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 ...