Sunday 30 December 2007

Bored with that.


The car hunt is proving more hassle now we have got cash than when we hadn't - then it was always very simple: just grab the least bad car you can afford. It became more difficult with having *some* money so that we could get something reasonably decent, but not too new. Now we can (in theory) afford what we want we both find we're baulking at investing real money in a vehicle that will rot and break down.

We need a reasonable sized car for stuff like transporting guitars, amps etc. going away, moving furniture.... all those boring things. We need a second form of transport that would *preferably* also be able to manage other people and guitars & amps, therefore we can't just rely on a bike. On top of that we want to move the 406 on.

My preference would be to buy Chris a VW Beetle, but that was before I realised just how little space of any kind they have (this IS a golf with a different body shell, for heavens sakes). So if we had that as Chris's main car we'd still need a medium sized vehicle. We *could* keep the 406, but that runs directly contrary to our plans and expectations. So to do what we'd *like* to do would cost around £20K, which seems slightly obscene and is substantially more than our first mortgage (heck it's more than half our present one!).

On top of that I've developed an allergy to the colours silver and grey (i.e. almost 80% of cars out there). And to rub salt in the wounds, the 'best' car for our run around purposes looks to be a Peugeot 307 estate.

So almost everything I'd said we didn't want to have in the way of a car looks like it'll probably happen. It's got to the point where there's no will or desire left to keep looking for the 'right' car and it's just down to the old numbers (youngest/lowest mileage) game.

Hi fellow silver car driving sheep, won't you welcome me into your arms?

*edit* We now have a plan. It all depends on whether a car we hope to see tomorrow is bona fide. If it's good then we know what to do, but if not then we know what else to do.

If this was the matrix, would you take the green pill or the silver pill?

Thursday 27 December 2007

Well we tried another car today

This time Chris drove a new Beetle - gets a thumbs up from her as both a driving experience and on a comfort basis.

That does not mean our search is finished, as there were things about this car I wasn't happy with. Also this is a car designed - apparently - to be as impractical as possible. When I was told it had almost no boot space I didn't think they really meant that it has ALMOST NO BOOT SPACE. And the opening is so narrow, I'm sure my mouth has been wider from the number of feet I've stuck in it.

But it was nice to drive - calm, neutral, reasonably precise and with just enough weight. Shame it's only the 100bhp version of the TDi engine.

Wednesday 26 December 2007

We had a visitation this evening.

Sarah of Two Red Boots and her husband Steve and Abby & Josiah. Steve very kindly brought over a Beemer for us to try - kindly because it's the holidays and they took time out of visiting family to drop in for us. Good people to meet and be with.

Hope you guys had a decent journey home. It would be nice to see you again some time, and maybe Steve and I could jam somewhere a little louder (and a little better in my case).

Remember that guitar cab I mentioned?

Well here it is: English cocoa, salt'n'pepper grill, gold piping.

Tuesday 25 December 2007

The Christmas season is like a heavy snowfall

In this county it blankets everything.

All businesses stop, hardly anyone goes out and the country becomes almost unrecognisable.

Some look forward to it's coming with happiness. Some view it as a bleak time, holding fear, isolation and even danger. Some just seem to get buried by it.

I've been asking myself why we 'do' Christmas. Us personally that is. It seems to have become the season of opportunity: businesses to get a little peak in sales, employees to get time off, most of us to eat too much nice food, the church to outreach.

This isn't one of those "what's the hidden meaning of Christmas" posts, and it's not a "Christmas humbug - I'm so miserable" post either. I guess for me, just as I saw a gap between what happens in a substantial portion of church and Jesus, I'm seeing a gap between Christmas and Christ. I'm not sure this is a train I want to step off, but this year I don't think I'd have done stuff like trees and lights if Chris hadn't wanted them. When I was a kid it was a chance to obtain the things I could never afford outright on my own, and to a degree after we were married and had no money that was true again.

Some of this IS affected by what's happened to us.

In our garden there are 2 pieces of slate, one with Sarah and the other with Laurence written on in white paint. The slate with Chris's dad's name has faded and the name become indistinct, partially washed away over the last 2 years. The slate with Sarah's name is still virtually untouched and intact. So it is with us. 2 1/2 years on we still feel much like we did at the beginning, at times. I don't know about this business of time healing: I think instead you just get used to having the load in place and most of the time it sits there without being too obvious.

This is too maudlin for Christmas day. Time to get the family up and feed them croissants.

