Monday, 2 March 2015
The guys seem a nice bunch. Amenable, intelligent, friendly, it takes a certain kind of person to works well in a pressured clinical environment.
So today, after introductions, picking up scrubs (gowns that will be worn) and clogs, we talked about the history and characteristics of Ebola virus, then assessing the risks of handling samples and methods to mitigate them, finishing off with working and living conditions in the various centres to which we might be deployed. None of it is scary, all sensible and practical, pretty much how one would hope things would be worked out by people with experience and knowledge of local conditions.
We're off for dinner shortly, and I've got quite a lot of reading up to do when I get back.
Friday, 27 February 2015
But it's not just having a new printer that makes the difference - this thing takes up half the volume of the Lexmark. Suddenly there's more space, a feeling of not being hemmed in and a pleasant airiness to my right. The Lexie was a bit of a beast when I got it, and after opening the box I had one of those "lummie - what am I going to do with that?" moments. Print quality was a step up from the last Sammie printer (and is better than this one) which made me forgive the bulk somewhat, but its appetite for toner was voracious compared to how much printing I actually did, and after 3 years it must have cost more than double the original purchase price in toner. Over all I reckon this cost me fully twice as much to run as the last colour Samsung.
So good riddance - I won't be missing Lexie one bit.
Thursday, 26 February 2015
For various reasons it seemed like a good idea to pop their app on the phone a while back, though as I described recently when trying to actually book travel. it caused some frustration. However having just had another look while idling away a time of waiting, I discovered our recently booked itinerary was available in all its glory. There is little to beat actually carrying printed copies of documents, but having the electronic versions available 'live' could be incredibly useful.
I'm also reminded of our trip to Italy some years back, where our hotel had closed and we needed to re-book mid-trip. This would have been so useful then, though I hope we don't need to do that again.
Monday, 23 February 2015
Very much looking forward to this trip now.
Wednesday, 18 February 2015
Looking forward to a step into the unknown later this year. Well, another one anyway.
Better brush up on my Spanish - where are my friends Olga and Ana when I need them?
On a completely different note, I've just re-opened my Facebook account (and already remembered why I suspended it) in order to remain in contact with various friends. Blog visits increased from around 80/day to 500 in less than 12 hours. Curious, and nothing to do with living people, I'm sure.
Tuesday, 17 February 2015
Estimating conservatively, though I won't buy budget brands any more because they are more expensive, I expect tyres to be £65-£70 each = £260 minimum for all corners. However a couple of the present wheels have been dropped in pot holes and bashed to bits to the point where they won't stay sealed properly and tyres are always going soft.
And they look manky.
So from Ebay, 4 decent original alloy bettle wheels + a spare steel, all with good tyres for £180. They are presently sat in the boot of my car, waiting to go home & be fitted. *Hopefully* they are all as per the description and pictures, and will make passing the MOT test next month quite painless.
Monday, 16 February 2015
Tuesday, 10 February 2015
"Hello, Vag Shack, how can I help".
It was hard to think what to say next for a moment.
Eventually I made my enquiry and she promised to email me later, though it's been a couple of hours now, and I'm wondering if the answer wasn't in my favour.
An explanation might be good now too, before I really start saying something that could get me in trouble. Chris's beetle needs new tyres and the old steel rims are badly bashed in so that they leak air around the tyre bead. I'm looking for a used set of alloys with decent tyres on and this company sells parts for Volkswagen Audi Group cars. The company name is, I'm sure, a deliberate bit of word play, and many young guys have been very amused to buy car bits from them.
Monday, 9 February 2015
I guess it's like being mouth-hungry after you've had a good meal. I have more guitars than I could ever need, ditto amps, effects pedals and music-related stuff. A greater variety of lenses for the camera would be nice, but will have to remain on hold for now.
Why do we find shopping interesting, bargains compelling? People are weird.
Saturday, 7 February 2015
Despite all the scare stories surrounding ebola, I don't believe this to be especially dangerous - it will just involve handling samples in laboratory conditions. The worst aspects are likely to be the heat and requirement that volunteers do not have social contact (in case they get infected with something transmissible).
We'll see what happens - there's a fair chance I won't be selected & don't go, because I've not worked in this kind of containment regime for a long time and my background is immuno-diganostics using antibodies, rather than molecular-dignostics using DNA/RNA.
