Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Just heard on the radio

A good friend of our business.

Dr. Gill Lockwood talking to Jeremy Vines on BBC radio 2 about egg freezing and fertility. Unfortunately I came in at the end and didn't hear the whole conversation.

Egg freezing does bring hope of having babies to women that have to undergo chemotherapy for cancer. There's a whole discussion to be had here, but I don't have (lunch)time right now.

Anybody want to carry it on in the comments is welcome, and I'll come along later.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Yay us.

We get the company of the lovely Kita tonight for a bit.

Wonder if she still smells of New York?

Running through a dry patch again.

Meaningful thought has been a commodity that's hard to scrape together for me recently. The cold has rather flattened the few remaining brain cells I have left, and combined with a lack of time and energy, very little other than observations and rubbish has been published here.

I also wonder if I've rather overdone the blog feed thing. There seem to now be 20 to 30 new posts a day, as I took the opportunity to try to follow some additional blogs. This is simply not really working for me right now, and I'm finding a sense of detachment using a feed reader instead of taking time over each persons blog. Lots of you are using very similar (effectively white/pale/colourless) blog designs, which look really cool in the flesh, but in the viewing window of the reader just turn to pale characterless washes of information.

Maybe it's time to give bloglines another go?

Whatever. I have however fallen behind, and that's something I hate too. Lives have gaps in, relationships that were warming have cooled. I might have to be brutal and chop some names for the reader (or leave them in, but just ignore). It is disappointing, as I also feel I should have more time and capacity to take in the extra relationships. But that's the key - relationships. Randall, Laura, Dixie, Marc, Johanna, Hilary, and Linea (not in any specific order) are all key blogosphere relationships for me. Fern too, but I know you through other places. Martin and Jenny are a pre-existing friendship, ditto Sue and to an extent ditto Sarah. Then there are some that I'd like to build, but haven't got there yet - like Robyn, John Smulo, and most recently Ben C, Inky, Ruth, Jonathan, Paul Mayer, Brodie, Gadgetvicar (who must have a real name) and maybe even Ursula.

But I'm starting to wonder at the kind of relationships that are buildable/reasonable in the blogosphere. In one sense, being superficial comes very easily to me, yet as I share thoughts and exchange ideas with people I find surface-relations to be inadequate. Reading and commenting on Paul's blog made me *feel* like I was getting closer in friendship, yet there isn't enough time to build a friendship properly and simply leaving comments behind seems ineffectual and a bit pathetic. I REALLY don't want to turn blogging into a time-critical discipline, making sure each relationship gets it's quota of attention, yet it doesn't sit well to just drop people either.

What to do? Guess we'll see.

If anyone would like to have a good and serious go at offending me then that would make it much easier to drop you off the blogroll and free up time for someone else. So if you're secretly harbouring Tourettes syndrome and want to let it out, looks like I'm your man.

Saturday, 25 November 2006


That may not be a word, but it still sounds like a word.

Just sold a couple of items on ebay for the first time ever. Nice to be getting rid of stuff instead of filling the house more.

Chris's mum came over tonight for dinner. We then watched a 'Bond' film on DVD. I've recently begun to notice how Bond characters often bully victims - something I'd never seen before. In 'The man with the golden gun' Roger Moore knocks around one of the girls, and in this one - 'Diamonds are forever' - Sean Connery duffs up a bunch of guys for information before threatening to strangle a girl with here bra. Am I becoming a wuss, or more sensitive?

Friday, 24 November 2006

Well it's nice....

to have a little more energy again.

I did some work in the lab yesterday, but it was a constant up-hill struggle. My brain had turned to molasses, which made trying to calculate some molar ratios a little embarassing in front of someone (I knew there was a mistake - could I see where??!). When it came to capping a couple of hundred tubes, it was like walking when you're exhausted - just put one foot in front of the other, try to keep moving and don't worry about speed.

But this morning, for the first time in nearly 2 weeks I had a little energy. Got in there, started buffers dissolving, centrifuge some samples, find reagents for someone else.

It's nice to be back a bit, even if I'm only running at half normal speed.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

How good is your hearing?

And your memory for that matter?

