Monday, 7 September 2020

Arriving today: MAXTOP Bumbag Waist Fanny... and 1 more item

Sometimes you have to love the truncation of email titles. I could just imagine a bunch of small children saying those words over and over to feel like they're being REALLY rude. It's the kind of thing we'd have done at school.

This is probably much less funny if you're from North America, and fanny doesn't mean pudenda.

Friday, 4 September 2020

Today my calendar tells me that at 1pm I have a 'Talent Review'.

Which for all the world sounds like judging a bunch of guys playing the spoons or a ukelele orchestra as they perform.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Lets just say that one of the reasons people around my age take early retirement is that we can't face trying to learn a new set of systems & phrases devised by someone a little disconnected from reality to do something we've always done. I'm speaking obliquely because personal blogs are no longer considered purely personal by the organisation for whom I now work, and any anything written may be analysed for a negative impact on the business. 

A bit like my good friend Randall - a man who has done plenty of coding and page creation for blogs - finding that the 'new' blogger back end no longer works well for him. There comes a point where the system refreshes are simply detractive and ultimately destructive. Everyone smiles, tells you how wonderful it is and how it will make your life better, but inside you can feel yourself wanting to curl into a ball. I quite get that my mum doesn't want to use computers and feels technophobic, but I'd hoped that new technology wouldn't lock me out because of my background. In the end I don't think the tech will, but the changes in society and the impact they have on interfaces are very likely to do that.



Survived. But it's extraordinarily difficult not to be cynical.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Invest in friendships - or evolution can teach the church something?

 Please forgive my click-bait title and rambly post.

A couple of min ago I was reading this BBC article about the need to maintain friendships and the manner in which lockdown has affected friendships in society.

The church we are involved in has become missional, 'seeker-sensitive', following a chaotic pattern of variable meetings across the month (at least there is some kind of pattern). Over the last couple of years I've found myself feeling increasingly isolated, disconnected and unable to talk about things that matter to me or concerns that I have when we come together. Plus there are concerns about the leadership - not integrity, but certainly understanding, ability and to a degree intention - and it really doesn't feel like the family that I've invested in over the last 3 decades.

So to the article. 

It talks about digital contact not being a satisfying replacement for meeting, but TBH the adoption of digital contact during Covid has simply clarified the feeling I have of no longer being connected. And rather than being unsatisfying, and I've actually been pleased not to be seeing people. Partly it's down to the pleasure of a Sunday actually being - potentially - a day of rest instead of another day of service and chores that are different to those you normally do. But only partly. 

The seeds of this were being sown consistently over the last few years. We've both had significant concerns about church direction and questions have been asked: to which extensive email replys have been sent which were not especially helpful.

I have concerns about becoming my grandfather, who was *that guy* in various churches over the years for whom things were never right. He would be a thorn in the flesh of various church leaders, never settled, never happy, never being valued, never bending. I've certainly been enough if an 4rse at times (memories DO make me wince occasionally) though never intentionally to cause people pain or hassle, and it's often been when I've been very much between a rock & a hard place. But I absolutely don't want the role of disaffected rebel or 'angry watchman' - there is no reward in that.

So what's the connection to the title?

The deep friendships are the ones that might save your life, and need real, meaningful contact to establish and maintain. The shallower, simpler, more outward-looking we get the more stretched and weakened can become things we do that would otherwise help maintain the friendships. And if you know the bridge/truck metaphore, then the weaker the bridge becomes. I realise that a lot (probably almost all) my church friendships are BECAUSE we're part of the same church, and not because I would choose to spend time with those people of my own volition (or them with me).

 And when that happens who will you talk to about the things that are important but difficult?

Sunday, 23 August 2020

This makes my head hurt.

 Thinking about visiting Athens at some stage in the future, so I started investigating ways of travelling into the city from the airport. It turns out conveniently that there is a metro line that does the 20+ mile journey and there are discounted tourist 3 day cards available. "What do those cards include?" I wondered - then attempted to read the FAQ section.

