end of the garden (ear-marked for a vegetable patch .. which it once was). There is a large park up the road and just beyond that a fair parade of local-type shops. Further in the other direction there is a hypermarket. To the north-west is a large expanse of open land with lakes, a deer park and woods. All in all, not a bad location, despite the fact that it's only a couple of miles from the city centre.

.. and the skies are not cloudy all day.
(let's hope, eh?)