Take the Tone deaf test.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Have you ever?

been blog-hopping and lost a comment?

I'm usually pretty careful about leaving myself a trail to follow, but yesterday left a comment on someone's blog that I can't now find. It related to the *Rose Swetman* letter to Mark Driscoll - if that means nothing then you're certainly better off without further enlightenment. I wasn't particularly charitable (although I wasn't rude either) and wanted to follow up.

Ho hum.
Have to go searching through my browser history files tonight when I get home.


cheerful today. Much to my surprise, as I'm not really fully recovered although I am much better. But hey ho, I'm up and here and it's OK. Still coughing well, but never mind that.

Monday, 20 November 2006

Friday, 17 November 2006

Goodbye joystick

Sayonara dance mat. Get lost gamepad.

Now you're in control.

A very interesting observation

This caught my eye on worship, secular and Christian, from Gadgetvicar. I dislike Muse with a passion, but the significant comments are at the end of the post. I hope I can remember enough of this so that when I'm well it can be re-considered.

Thursday, 16 November 2006

BTW I need a blogfeed reader

What do people recommend? I tried to sign up for bloglines last night and it totally failed to send a registration confirmation email.


one reason I didn't post anything witty is that my brain has turned to goo and is currently trying to leave through my nose. Coughing interferes too much with homeostasis to allow the brain to work properly. As a result I'm posting using stupid long words and anal language instead of carefully arranging things into simple, easy to read phrases.

Have a nice day

I was going to post something witty

but instead I'll just post a link to Paul Mayer's blog.

The discussion is useful and the points good. However the gem is the Youtube video. It is neither helpful or encouraging in one sense, yet it does contain a lot of food for thought. I KNOW that deep inside me, there is a little part that believes it *really happened* like that.

If you're a republican then I strongly suggest you DON'T WATCH THE MOVIE!

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Secret footage.

I wonder how Kita ever survived when he was up this way?


Dan Meatland of course.


Well, the lurgy has arrived.

Now 'happily' coughing and failing to sleep. The last thing I did before bed was wire an LED light up after attaching one to a heatsink before tea with thermal epoxy. These LEDs have a 'Lambertian' beam pattern i.e. mostly forward in a 140 degree arc. From the side you can see the beam is intense, but doesn't appear all that exciting. However pop a collimator lens in front and it's something else.

I had to rush a little to put it together so that it would work, and we'd already been out this evening. So we got to bed around 11.30ish with my head slightly buzzing. Sleep wasn't easy to find, and around 3.00ish had come and gone. 3.15 brought a full bladder and a scratchy throat that could no longer be denied, and then came the coughing.

So here I sit having 'enjoyed' something under 3 hours sleep. I've upgraded Firefox to version 2.0, re-done the plugins and downloaded some new extensions. Thunderbird has also been upgraded to 1.58 (was on 1.0 still). Sent some work emails as the corporate system is in ribbons right now (I still get spam, but I also get phone calls asking why I've not replied to such-and-such emails).

So back to the lights. I'm cycling the battery pack again as I now have 9 cells recovered (1 didn't make it) and have taken my 20 watt halogen lights outside to compare to the LED. These have special (and fairly expensive) bulbs estimated by the manufacturer to offer 30% to 50% more light than standard 12V halogens. Well the LEDs don't make as much light as one of these, but then they're only drawing 1/7th the power. I reckon that a pair of these K2 LEDs will provide plenty of light for off-road at night. The only downside is that they produce that really intense blue-white light, and I think the trail is easier to read with a warmer-white light.

Might well investigate the Cree XRE series LEDs next. They make 80 lumens on 1 watt as opposed to 100 lumens on 3 watts like these K2s. 2 of those as helmet spots with an AA sized 2700mAh pack would be excellent.

Nuts, dizzy from coughing now. Wish I could have some whiskey, but I need to go to work in a couple of hours. TTFN.

Monday, 13 November 2006

Well, the ride was good.

And I've got some pics up too, one of which was adapted by a friend:

Click the pic if you want to see them.

Friday, 10 November 2006

Christians in Iraq.