Friday, 6 February 2015
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
As a result I didn't really 'see' many good pictures at all. Having said that, the scenery was so lovely that simply pointing a camera and pressing the shutter button a few times meant that you were bound to get *something* pretty.
So it proved.
There's a few I'm happy with (2 I've just ordered prints). Some that I posted earlier have been reworked a couple of times, first in Lightroom, then with DXO Optics Pro (free version) to tone down the LR gaudiness. DXOOP is really clunky & slow, but it's the only way I can get that National Geographic feeling into pictures. Some of that's down to replicating slide film responses, and some down to the subtle yet detailed processing this program naturally produces.
|This was behind the hotel|
|Water spray + subzero temperatures = ice encapsulation|
|Along the path to Casade de Nyon|
|From the top of the Pleney Telecabine|
|Jingle, flippin' bells. ;-) A horse-draw sleigh in Avoriaz on Wednesday morning. Ben & I skied in that Wednesday afternoon, and occasionally you'd have to guess where the piste went.|
|Snowfall approaching. Sometimes you could actually see clouds of snow hanging in the air, dropping imperceptibly.|
|At Les Gets - you can just see skiers above the trees in the middle.|
|The dangerous chair lift.|
|Rolling snow, pushed to the edge of the slope by the piste grading machines.|
I hope that's not too big a download - I've kept image sizes down as far as possible.
Today sees a new browser lauched by one of the guys responsible for Opera - Vivaldi - and I'm hoping it will restore some of the pleasure in browsing that has been taken away through the Chromium interface. Apparently it promises lots of controls and a return of better bookmarking.
I've just downloaded it, and will give it a spin later.
Monday, 26 January 2015
Has that put everyone off yet?
I am not after sympathy, but something has also gone in my chest - possibly a small tear somewhere - due to coughing. This has the bizarre effect of producing shooting pains when I cough that can end up travelling along the right hand side on my body and terminate in a piercing, stabbing sensation in my right nipple. Nerves have obviously become involved somewhere along the line too.
Other places in the world are in pain too.
Proving that both history and personal experience teaches nothing, the results of the Greek general election this weekend should not be surprising. Last time a European country was pushed into financial crisis and desperation by the states around, it elected radical national socialists. So we see with Greece, Syriza (radical socialist party) have formed a coalition government with the independent Greek right. One would think German memories were longer.
And talking of Germany, Randall, I saw this and thought of you.
At least the Germans recognise a man's right to stand up for himself in that most private of places. ;-)
I note that the CoE have followed the path they had determined and have elected a woman bishop. I wonder how much more divided they can become before admitting that the fragmentation is irrepairable? The historical traditions are curious, each one developing its own way of making up the rules according to various pressures within and without. I don't know whether to be pleased someone is leading, or whether it's just the Gadarene Swine Law at work.
Finally, on a bit of theology, missional communities are a curious thing not - to me, anyway - found in scripture. I'm trying to wrap my head around how we can reach people where they are in a 21st century equivalent of Paul standing up in the Areopagus, rather than asking people to come to church. Back at Christmas the housegroup we're part of made small boxes up containing a couple of chocolates and a message wishing people a good Christmas time: these were passed out in Bicester's Sheep Street, but so often people would reject the offer, as if there were strings attached. I fully sympathise with that feeling, but there must be places where it's possible to share without all the cynicism.
Monday, 19 January 2015
A quick peruse of Youtube will tell you that the 1960s was an era of scifi movie-making unparalleled since, undoubtedly driven by the space race and a desire for mankind to aspire to greater things after the devastation of the previous 2 wars. Technology was going to set people free and the good guys would eventually beat the bad guys. Some of the films/series were utterly terrible (Solarnauts is painful to watch) although others that are available (like Logan's run) we absorbed as Saturday evening entertainment in my teenage years.
But I digress.
Gerry Anderson never really wanted to work in 'Supermarionation' as they called the puppets, but did it until he could get a budget that would allow human actors. His first series using real people is the subject of this post.
