Wednesday 2 December 2020

It seems that nothing has really changed in 4 years

 Since I posted this where-do-you-go-when-youve-no-where-to

I still feel essentially the same. There are no answers, and only an assurance that we've simply not understood and that much of evangelical teaching about the character of God and his 'son' (how many have thought what the phrase 'son of God' means to people today compared to the idea of the ultimate being sending a part of Himself to be human and walk among us). 

Perhaps there are no answers, other than if that's what your faith is (that's how you view the world) then that's how you'll interpret what happens to you.

Monday 30 November 2020

Another day back in the office.

I wonder sometimes if our 'new' super secure corporate network is safe because hackers would fall asleep waiting for it to respond. 

Sunday 29 November 2020

Premature Treejaculation

 It's what happens when you make Christmas come early.

Saturday 28 November 2020

I am now over DIY

 All my life, I've fixed things instead of paid other people to do it for me, often preferring the chance to do it well than risk a stranger making a mess. I built furniture, fitted kitchens, bathrooms, heating systems, electrics as needed.

As a result of the flood we had, our livingroom needs repainting, therefore the skirting boards (which got wet & damaged) and trunking carrying cables needed replacing, plus some of the sockets and wall boxes had been damaged & should be replaced. No worries, half a day - day at most. For a variety of reasons the job is still not finished after more than 2 days, and I have a couple of hours work remaining.

Somewhere I read that as one ages the number of mitochondria in ones cells decrease, resulting in loss of strength - a man at 65 typically has the same strength as a 20 year old woman (so the article said). Apart from reminding me why men and women can never be the same (equality is something different) I'm developing a lot more sympathy for those who are not 'naturally' strong and able. This has been a weird experience, where I've not had the strength needed in hands and wrists, sometimes not in main core, for doing the required tasks. Much time has been spent on hands and knees, to the point where my the skin of my knees actually stung when getting into a warm bath this morning, and various parts of me hurt at different times, the skin under thumbnails especially where it's pulled away from the nail. And this was just a small job.

Worst of all, my inate ability to just 'do stuff' seemed to have evaporated, though it has begun to return. Previously, when fixing things, as I began working the way to repair or build something would be 'obvious' even though when I started I didn't know what would be needed or have more than a rough idea in my head. 

So when it came to fitting trunking, I'd offer it up to the job, and where previously my brain would simply say "cut here, taper there etc" instead I have had to consciously figure out what to do. 

I have become DIY senile.

The lack of strength and clear (optical) vision has also been an issue, and one that would be funny if it weren't frustrating. The original trunking was fitted by my father almost 30 years ago (when he was 51 - I'm 59) when he saw how ugly wires had been run along the top of skirting boards, and being methodical he carefully attached it using plain steel screws and rawlplugs at regular intervals just like he'd do in a regular modern house. So 30 years on, steel screws in damp walls have mostly rusted in place and are EXTREMELY reluctant to see daylight again. I can't be so weak, because I did manage to snap one or two through rotational force, but mostly I found it really hard to put enough strength into the screwdriver to start them moving without noodling the head. 

So I'm over DIY. If I can afford to pay someone to fix stuff, from now on I will.


Day four of DIY - the brain is starting to work again, or at least I managed to find a way to address the piece of work in my hands so that it fit as it was supposed to, and I'd re-learned enough that I could make some decent progress. That part of the job is now complete - hope the painters, carpet people (thanks TerryP) and flooring fitter make a decent job.

The adhesive material No More Nails was utterly underwhelming in performance, although it did eventually live up to its name. Two of the skirting boards just fell off after 2 days, but not having any masonry nails around, I was forced to use screws. I think the product name should be lengthened to No More Nails - you'll be screwed if you use this.

And just one more addition - how is it that bitumen remains sticky and soft after >20 years? When we last had the wall replastered the guys doing the work pained it with a bitumen compound to hold back the damp (ha ha) first, some of whichj was dripped into the trunking I removed. It was still liquid-sticky, thick & black, and once it was on the hands it became transferred to everything and anything that I touched. My hands are still black/brown in places despite scrubbing with white spirit.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

When your computer describes a location as 'home'.

The company I now work for, having been acquired recently, has just been re-computered. The familiar system - probably a bit insecure, definitely not very corporate - has been switched for a new, very corporate system. New machines, different ways of working, new slower performance, a different look and feel.