I came across this just today. It was written by a guy that I've know through the net for a number of years, and while we haven't always agreed on things I believe him have been completely honest in this. This *is* second hand, in that these are the second hands it's been through - I'm one link away from the author - and it's not another urban legend, re-cycled into a christianese "isn't that terrible" scenario.

Nick writes:

This is painful for me to write, being a major supporter of the U.S. military. And I'm not at liberty to devulge my source of this information. But rest assured that it comes from a credible source military inside Iraq, which I personally received. This was not some email floating through the Net.

Apparently U.S. commanders have been refusing to help Iraqi Christian for fear of inciting the Shia and Sunnis. As a result, about 35,000 Iraqi Christians have fled the country, most to Syria.

Most of these were residents of the Baghdad area, and their flight represents a serious loss of intellectual capital. The Christians were shielded under Sadam, who used their services as maids and servants in his palaces, because they were the only people he could trust not to kill him.

Once Sadam fell the Christians became exposed to Islamic persecution. The horrible irony of all this is that our military is there in the name of freedom and they are turning their backs on Christians being persecuted. The thought that we are patronizing the intolerant and even murderous spirit of Islam at the expense of Christians is warped.

The request I received from concerned Christian U.S. military commanders in Iraq was, "Please pray" for a reversal of this policy. So I am passing along this request to you. This is very serious on a few levels. First is that by refusing to protect the Christians, we are cursing our own military efforts, regardless of how right or noble the mission may be. We need God's blessing and can't afford to operate without it. Secondly, if this information really gets out to the public, it will really sour the support that Christians have been giving to this War On Terror. And we could find Believers joining the anti-war Leftist in protest against our own government. The last thing we need to be doing is crawling in bed with those people. I think it would be a good idea to write some letters to any Legislators we know, who might be in a position to confront the President with this matter.

"Please pray" is the best request I think he can make of us in this scenario.

Blog posting, censorship, language and disagreement

There's been a discussion over at the Eagle and child that went a long way from the intent of the original post.

In a nutshell, Marc quoted from a particular source, a section of text that included the word "fuck" as part of an expression of admiration toward God. There was also a bunch of stuff taking pot-shots at a certain line of fundamentalist thinking, however as you might have expected, the comments rather deteriorated into a discussion of *that word*.

My contention in all this is that this kind of language is inappropriate for a Christian to use. Sure it's sufficiently commonly used that it has almost entered regular language..... but not quite. It remains therefore a profanity, and as such just doesn't sit right in that context. It was interesting to read that the original author considered that omitting it would make him feel 'untrue' to himself, but maybe inside this is how he speaks? I dunno, but there are many things that I think inside that are highly unsuitable for making public - if it were otherwise I'd not need forgiveness of sins.

I HATE the idea of censorship by other people, or even by the weight of public opinion. But at the same time we need to exercise discernment for ourselves, and acknowledge if we do overstep the mark. I will defend someone's right to post what they wish on their own blog, and I will defend my right to disagree with them in their comments. The hardest part is that with issues like this it's not possible to have clear resolution, and so thing go round and round. There is no clear specification about acceptability and that is a GOOD THING. It means we can think freely and express ourselves to expand into new areas. The bad side is that with this 'free thinking' can come arrogance, a belief that because "I thought it freely and could post it then it has to be OK, and that my own thoughts/feelings have an absolute validity".

I'd say this ties in with some thoughts from Smulospace about how we communicate online. The mother-in-law test might be a good way to determine whether our posting is acceptable or not.

Our living room is bare

The old carpet went to the tip yesterday.

We took all the furniture out, piling amps up in the kitchen, guitars upstairs, stuff spread everywhere. The floor in there was concrete, probably laid on either flag stones or beaten earth. On top of that was a layer of Marley tiles (linoleum tiles) that had loosened and broken up. In some places they'd been removed and a cement skim used to fill the gap.

So we stripped off the old tiles.

In some places they just lifted. In others they needed literally chiseling off the floor as the bituminous glue was still effective. Chris also grouted thre tiles on the hearth and I replaced the ignition system in the rayburn (just as little 'asides' to help keep our concentration up). I still chiselling the last tile off just 20 minutes before we were due to leave for alpha.