The British series UFO was filmed in 1969 and 1970: there's a lot of detail on the UFO wiki page. Apparently the first episode was shown in September 1970 in the UK - I would have been 9 at that time, and I've no idea whether I saw it then or not, though it very quickly became a staple of Saturday morning children's TV viewing. Chris doesn't remember the series at all, so I suspect I DID see those early episodes. As the wiki will tell you, it was far from being a series aimed at children, with quite adult themes, seriously sexy women and considerably less scifi happening compared to Thunderbirds. Having said that, the effects were really outstanding for the time and budget, and far less wobbly than the Thunderbirds stuff.
The entire series is available on Youtube, so over Christmas this year I just went ahead and downloaded the lot, to re-live a little childhood. 26 40min episodes (once you skip the music and outro). Quality at 360p isn't exactly stunning, but it's probably just as detailed as it ever was on the tiny TV screens everyone had in those days.
There were several things I recognised as having heard or seen elsewhere, but most striking is the theme and incidental music, which borrows very heavily from early James Bond films. It's a little more sophisticated, a little less twangy, but the roots are un-missable. I also realised that this way of producing tension through rhythm was a part of my early guitar playing too.
Much more subtle, I was seeing again things that had appeared on the big screen in my young adulthood. The Skydiver pilot in his cockpit would look perfectly in place with the X-wing pilots of Starwars, and although I've not yet done a side-by-side comparison, I reckon the helmet designs were borrowed heavily for George Lucas' film.
Is that it?
In episode 16 (Kill Straker) Ed Bishop rolling around in his pyjamas and dressing gown suddenly BECOMES Luke Skywalker - the resemblance is uncanny, if temporary - and it makes me wonder if Lucas saw his hero's appearance in this series, whether he realised it or not.
Then there's something about the vehicles, the acting, the sets and accessories that reminds me of the first Star Wars film, before they got polished and the budgets grew. No-one does anything in isolation, and in an area as reliant on the imagination as scifi, cross-fertilisation of ideas is inevitable and Gerry Anderson was a founding father of scifi on the small screen.
UFO only managed 2 seasons.
There were plans to build bigger sets, have more personnel etc, but the series aged fairly quickly and didn't get funded for a 3rd season. Some of the new sets had been built already, and rather than waste them, they were used for a new series - Space 1999 - that also only ran for a couple of years. This time it wasn't budget issues that killed it, but instead Sylvia and Gerry fell out in a major way, and the show needed them both.
I have mixed feelings about downloading all these programs, not least for copyright reasons although my parents paid for the right to watch them first time round through their license fees, but also because of the sheer amount of watching time required. Having said that, I'm also in the process of downloading the Space 1999 series, and there's a LOT more of them! There's also the Buck Rogers series that never made it to the UK from which the 1980 film Flash borrowed heavily, all camp acting, devious bad guys and oriental-style emperors.
Don't blame me if you start watching and end up wasting time you don't have!
Saturday, 17 January 2015
The snow arrived properly last night, and by the time it was light enough to see outside around 6-8 inches had settled, making the town look wonderful and leaving us glad to have seen it, but disappointed that we weren't staying this coming week instead. I kept seeing things that I wanted to photograph, but that wasn't going to happen at all. The snow remained most of the way down the mountain, becoming like 'English snow' in the lower reaches, and then suddenly disappearing within the space of just a couple of hundred meters driving.
Geneva was 3'C, grey and wet.
While we were driving through after arriving it looked drab and run down - not at all the way one imagined a major Swiss city to be - and the impression remained on our return trip. We had one traveller with 'reduced mobility' on crutches who was dropped off at the main terminal while the rest of us were then taken to the charter terminal. This wasn't the concrete cattle shed that we'd experienced at Marseilles and Bordeaux, but was still disorganised and undignified with its encouragement to get passengers to scrum their way to the front of the queue. I find this kind of travelling difficult as a Christian, because my instinct is to find what ever way I can to the front of the queue, regardless of rights, and it's difficult not to ensure we end up near the front of the queue.
After we've been processed we get bussed across to the main terminal. That's nicer, really, because there are seats, decent toilets (the taps aren't labelled 'eau de non potable' which makes me hopeful) and free wifi. It's still a bit steel & industrial, but a much better environment than it might be. All the disgusting Brits in their dirty skiing gear were having to mix with wealthy, sometimes even glamorous travellers.
So here we sit, patiently.