It's like starting a new job with all the baggage from the old one still there. 

A question I keep asking is if someone knows where some data, info etc has gone. Having to learn the new location of stuff. It really feels like someone has come in and changed the place that was home to somewhere strange, and like we're being watched. 

One of the things that I really like about start-up businesses is the personal feel, but this is deeply impersonal. It has to be like this, and if I can bend to the flow of the stream then it's probably a good place to be for the last 15 years of working life. But I can already hear the siren call of a small business.

Friday 23 October 2020

Wednesday 21 October 2020

I haven't talked about stuff for a long time.

 Stuff? Cars 'n tech and that sort. Y'know, stuff.

All you avid followers of this blog - the ones I imagine are out there - will know I had to replace the Mini Countryman that I'd been driving since 2014, and that we bought a Skoda Karoq 4X4 SUV. There was a time when Skoda was the car of last resort - what you'd choose if there was NOTHING else affordable (they had a model optimistically called the Rapide 130) - if you didn't mind the wheels falling off. Eventually bought by VW group, they became the 'sensible' part of VAG's output (VW badges indicated tech & sophistication, Seat indicated sporty) and although many versions have been intentionally hit with the ugly stick (Skoda Labia anyone?) the most recent releases have been a lot better.

Enough beating about the bush - is it OK?

Yes. It's softly sprung although a bit bouncy, a little vague in handling but OK, otherwise comfy and acceptably economical for a vehicle of this size. Performance is a bit Jekyll & Hyde, with a lazy, sluggish engine until the turbo spins up, at which point there's quite a lot of power. Overtaking needs planning and it's necessary to hold a lower gear for a few seconds before starting to accelerate in order to spin that turbo. This was all fine, since I'd wanted something more relaxing and laid back than the mini to drive, mostly so I'd drive more slowly and hopefully be a bit nicer to people because I couldn't be in a hurry (and I still don't really have my confidence back yet).

Last week Chris's car had to go in for a service, and the courtesy car was a 'new' Mini Countryman. This was an interesting comparison to make, because it felt MUCH larger than the model I'd previously had, and because the bonnet was flat across most of it's length it made the car feel very long in the nose. On top of that the steering was more heavily weighted and both that and the very well controlled ride worked together to give a feeling of far higher driving precision. Suddenly I missed my old mini! Picking the car up in the morning, it felt great to drive, far better handling and much more planted on the road. However on the return journey after a busy day & lots of stress it felt like harder work, being more demanding and less comfy. 

Perhaps this choice was the correct one after all.

Other things I miss from the mini is the well designed control system. My previous mini had a screen in the centre dial with the control operated from a joystick set between the seats. Changing settings, selecting music etc could be done blind, with just the briefest of glances to see what was displayed on screen. The Skoda (and other VW group cars) has a touch screen with pretty graphics and awkward, multi-layered menus that require significant concentration and a lot of reaching across from the drivers seat to operate. Other annoyances include a cruise control that's slow to adapt to road conditions and a stop-start system that stops and restarts the engine in the last few moments before the vehicle stops moving, only to stop the engine a second time. Also the reversing sensors don't stop warning when the car is no longer in reverse and the electronic handbrake that sometimes won't let go when starting forwards uphill (made worse by the laggy turbo that prevents the engine delivering power at low revs). On the motorway it's quiet and smooth, but the engine is quite growly & noisy at lower speeds.

This all sounds like grumbling, and to a small extent it is, however overall I'm pleased with the car, and it's doing what we wanted/needed.

Saturday 17 October 2020

Looking at houses in Italy, Greece, France and Spain

 I notice many of them have multiple bathrooms and often an extra toilet too. Mentioned this to Chris, she replied "It's because they're in continent there"

Very droll.

Monday 5 October 2020

Vows of poverty?

 There's a thing about being brought up a Christian that says "thou shalt not be rich, and if you are then it's wrong and a sin". Note that I didn't say this was a biblical teaching, but it certainly underlies a lot of the 'truths' that used to be imparted and bible stories that were told. Rich man and Lazarus, camels and needles, (gates or otherwise not withstanding). Many of the words of Jesus on the topic are fairly straight forward and without nuance, although much of the OT is. My grandfather* was convinced that if God had given him wealth he would have lost control and come to a sticky (i.e. sinful) end. Certainly some of my forebears would have looked askance at the idea of personal wealth, even though there would likely have been significant jealousy within that look.