Today most joints and muscles are complaining about yesterdays abuse. My left hand especially feels stiff and slow - glad I don't play guitar for a living! I've taken pics, but won't be able to put them up until next week as the computer is in bits in the kitchen and the router is disconnected.

Anyway, I need to work now.


Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Some good comments on Haggard.

Leighton Tebay posted these comments on his blog regarding Haggard and the way his misdemeanours are being viewed. Very insightful, recommended reading.

Talking of John Smulo

He was discussing/making recommendations about the frequency of posting that should take place on a blog.

John - if you're reading this, I have to tell you that it takes time to work through the stuff you put up and formulate useful thoughts. I'm still thinking about a useful way to blog on sex (one that doesn't uncover one's partner as well) plus a bunch of other stuff. (BTW it's easier to communicate with you like this as I don't have an email addy). I could probably handle about 1 of your deeper posts per week.

Use of stem cells - an example of an ethical approach.

A while back John Smulo posted an article about ethics and stem cell work. This was interesting to me because as with many things, some Christians see stem cell research as being primarily about killing babies to get their cells. Working in the area I do, I'm fortunate enough to hear about the other research that goes on, and that seems to me to have much greater potential for future therapy: use of patient-derived stem cells.

So when I saw this article from the beeb it seemed good to link it. The approach seems a little crude to me (take bone marrow, mash it up, inject it into area of the heart that was damaged) but sometimes subtlety isn't what's required. I hope the results of this trial are positive and well reported.

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

We're away this weekend, Ben and I.

How do I explain the 'deadbike' weekend?

A while back a kind of sweepstake was run on the Bikemagic forum, in which the price of entry was a bicycle component that was out of date but still worked. Those that entered had to nominate an ailing celebrity rather like a race horse, and the person whose celebrity died first 'won'.

What they 'won' was the culmination of a weekends labours using all the ancient and crappy parts - the 'Deadbike'.

This was of dubious value as often the bits were badly designed (the number of bits that were designed for mountainbikes that went against all good engineering principles was astonishing - more so considering they were often hideously expensive). Thus the first year saw a lucky 'victim' being made to ride a magnesium 'Kirk' framed monstrosity that had little directional stability and no inclination to follow the riders commands, courtesy of a Bontrager flex stem that lived up to its name. The second year I donated a Raleigh Activator frame (a kind of soft-tail) that I'd collected from the local tip and Ben mostly built the bike.

We'd also have a good ride (or walk, if you're Diane). Mind you, Jacobs ladder is viciously steep and rocky, which is where we held deadbike II.

This year we've not done the deadbike thing as that's kind-of been and gone, but we're all still good friends and it's nice to get together. After much arranging and rearranging we're off to the Malvern hills to the west of Gloucester, staying in a hostel. I was worried about the riding aspect, even though I'm tolerably fit from daily cycling. Tonight I managed 10.5 miles in about 45 mins (with gently fading lights :-( ) - not great, considering I'd do a '10' in 25 mins on a roadbike at the age of 15, but considering the knobblies, the dark and everything else that wasn't too bad.

So look out Ledbury - this is Deadbike weekend!

Monday, 6 November 2006

For unto us etc etc.

Joshua Elwood, welcome to the world you little porker!

9lb 12oz apparently (something I suspect mum will not forget!).

I am told baby doing well and mum tired. Considering how small she is, probably wishing to be re-tired right now.

Congrats to them all.

Sunday, 5 November 2006

Went to a show today - Musiclive 2006 at the NEC.

This years show wasn't smaller for a change - guess it's hit the bottom and stopped. The usual bigger names were there: Peavey, Marshall (same huge stand, but also renting a demo room elsewhere) Fender, Rosetti (Gibson/epi/BCRich/Adam Black + a bunch of stuff) Hughes and Kettner, Vintage guitars, JJ, Dennis Cornell, Line 6, Vox plus a bunch of small British Luthiers and amp makers.

I wandered in, avoiding the Rosetti stand - always a HUGE affair with all the Gibsons out of reach and covered in Epis for the kids the thrash. Off to the left was Ovation, sharing a stand with Vintage. Tried the Ovation 'old board' guitar and was actually surprised how good it was. I last played an Ovation 20 years ago, and had decided they were not for me. This was relatively warm, responsive and sounded like an acoustic guitar. Not bad.