Well, here we sit, anyway. ;-)
There's one more thing I'll mention, and that's a particular smell. I suspect it's a kind of deodorant used on ski gear, and at low levels it's OK, though quite choking at higher concentrations. I've smelled it everywhere we've been indoors, and it's likely to have been absorbed by our clothes too. Wonder if the gear at Milton Keynes snodome smells this way too?
One further comment: Ben and his flatmate both down with the sickness bug last night that Chris had, and that we'd heard of others in the resort getting too. If I'm clear by Wednesday next week then I'll assume I've dodged the bullet for that one.
*first 90min only - then you buy time. That may not matter since the Macbook battery will only do 2 hours max using wifi anyway, or about 30min work in lightroom. At least charging is better since the update to Yosemite.
Friday, 16 January 2015
But she skiied.
We collected skis from the rental shop & hopped on a bus over to Les Get again. The day before we'd seen a 'kindergarten' slope with a travelator (not even a drag lift) for those not confident enough to get up any other way, and this was where we started. After a few descents, we moved across to the Zone Tranquile a little further up, and enjoyed multiple descents there, building confidence before lunch. Ben met us afterward, and we went back again, first to the quiet slope, then to Les Indiens, a green run at the top of a chair lift that led through a pretend red Indian village. This progressed across in varying stages to a much longer, steeper slope and finally to the main Chavanne blue that was longer and with some quite steep sections.
She did it all, and afterward felt that this had helped redeem the holiday. Ben was there, guiding & offering advice & encouragement.
Afterward It was back to the place he shares with another chap from the same company, for him to cook us dinner & to see how he lived. We had a good time together, and a good meal, before it was time to say goodbye until the end of April.
As we left Les Gets the snow was falling thickly, just in time for us to leave. It will, however, be great to get home, eat our own food & sleep in our own bed.
Thursday, 15 January 2015
Les Gets town is very much like Morzine, though there seemed more garbage on the streets, and because it's about 200m higher, there was more snow too. First we went to the tourist office & got talking with another couple around the same age who had just arrived, then visited a market in town and bought some (18 month old) comte cheese to take back (shush about the cheese, Mary, if you're reading this to Irene). We also happened to walk past a chalet where Ben was working, so had a few min with him before carrying on.
Late morning we went up the Chavanne lift to look at the famous 'green' piste.
Didn't look bad at all, and if I'm well enough tomorrow (the cold has arrived) then we'll go over there for Chris to ski for the last time ever (her desire - not mine!).
Today the sun was really strong, making the top of the piste slick & slippery, though it was beautiful to walk around up there too. We found a walking route and wandered through snowy woods in a handy loop that took us to the top of the Indien beginners area, then went for lunch (potage de legumes that was nastier than it sounds) before doing another much longer walk toward Morzine and the Pleney lift area and back. There was a place where we crossed a piste that was fairly steep, and the surface was so polished that my heavy walking boots could not bite or find a grip, and I was lucky to be able to scramble back without falling.
Chris's best day here yet.
Dinner tonight in the hotel was also interesting, proving that the French cannot cook curry and simply don't understand the concept of Indian food. Pear crumble pud was nice though. :-)
Wednesday, 14 January 2015
Chris is much better, both from sickness and injury, and it's really good to have my wife back.
The morning started grey, turning to rain in Morzine, though higher up God had the heavenly sugar sieve out and was dusting the mountain tops. Initially we were going to walk back along the track that I photographed yesterday, but the rain was hard and ice-covered trail so slippery that we abandoned in favour of going up to Avoriaz in the cable car again.
The wind was gale-force up there, and the snow so thick it was a near white-out. We put on tinted glasses that helped a little by allowing us to open our eyes, and stumbled across from the lift around the back of the nearest building into calmer air. Up ahead we could see where the wind was driving the snow through a gap between buildings, so we took a lift up to the next level and wandered around for a bit before realising this was not fruitful either. Returning back down the mountain showed that it was now snowing on the slopes around the Prodain lift area, but moisture still fell as rain on Morzine town itself.