Only the Greeks* could create a section of answers that creates more questions.

I am also developing a distinct liking for package deals where all you have to do is present yourself at an airport and someone then ensurers you don't get lost or come to harm for the next 2 weeks. Actually that's not really true - I loved our India trip for Carol's wedding and the various trips we've done around the world - but sometimes the origanisation just feels like a big 'ol mountain to climb. And I'm also a little hesitant, having carefully organised the previous trip to Lesvos for Greek orthodox Easter that had to be canned, to heavily invest time, energy & money in ANOTHER trip that also gets canned.

 We've not really had a break this year, and although I did take a weeks leave last month, it was to do painting & decorating, rather than rest & relax. We'd just like a break now.


*I know that's not really true, but let's go with the sentiment, OK?

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Speed boost on a budget?

So my dear old Dell XPS is more than 6 years old now. It was a well spec'd machine when I got it, with quad core i7, 16GB, SSD etc and it's not disappointed me. But recently it's felt like it's been getting a little slower, getting hotter, working harder than I remember. I've been having to close all applications and do a proper re-start to clear memory before doing any Lightroom work, and when I exported images into another program like silverEfex of On1 then the fans would wind up and it would struggle a bit. Made me think than another year or 2 it would be time for an upgrade.

Came across an article recently about thermal paste drying out & becoming less efficient after a few years, and it made me wonder. Came across an offer for Arctic MX2 thermal compound, then read up about XPSs and thermal throttling & it seemed like a good idea to remove any internal dust & replace the thermal compound. Took all of about 20min.

Now it's like a new computer when under load. I've been editing & uploading, got lightroom, On1 Photoraw, Luminar and firefox open at the same time & the fans have just become audible - before they'd have been whistling away by now & everything would be a little laggy through throttling. There's a fair bit of heat being generated, but the fans are just one notch above baseline. This has to be the cheapest peformance boost I've ever seen, and if you can't tell, I'm seriously impressed.

Monday, 17 August 2020

You know it's an old computer when

as you wake it from sleep it makes a distinct mechanical clunk from inside the box as the HDD is initialised and the head moves off park.

Mummy, mummy, why is the living room carpet all reflective?

Because it's under water, darling. That's why.

Been here 30 years, and this is our first flood. The water came from the tremendous rainfall yesterday evening, seeping up through the floor. At least we managed to stop the water reaching the kitchen. Hopefully the insurance company will be helpful.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Funny how things change.

Got into work and started the computer. There was a time when having it play "good morning Dr Chandra" on startup seemed cool, whereas now it would just be odd.

Friday, 7 August 2020

Today Kidlington is warmer than southern India.

It's about 30 out there, and brilliant sunshine - glad I ran yesterday evening.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Enough 80s already.

Shopping in Tesco, where they're playing back to back stuff from an era that sucked musically. Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Madonna etc. Lawd, it was awful. Looking forward to finishing here.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

If you ever needed proof....

I am not a TV person.

A couple of days ago I came across a 'free' book on Amazon: The Ultimate Friends Quiz Book.

That's nice I thought, a quiz for friends.

Opened it up on Kindle reader and the first question is "what was in the lasagne that Monica cooked?"

Eh? Who?

Then it dawned on me, this was a quiz about a show that looked about as compelling as Crossroads*, but set in another country. Well, I can say is that this was absolutely and completely worth the purchase price. ;-)

* - the ability to add hyperlinks appears to be either broken or mangled to no longer be intuitive in the current version of blogger). Crossroads was really tedious - even the theme music by Tony Hatch was composed to sound tedious - but fortunately it was on commercial television which my parents shunned, and so I only had to sit through it when visiting friends.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

the internet without ad-blockers sucks.

Just hopped into Instagram to see what Ben's doing, and on the phone it's full of ads. Nuts. They get a similar level of importance to real content. 