I could hear someone playing a really good version of ZZ Top 'Heard it on the X' so I wandered off to find it coming from the Peavey stand. This guy:

Introduced himself as 'Martinez' I think - US accent anyway. He was using a custom 3 P90 guitar + a little delay and going into a Delta Blues. Not only a cracking player, but the 2nd best tone of the whole show. Tone may be in the fingers, but it's in everything else you use too, and none of the guys using the delta blues sounded bad. I walked off after 15 mins because I was missing the show and had to leave at 2pm, but really wished I could have heard more.

While he was playing I saw someone off to the side and thought I recognised him. Went over and asked if they were demonstrating too, and he said "I'm on at 11 O'clock". So on the dot, back I came for Jerry Donahue.

Another custom made guitar, with strat and tele tones. Jerry was talking a lot about the special PU in it that was wound half way, a cap added and then wound back the other way. Semi hum-cancelling, nasal semi-out of phase tones, but with full bass response and fat tones. He was playing through a special amp-simulator pedal (made by Award-session) and although it added some grit, I'd say it actually detracted from his tone. I understand that on all Hellecasters studio recordings, that's what you hear.

But Jerry was talking just like any normal guy, demoing using the Hellecasters 'rock the dog' and using those famous bends behind the nut. Cool bloke that I wish I'd talked to a bit more.

Wandering around a bit more, came across Guthrie Goven.

He was demoing for Cornford, and they had his new CD 'Erotic Cakes' pls Tees etc all out. He's an astonishingly brilliant player that apparently thinks good tone sounds like a swarm of bees. If I'd been Cornford I'd have gently eased him off the stand unless that's how they want their amps to sound. He was playing through a head + 2X12, and once you got past the sheer technical wizardry of his music, you realised he just had completely shameful tone. He was using a Suhr, so there's no excuse - Just sucked really badly. I'm not sure if it was the tone getting in the way, but after a couple of minutes it just stopped being musical and descended into scratchy, annoying noises. A shame, as I had always viewed GG as something of a hero, and was really anticipating something good.

But you can't worry about these things, and I next heard THE best tone of the whole show. This is Thomas Blug.

He was demonstrating on the Hughes and Kettner stand with his white '62 strat. He was everything that GG wasn't: toneful, musical and he made me want to try the kit. Brilliant. I think he was using the new Triaxis head with just a wah pedal in front, and the tones were just fabulous. Smooth, fat lead lines, a quick channel change for sparkle and a touch of chorus from the amp, full clean tones and all the way back to rocking drive. His performance wasn't stilted either: it was hard to get a pic of him as he was moving with his playing, rather than standing and widdling away. Very, very good.

A little more wandering and I found the PRS stand with Johnny Hyland in full flow:

Very sweet tones from his PRS with maple fingerboard, and a nice fluid, funky sounding number that gave the ears relief from the usual meedley meedley meedley SCREE! that seems to be the standard riff for testing any guitar or amp. The bass player was using Line 6, and I think Hyland may have been too, although I couldn't get close enough to see. It was also nice to see and hear a PRS being used for something other than metal, and that it could produce such sweet tones was a surprise.

Just a couple more pics to share:

This is NOT a PRS, but a Bailey, and was my 'guitar of the show'. Simply beautiful in a way that was just one step up from the very similar looking PRS that was also at the show. I didn't ask the price as I didn't want to know what I'd have to sell.

I've seen the Tufnell guitar before:

It is what it is - a piece of rock legend.

I did a fair bit of amp listening on my way round the show. After my experience hearing the Cornfords I started to notice what the demonstrators that sounded good were using. Let me say, Line 6 have a lot of great tones these days. The demonstrator on the Ernie Ball stand was using a Vetta, and sounding pretty darn good on it. The Line 6 stand itself was a source of great tones pretty much all the time. From the way things are going I'd say some valve amp manufacturers are going to have to watch themselves in the next few years.