I had arranged through Viber to meet with Ben at the top of Prodain lift again at 2pm, and after another change of ski boots & lunch we did manage to join up. The wind was just as strong at the top, but this time I had proper ski gear on, and the conditions were much less difficult. We started off gently on the green Proclou run, then the blue before heading off on the (long, previously 'impossible' from Sunday's outing) Mossette/Prolays run to the Chaux Fleurie lift that took us up to the swiss border, then dropping back down the Grand Plan run to Lindarets & the lift back to Prodains. Up to the Grand Plan I'd managed a clean record, but this last run was the most challenging of all, and I had a minor fall first, then a bigger one that's left me a little tender tonight in my chest, but nothing too serious.
There were some funny moments, like when a group just decided to stop in the middle of a narrow section of piste and I had to shout "coming through" so they didn't move. Lots of dodging happening as other novices wove their way down the slopes, trying to hold speed down and relying on others to not run into them.
After 2 hours, 11km of skiing we called it an afternoon & headed back down. Ben had dinner with us tonight at the hotel, to complete his day off, and by now will hopefully be back in Les Gets.
A good day then.
I have the ski tracker app that outputs data in (among other things) a format suitable for google earth, but can't find a way to incorporate that into the blog - yet.
Tuesday, 13 January 2015
As did Chris.
She's much worse than me, having spent some of the night chatting on the great white telephone. It's not a result of yesterday, I'm reasonably sure, because even pre-crash she was occasionally a little shivery, and we've heard of a couple of others in this and the next resort with tummy upsets.
Having said that, she needed a day doing nothing anyway, as the grapefruit-size bump that came up on the previously undamaged hip last night demanded.
I just seem to have a boring and common cold.
While Chris was tucked up in bed, trying to cope, I went for a walk up to the Cascade de Nyon which is the local waterfall, a mile or so up a track mostly made of sheet ice. The air blew hot & cold, quite literally, sometimes being freezing and sometimes around 10-12'C, which was a slightly odd experience. I took the camera along, and in the next post I'll bung up some images to give an idea of what the resort is like. I'm not sure how they'll look exactly, because the macbook screen is a bit iffy, but they'll give an idea of how things are.
This afternoon Chris was up to a bit more, so we walked round the town to get some lunch, bumping into Ben (and a couple of girls he knew) and then went up the Pleney cablecar to the top of the crag between Morzine & Les Gets where he's working. Views were spectacular and the ski slopes incredibly icy up there, to the point where walking in trainers (or walking boots, as we saw in one case) was impossible. I take my hat off to the guys that can ski on that surface - there's a sound that skis make when travelling over ice that gives me the willies, and tells me that if I make one false move then things are going to go very badly indeed.
So after a bit we headed down, wandered back and have spent a thrilling time, napping the afternoon away.
Monday, 12 January 2015
Second lesson: always plan escape routes.
So this morning we went up on the Super Morzine cablecar (telecabine) then the Zore chair lift. We did the blue Serraussaix run that we covered first yesterday to the Proclou chairlift, then went up that. At the top to the right there is a steep descent to enter the Proclou blue run, shortly followed by a turn to the right again for the Proclou 1ere Glisse GREEN run down through the woods past The Stash stunt area.
This green run has enough steep bits a our level to challenge our control abilities and enough gentle parts the rest of the time that we could relax and just enjoy the runs down without stress. It worked well for us and we managed a couple of hours skiing quite happily before stopping for a crepe and a rest at the Yeti creperie at the top of Proclou by Avoriaz.
Re-charged, Chris decided that she felt confident enough to attempt the blue Proclou run, by the first run after lunch is normally poor - muscles have tightened and cooled, the body feels rested, but is stiff and the focus has been lost. The initial run in that we'd been doing was fine, but then things went downhill rapidly (see what I did there). The sun had been out & made the slopes really slippery, and speed & control were much harder. First we managed a tumble together, then someone came past and caused Chris to fall over, badly bashing her nose on the piste and bruising her hip (there's now a large swelling).
So we had blood, trembles, tears of fear & pain, complete loss of confidence and injuries to sort out. We cautiously skiied down the rest of the slope (no way out of that one!) then attempted to work out a way off the mountain without skiing - wasn't going to happen! If someone falls & is injured then the rescue teams can stretcher them off, but if you're just a bit bashed & wobbly then it's up to you. The only ways to get around are the lifts, and *mostly* they only go up, the exceptions being the 2 cablecars running to the Avoriaz plateau. Getting up & getting down is your responsibility, and ain't no-one gonna help you (there are signs about this at the cablecar station & in the travel information).