Monday 24 December 2007

Happy Christmas everyone

It's almost Christmas day here.

Congrats Dan and Kita?

p.s. I bought Chris a vacuum cleaner for Christmas. Do you think she'll be pleased?

Thursday 20 December 2007

After finding

This guys blog I won't complain about cycling in winter.

So much.

You know who you are.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

For those who understand and find this funny.

Yesterday last thing I set up some SP2 myeloma cells before going home.

I grabbed a convenient bottle of 'normal' culture medium that had been prepared for a different project and wasn't used.

Said medium contains HAT for hybridoma culture.

I was un-aware of the HAT content.

Said SP2 cells are specially engineered to find HAT lethal.

It is good to know that this system works well. I shall be quite confident that any cells growing after my fusion on Christmas eve will, absolutely definitely be hybridomas and not suriving myelomas.

Now I DO regret making Chris wait 5 more minutes to collect me.

Please don't kid yourself.

You can feel the excitement of driving the Ford Focus just by looking at it.



Someone say something?

I've never really had much of a choice or budget before, so I can actually look at more than just the lowest possible price. How come there are so many utterly boring cars around these days?

Does no-one have any imagination when selecting colours for current models? Who thought metallic blue was an exciting alternative to the otherwise universal silver or grey?

And why do they virtually ALL look like tedious boxes with varying degrees of edges creased into the metal. The only exceptions to that seem Peugeots and Renaults, neither of which I'm really willing to risk spending real money on. BMWs appeal slightly, but they're too darn expensive, there's no local dealers I know of and they look depressingly similar to Vauxhalls range.

OK. What I'd like is something with some interest and some styling, both inside and outside.

It needs to be large enough to carry amps and guitars, luggage for holidays, 5 adults for medium length journeys. It must be small enough to park without too much difficulty in a smaller space.

It MUST be diesel. No petrol engine could ever win me back for serious ownership, no matter how fun it was to drive for a day or a month.

It must handle well in terms of being well controlled through corners between 40mph and 70mph for country lane driving and stable at motorway speeds without the need for white-knuckle concentration from the driver (hello Volvo - have you fixed the V40 yet?).

It must feel reasonably solid, thereby eliminating pretty much any Asian car manufacturer not already ruled out by what might be termed 'styling'.

It must make at least *promises* of reliability. Goodbye Fiat, Renault and Alfa.

I have a feeling that no vehicle matching all of these criteria really exists.

There's a sense of dread that we'll end up with a car in silver - an even more bland colour than beige. If that's the only compromise we'll have probably got away lightly.

Sunday 16 December 2007

Well, we're back again.

A little more exercised than before, on account of walking quite a lot. Brussels has a great metro, but you can't see much from an underground train.

Brussels has a nice feel to it, despite being the centre of European government. It has obviously seen a lot of money spent over a couple of centuries, which is slightly surprising, as Belgium hasn't been a country in its own right for too long.

It's interesting contrasting this with Vienna. In that city there was a sense of it once having been intensely powerful and extremely wealthy, with a long and busy history. Yet it is now a city apparently reduced to scraping a living from tourism, still being proud and elegant yet so poor. Brussels looked like a city that had been poor, yet had become well off and comfortable recently, and was relaxed and enjoying the idea of doing well.

The market wasn't too much like the Vienna market. Few stalls seemed to carry hand crafted goods or amazing decorations. It WAS good to visit, but with a much more modern and commercial feel to it.

We also spent time with Richard and Anna (and Joel). They send their love back to all who know them from Bicester and Oxford. They're doing well, and Richard hopes to set up his own language business next year.

With no more ado, here's a small selection of pics. Sorry if you're on dialup.

Thursday 13 December 2007

From a friend.

Contemporary nativity.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Ever wonder why?

No - not really.

So this morning we had a hard frost that stretched all the way to work.

Because we live in a valley it's common for the air to be much colder down below, and often cycling upwards brings me out into sunlight and moderate temperatures. However the wind was obviously blowing last night, mixing the freezing air above and below the valley, leaving a trail of solid puddles and crunchy grass. Because of the rain that's been and gone, many of the roads have small streams flowing down their edges and these had been churned into slush by care tyres in the bitter air.

I'd been undecided about motorcycling or or push-biking to work today, and eventually decided on the path of least effort. But someone had other plans for me, and when I got on the Triumph this morning nothing I did would convince the engine to turn over. There's a bad contact in there somewhere - probably the sensor on the clutch lever being frozen solid - and it simply didn't want to know.