Friday, 17 July 2020

More than a month goes by

between blog posts.

The times have been momentous, yet you know that whatever you say will probably be wrong somewhere - I wrote a post but pulled it quickly.

The country we are living in had the second worst Covid outcome in the world, but it's almost as though Brazil has done a 'hold my beer'. Bolsonaro always was a Trump fan, and it seems that he's trying to emulate his idol. There's no knowing how long this state of uncertainty will last.*

Next week I shall be taking time off to work on Ben's bedroom. He has officially 'moved out' (at least until he's between jobs & needs to come home) so it's out with the royal blue, lime green and orange paint and in with white or light grey.

And I'm still here. Life is in suspension really. Not happy on many levels, but like the proverbial frog in a saucepan, one gets used to it and the discomfort isn't enough to make one hop out - just keep going and doing what needs to be done.

*My unconscious sense of humour is still at work.

Monday, 8 June 2020

You probably knew this already, but

smart goods are a dumb choice.

What happens when the maker stops supporting your appliance? If you bought a Samsung, that could be as little as 2 years after purchase.

I grew up in a household where tech was loved and we (the male part at least) wanted to bring on the future with all its connectedness. Then I saw how it was done and didn't want a part of it more than necessary.

After support is finished, I wonder what happens? Will it be like a mobile phone, where it still kind-of works sluggishly while being increasingly vulnerable? Will the 'smart' part of the applicance simply disconnect itself (perhaps after being directed to do so by the maker or user) or will the thing simply stop working and become a true piece of junk? If you as an owner should choose to disconnect your fridge from the internet by some means, does THAT brick it, or will it keep working. If you don't disconnect, will it then be hacked to serve in a bot net?

I can see a reason for smart TVs, but general household appliances?

This wasn't really meant to be ranty, and I'm not grumpy about this in any way really. But sometimes, rather like when on holiday you see items of junk made to be bought by tourists that would be spurned by the locals, so it *feels* like these were made for techno-tourists and not for real use.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

I'm from the government, I'm here to help you and your friends

That's the title used for a Register article warning about scammers using the UK track and trace program. If you're in the UK and get a call from someone claiming to be contacting you regarding the T&T program then it seems thetre is no way at present you can verify they are who they say they are.

Easy for me to say, but my advice would be to not believe anyone who calls up making that claim. I know of no solution to the problem right now.

So, if anyone from the UK is reading this - I hope it's been useful.

* edit *
Having considered this a little more (I know, 'shooting' from the hip is dumb, but sometimes I just get the urge to write) possibly the best approach if anyone DOES receive a call will be to ask where and when they were nearby the infected person. While far from foolproof, it will at least give an indication of whether the caller is genuine and working from real data.

And NEVER give them useful personal information such as date of birth, national health number or national insurance number etc, let alone any kind of financial information. If they have access to computer records of your phone number and address then they have access to those things too, if they need them.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Just ran my first sub-30

minute 5k. Not bad considering I ran 5k yesterday too - usually runs without a rest day between aren't so good. 

It feels like I cheated a little, because I had a lift to Ardley and ran back, but the first 3k are all uphill, balancing the final kilometer down hill at the end. This also makes me wonder if I'm fitter than it feels, but have just got soft and can't put up with the hurt to keep going.

It's not always helpful

to be a little OCD, automatically recognise patterns etc. Queueing for Tesco, people just stand where they want, failing to see or ignoring the space marks on the floor.


Thursday, 21 May 2020

Today is that day again.

16 years.

More than a lifetime.

Saturday, 25 April 2020


Kilometers run.

Since January 13th.

Sounds good right up until you realise that's over a 3 1/2 month period, and then it seems hardly anything. We walked 35k in 2 weeks in August last year. 