We couldn't go back down as we'd come up because the 2 runs to the Zore chairlift were closed so the only way back was back up to Avoriaz & take the blue to (as we thought) Lindarets like we'd done the day before. Except we found the Lindarets run to be one of the 'impossible' runs from yesterday.
So we walked in ski boots across to Avoriaz in the hope of finding a taxi etc to take us down. No taxis in evidence (the streets are full of snow!). Calling the rep was sort-of helpful, but he wasn't really listening when I tried repeating his directions back to him, and they did not prove terribly useful anyway.
So we walked on.
We'd pretty much reached the end of our strength and feet had reached the point of pain when we heard a horse sleigh approach - an Avoriaz taxi! They took us to the lift station, and from there we managed to hobble eventually back.
Tomorrow skiing is off the menu.
Chris is in quite a bit of pain now (I just asked - "less miserable, but sill in a lot of pain") after ibuprofen & tiger balm consumed as suits each and a hotish bath. Whether she can go out at all tomorrow or not remains to be seen (I'd like to be on the mountain for sunrise & sunset, for Chris that's too much) but we'll find a way to manage. As for this evening, the restaurant has a 'vin du jour' and I think we may be sampling some of that later.
Sunday, 11 January 2015
We are now both well bruised, but there's a certain pleasure in having made it down slopes with a gradient of "you have got to be kidding" and "Isn't that the black run - where does the blue run start?" Even Ben declared that the blue runs here are the steepest he's seen anywhere, and some of the runs that we fell down on were every bit as steep as the red runs we saw 6 years ago in Austria.
But the views were spectacular, amazing, wonderful, incredible - snow-capped mountains seen through trees and sheets of mist that would separate and the close up again.
We started off in a conventional cable car, then moved across to a chair lift. We did one run on a slope that would have been great except for it being patchy ice with a thin sprinkling of snow most of the way down before pickup up another chair lift. This took us most of the way to the upper slopes of the mountain: the temperature dropped, we got snowed on and my moustache froze. This was where the slopes turned from fun/tricky to nuts. Using the ski tracker app apparently my fastest speed was 33kph, but it wouldn't have been difficult to more than double, maybe treble that. We both fell (and both have bruised bottoms) with Chris nearly going off the edge of the piste & down the side of the mountain*. To out near-amazement we make it down alive. Another lift, another set of impossible looking slopes.
One advantage of an impossibly steep looking slope is that, with your legs downhill after you have fallen over, it is easier to get back on your feet.
Ben was really good, giving Chris advice, helping her get back up when she fell and being very patient. He also confidently told us that by the end of the week these slopes would be so easy that they would be boring.
Finally we got to a moderate blue run from Avoriaz (the highest resort) back to the cable car at Lindarets to descent to Ardent and the bus transfer to Morzine. Skis deposited, crepes purchased & consumed to keep us going between a buffet breakfast and the evening's 5 course meal, and we are able to relax and confirm there's no lasting damage to our bodies.
*While getting into the cable car at the top of Lindarets some paramedics were wheeling a bed with what looked like a skier tightly strapped in into another car.
I like small, compact, long battery life and low weight. Modern 'phone' - read mobile computing device - use requires largeness, bulk, short battery life and higher weight.
I have the piste maps on my phone - fantastic - but actually reading them is a challenge. Communicating with Ben using Viber (I feel like there's a klaxon going off in my head with a large flashing sign lit up showing the words SECURITY BREACH, after reading the list of permissions it requires - that app is not going to stay on longer than I can help) doesn't show enough conversation to be helpful when typing.
It's probably just a sign I'm getting older. My present phone has a higher resolution screen than any computer I used before 2002, but it just *feels* like I need more. I'd wondered where the drive was gone, from computers needing more and more power to do ordinary stuff, it has mow transferred to mobile computing, and with a vengeance.
Wonder if Chris would buy me a tablet for my birthday? ;-)
But as for phones, as far as possible I'll try to make this one last to the end of 2015, then see what's good, bad ugly and effective. maybe trouser pockets will have grown to accommodate the fashions in technology.