I've enjoyed a week of not cycling, and now that I'm back on the bike I feel slow when riding and seriously strained from the ride. It feels very much like having been shaken enthusiastically in a giant hand, and it takes the senses a long while to settle down.

Another strange thing is this management business.

Half of me wants to manage people while the other half hates the idea. It seems bizarre to be able (as I did yesterday) to send someone home sick. It's also mildly terrifying to be responsible for the day-to-day activities of 3 other people, knowing my choices will affect their careers, earning potential and happiness at work. In some ways it's the scariest thing I've done.

Oh well, back to the lab.

Saturday 8 December 2007

I've found

What I consider the first visually acceptable version of Linux ever. Sabayon

Unfortunately it's been built like a typical Italian car and the darn thing hangs when I run from the DVD (that I actually paid for this time!). Seems this happens to others too, all caused by improperly implemented hardware acceleration, according the their forum.

This is just plain stoopid. And there's guys on their forum getting a bit stroppy about the different philosophies between Ubuntu and Sabayon when updating, all the time working on parts of the software that aren't broken. I had VERY high hopes for this one - seems they're going to be dashed again. I might dislike some of the things M$ do, but they've made a relatively clean looking, reliable, stable and very functional OS that doesn't require a degree in programming to install and use.

We're about to re-embark on a car hunt.

We've decided to change the car again I think. We had issues with the local Peugeot dealer in Bicester that they eventually put right, but we're just not happy in that department any more.

Since Chris is driving so much to work at the mo I would like to find something more suitable than a large family estate car. Anyone know of a new-style VW Beetle with a Diesel engine and cream leather interior for sale? Anyone need a large diesel powered family estate car that's just been serviced for a good price?

I've also just ordered a cab that looks like this:

It'll be a little narrower for a single 12" speaker (this is a 2X12) to take a Marshall 18watt clone. Phil - that amp is sweet.

You should find this disturbing.

In case you didn't know, the United States considers it fully legal to adbuct you regardless of extradition treaties and transport you to American soil, where you have no legal recourse. It is using the historical 'bounty hunter' law in a modern context. It is not just being used against terrorist suspects.

I hope the US elects someone with a very strong hand and firmly centrist politics next time round, for the good of the whole world.

Friday 7 December 2007

I don't often get cross about newspaper articles

And I ESPECIALLY don't usually get sucked into the angry, fruitless and often vicious arguments surrounding pro-choice and pro-life. However when this article was published today I felt stirred to make the following comments:

We need an abortion law because 2 equally valuable lives have to be considered. One can be very vocal about its rights, needs and wants while the other is completely silent.

We need an abortion law because people refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Who else will protect the children when the adults behave like children themselves?

We need an abortion law because many pro-choice supporters refuse to recognise that many lives are shattered by guilt, anguish and shame. Not because a pro-lifer has brow-beaten a victim that underwent termination but because of the biological, emotional and psychological consequences attached to terminating the life of a baby.

It is embarrassing that we must parade our brutal disregard of the value of human life under the wrapping of scientific integrity and personal freedom.

I doubt they will be published below the article, but who knows? Two of the three comments 'in favour' that I saw were almost breath-taking in their naked selfishness and deliberate misunderstanding.

Wednesday 5 December 2007

Spoken in the office

"Get thee behind me, McVitie!"

"Don't you call my biscuit satan"!

True lies

Does anyone else ever step back from the 'standard' replies and phrases they use?

"How are you?" "I'm all right."

That's an obvious one.

Something a bit more subtle, and particularly for an older generation: referring to Jesus as 'the Lord', although it's not unusual even now to hear people pray "Oh Lord....".

There's something in me that says Father, but really struggles with 'Lord'. It's not a conscious rebellion, so much as a recognition of practical reality. You know the law has a right to require you to do certain things, but you don't always do them. At least, unlike with the law, I can come back and say sorry. And even mean it.

Honesty is a curious thing. Sometimes a blunt-edged weapon, wielded with great and careless strength. Sometimes a generous or delicate gift, presented in love.

How often the words have come out of my mouth that I've felt but never meant to say. How often have we watched films (we rarely notice the moments in real life) when a few honest words would save a situation, yet neither party speaks them and the whole film becomes (often unfortunately) possible instead of just a short preface to living happily ever after.

How true is proverbs 26:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

But so often we'd prefer to just settle for bland neutrality. Neither a kiss nor a slap.