I've just got back from another run - 7.2k in about 50min - and it's too slow. When my speed drops below 6min per kilometre impact from each footfall starts to become a problem - instead of bouncing, each foot thumps down, jarring and causing damage. If I can get the speed up, not only will it feel more satisfying but it will actually become more comfortable. 

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Would it be wrong to say

that I'm enjoying not having to meet people during lockdown. I like the quiet roads, the half-empty supermarkets where people move out of each others way & give others space instead of pushing them out (well, that's true of Bicester Tesco - OTOH Sainsurys Kidlington was a horrible, crowded, dismal place).

Makes me wonder what I'll be like when the lockdown is over - I already don't want the crowds to come back, to have to go to meet people again - no idea if I'm going to want to play guitar with others, and I'm reasonably sure I don't want to 'go to church' (there, I've said it) though it's likely social pressure will ensure I do both those things. Life when I retire may well be very, very quiet.

Or perhaps I'll stop using computers and suddenly discover a desire to meet face-to-face again?

Saturday, 18 April 2020

There are relatively few 'adequate' statistics.

Y'know what I mean - about Covid infections.

There's an interesting artricle here from Rueters about the USS Roosevelt where the virus was able to infect a controlled and isolated population who were all then examined at tested for infection.

It seems that 60% of infections were asymptomatic among a young, healthy population.

OK, now another less solid statistic.

BBC Radio 4 PM show - you can stream it here - had an interview last night around 5.40ish with with an anonymous doctor working in a coronavirus ward. The interview was voiced to make it less traceable. She estimated that 20% of positive Covid cases, as in people clearly displaying the correct symptoms, would test negative first time using the PCR test for viral RNA, only getting a positive result on a second test.

And I'd like to roll in a third factor - a paper from the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control.

Basically it looks like some people may remain infectious for quite a bit longer than the 14 days currently used to quarantine potential infections. I recall discussing this online a few weeks ago with someone who was being a bit 'I work for the NHS and am therefore irrefutable' who was absolute in his conviction that 14 days was exactly enough because that was what he'd been told.

So putting this lot together, it's little wonder that despite the best efforts of many governments, Covid has been rampaging through various societies.

20-20 hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

As you get used to it.

So I've been running for a few weeks now. At first it was hard work - I could just about manage 3 kilometres without stopping, but I'd feel pretty dreadful during the run and cough for the rest of the day. 

Gradually it became less hard and I could extend the distance to 4K, then 5K  a couple of weeks ago. 

But here's the thing: it's started to feel harder again.

This is normal, but I don't entirely know why. Perhaps it's because it's not so overwhelming that I'm able to notice all the hurty bits much more. Perhaps it's because I'm not fit and strong enough to run easily that it's hard to break out of the plodding. Or maybe I'm just not driven enough to over-ride my body's demands to take it easy. 

If I can keep running for a few more weeks like this then I should break through, but if I stop for a while then it's back to square one. 

Funny when a face pops up

Between 1980 and 1984 I worked in the virology department of Wellcome Research Labs at Beckenham, where our laboratory head was Dr. June Almeida. According to this piece on the BBC website she was responsible for first identifying and along with 2 other collaborators (Drs. Tyrrell and Waterson) naming the Corona virus.

It gives me no particular claim to fame, wisdom or any other attribute, but it's definitely interesting for me. I remember her reasonably well still, and she was a little fierce but definitely had a good sense of humour - I played a minor trick and she could have roasted me as just a technical assistant, but instead found it funny. It was also a privilege to go with her down to the electron microscopy suite she used and see her making images of viruses.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

The only people who should be truly free are those who will not use their freedom.

I am also reminded of a phrase by Francis Schaeffer that freedom is not license.

With that lot said, I felt slightly chilled by the headline that OFCOM are going to investigate a BBC presenter who spoke out in a way that suggested the idea that 5G radio could cause coronavirus symptoms was plausible and not clearly understood. That the man is a fool is without question, at least in his understanding of sceince, medicine and engineering, but there's something slightly chilling about the idea of someone being investigated because they're a fool.