Other honourable mentions:

I Tried a Gretsch Electromatic (£299) on the sound control stand - best fret job I've seen on any guitar for a long time.

Tried a Variax 300 there, and was surprised at how much better the neck shape and fingerboard was than the original 500s that I tried and hated originally. It wasn't a 'good' guitar, but I'd have been happy to play out with it.

Didn't try one, but the Vintage demonstrator was getting some good tones from their new Trev Wilkinson designed models, AND they are a fresh take on the original designs at great prices. On the opposite side, Indie guitars were there, looking a little bloated and overpriced these days at £500+ show prices.

Saw a guy with some Trussart guitars - Nickel plated and rusted finishes. Sounded good, however the nickel looked like too much bling and the rusted looked like a piece of garbage. On the same sand they had 'Spear' guitars, with a 5-piece laminated through-neck Tele and a double cut. The tele again looked gorgeous with flamed maple top, but clearly didn't have the tones of the trussart to back it up.

Talked to Dennis Cornell of DC Developments. He said the show was for publicity purposes only for him, and that no-one really came expecting to spend his kind of money on amps.

Orange had a stand, with some great offers on ex-demo heads and cabs. Maybe it was the lack of good demonstrators, but I didn't hear any *great* tones coming from them.

Torres had a stand, and seemed to have cleared out their workshop of old amp models, bit of junk etc to scrape up enought to bring to the show.

Bareknuckel were busy, but that kind of environment is just the wrong place to start testing different PUs for one you're going to find satisfying.

Picked up a Bad Monkey for £29. Haven't had time to try it yet, but I got the last one on the stand - they'd been amazed at selling them all.

Not a bad show, although I doubt I'll go back next year.

Thursday, 2 November 2006

Heard in the office

"Last night we nearly fell off our chairs watching the archers. A man proposed to another man."

"Thank goodness it was only on the radio, they've been kissing [sounds of groaning]."

"And shagging too.... well, or whatever."

Sounds like gay marriage wasn't a big hit for that particular radio audience then.

You can see who your friends are

looking at the clustrmap this morning.

4 locations in the world viewing the blog. 1 in PA, 1 on the north east coast of America, 1 in the UK and 1 in norther France or Belgium.

Hi there.

Looks like I'm going to be building a lightset again.

3 years ago I built a mountainbike lightset, which was imortalised as a photo-essay here. It's been the most popular of all my photo collections, and is still regularly viewed.

But all wasn't quite so sweet in the garden. The charger wasn't quite as manly as the maker claimed, and would only half-charge the batteries. Then the cells themselves started to separate and rendered the battery pack useless with an open circuit. The last thing I'd done before it failed was to charge it up as far as I could, but then other things got in the way and it was consigned to the cupboard.

With my return to riding 3 years later and the arrival of british winter time I re-discovered the need for reasonable lighting for the journey home, so I dug it out last night. 4 of the 10 NiMH cells have died, apparently beyond recovery. The remaining 6 I charged last night, then plugged in a bunch of lights this morning. Bearing in mind there was a 40 Watt load, they kept going for 30 mins with no sign of dimming, which was a good sign.

But technology moves on, and I can't now easily get more cells to match the ones that died, so an alternative had to be found. LED lamps have come on in leaps and bounds however, with a 5W watt LED producing as much light as a good 20 watt halogen lamp. The controllers are not cheap, but they will use a range of different sized packs, all while driving lamp to max brightness. I've not bought anything *yet* but it's certainly looking more and more likely that LED is the way to go.

England, I'd like you to meet someone.

This is winter, OK.

Winter: remember your old friend England?

Shake hands guys, because I guess you'll be rubbing along together for some time.

Tuesday I cycled to and from work in shorts. Last night I had longs and a winter top + fleece over and was in semi-shock by the time I got home, it was so cold. This morning was actually better as the air had dried out considerably and full winter longs plus windproof outer shell had me sweating profusely by the time I arrived. The wind chill on my face was pretty fierce though. Wearing a buff over my lower face helps, but the glasses steam up!

The frost certainly looks pretty. I also admire the grace of God - the rayburn that I wrote about supplies our central heating. 4 days after it's mostly been fixed the winter arrived.