Perhaps the problem lies with those who gave him a platform in the first place?

People have complained, as they should, and so an investigation should take place. Hopefully he'll realise what a pillock he is and apologise.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Living in Britain is like experiencing

The opening chapters of a distopian scifi novel.

From the 1950s.

Quatermass and the antenna etc.

"Hey look everyone, I just burned down a 5G mast!"
"WTF, why can't I post this on social media?"
"It's a conspiracy - they have shut off my mobile coverage!"

No amount of rolling-eyes or facepalm emojis are enough for this level of stoopidity. 5G causes coronavirus.

I've even had someone who is an electrical engineer send me a whatsapp link to a video from the 'Vodafone boss' blowing the whistle on 5G and covid-19. I think I actually shouted at my phone when that popped up, not least because the person who sent it lives in another country and I can't shout at them for numerous reasons.

If I ask "has the world gone mad?" will I hear the word "yes" return as an echo?

There are several reasons not to like 5G, not least of which will be the sprouting of many more masts than 4G, short range and poor service to rural areas, but delivering coronavirus over the airwaves is not one of them.

I don't want to use the R word, but sometimes it seems appropriate.

As a nation, we're doing our best to hold back the good Dr. Darwin and his ages-old selection methods by fining and making examples of people who refuse to stay away from each other at this time. With careful marketing I reckon catching and dying from Covid-19 could be made fashionable - if people are dumb enough to believe half the things they do then I'm sure that one could be sold too.

Yours, tongue somewhat pressed into squamous cell surface. 

Walking away from this and back to the lab made think there must be a lot of very confused and unhappy people around, that they see this as real and needing something doing about it.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Wondering about Coronavirus?

Probably not, but the company I work for makes viral antigens with various applications. Here's my friend and colleague Andy Lane talking about our coronavirus antigens in a podcast:

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Please don't keep sending me

Please don't keep sending me those 'uplifting' videos that you found on social media, the bits of scripture picked because they say nice things, or the recordings of Christian exhortation.

We're all different. I just don't want all this stuff.

Perhaps it's real for you?

Thinking back to the periods when I've led worship teams, people would often send me links to songs that were utterly unsuitable for a congregation to sing, or would wonder if we could do a certain song 'like this' which would involve a large band with a horn section and carefully crafted parts - we would have a guitar or 2 and a keyboard if we were 'lucky'.

Yours in finest curmudgeonly style. ;-)

Monday, 23 March 2020

Well that's a change.

  • From tonight, people in Britain will be allowed to leave their homes for only “very limited purposes” - shopping for basic necessities; for one form of exercise a day; for any medical need; and to travel to and from work when “absolutely necessary”
  • People are warned not to meet friends or family members who they do not live with
  • Shopping is only permitted for essentials like food and medicine, and people are advised to do it “as little as you can”
  • Police have powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings
  • All shops selling non-essential goods, such as clothing and electronic stores, are ordered to close
  • Libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship are to close
  • All gatherings of more than two people in public - excluding people you live with - are banned
  • All social events, including weddings and baptisms are banned
  • Funerals are not included in the new restrictions
  • Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed
  • Restrictions “under constant review” and will be checked again in three weeks. They will be relaxed “if the evidence shows we are able to”

Just a quick reminder that Corona isn't the only type of virus out there.

And thieves & crooks also see opportunities when the rest of us are inconvenienced.  If you receive an email purporting to come from WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, do not open it. Especially do not open any attachments included with it.

Stay safe, stay away from non-immediate family and keep your bodies and computers healthy, mkay?

Friday, 20 March 2020

Perhaps not so funny

I've just seen a meme in a 'funnies' thread that said something along the lines of "Anti-vaxxers - welcome to the world you wanted".

I would ask if this experience is likely to change opinions about vaccination, but human nature being what it is, that's extremely unlikely.