I've known of key church leaders who've determined to give away as much as they can. Historically it seems that often the call to Christ and the call to be poor go hand-in-hand (bet the missional guys keep quiet about THAT bit!).

When Chris and I were first married, it wasn't unusual for guys to travel door-to-door trying to 'offer' investment opportunities, and they found it almost unbelievable that we had no interest in money and making more of it (wider context here - Margaret Thatcher's government was in power, greed was good and everyone suddenly discovered they could own stuff). We would politely tell them that we weren't bothered - we didn't have much anyway - and weren't worried for the future (in what I now realise was probably a slightly smug-appearing Christian way).

So it begs the question, are we called to be poor?

This has become pointed for me because we have inheritence money that needs to be invested before even more of its worth fritters away in savings schemes. When money is hidden in savings accounts, getting a little interest, you know it's being used to help others and it's invisible, just numbers on a page. If you instead invest it in something like a second home, suddenly it's very visible, in-your-face in a way only bricks and mortar can bring home. 

So back to the beginning, we automatically - I automatically - think poor. I don't think bigger picture, continuing to scratch around for odds and ends to mend and make do, because I know being well-off is wrong. In 2019 I changed camera systems, selling off the old stuff and investing significant money in new kit - and have felt underlying guilt ever since for doing so. Guilt colours decisions about money and the future in ways that are just plain dumb, and makes it difficult to make simple rational decisions. While talking with Chris the other day I realised how much my 'thinking poor' locked me into un-thinking caution and fear of losing everything because I dared to try something different.

And I don't have an answer to the question.

I could reach back into Christian double-think and say that if you're called to poverty and have faith that's where you should be then it's right for you, ditto being wealthy. But I don't think God particularly works that way, at least for most people who are just trying to get on with their lives, doing the best they can to provide. It's not a case of being full of faith that they are in the station in life that they were pre-destined to occupy (and woe betide them if they get ideas about changing that station) but trying to live by walking down the path that's in front of them as they are best able.

 Is the flip-side that if one becomes well off through application of those Christian values of hard work, diligence and personal growth then you can quietly nod & wink toward the idea of poverty while enjoying the money your hard work has earned. If you're grateful for being able to earn well, does that make it OK? Is a bit of guilt a necesary price, and a burden we should just simply carry like st. Christopher**, on our backs, knowing it will do us good in the long run?

This may be somewhat muddly - I have several slightly different strands of thought running around right now, and they may have become a little tangled. 

Guess I'm just trying to think through some of the hangups in my family history.

Just as an addendum, let me tell you that it's much easier to be poor when you're young, single-minded, determined, energetic and enthusiastic. When you're older, achey, tired, sceptical and have been broke at times in the past then the whole poverty thing looks as attractive as fish that have been left somewhere warm for a few days.


This turned out rather longer than expected for a coffee-break post.


*I'll balance this with a phrase my grandmother used to apparently quote quite frequently, that contentment with godliness was great gain. She'd had many moments anxious about money and knew a thing or 2 I reckon. Though not about managing wealth, other than the theoretical principles.

** People like to make up stories for better legends, and Christians are just people like everyone else.

Sunday 4 October 2020

Sometimes google translate is more perceptive than it knows.

For a variety of reasons I'm looking at potential houses in Italy (no plans to move permanently yet) and many of them are in need of considerable restoration (in some cases they're literally selling a ruin). There was one I saw which only had a couple of pictures but looked OK-ish - the I read the description:

In the first outskirts of Foligno in a quiet and characteristic area, we offer a sky of about 150 square meters in total, consisting, on the first floor, of a large living area with fireplace, bedroom with walk-in closet, a bathroom, and two large bedrooms on the second floor. and second bathroom. On the ground floor the property is completed by large funds.

Was there ever a clearer admission!


 A devout Christian was caught in a flood and had to retreat upstairs to escape the rising water. A fire crew in an inflatable boat pulled up to his window and told him to climb in. "No" he replied "God will keep me safe". So the fire crew left him and concentrated on rescuing the other villagers.

The water continued to rise and the man had to climb onto the roof of his house to escape the flood. An inshore lifeboat crew pulled up to the eaves of the roof and told him to climb into the boat. Once again the man replied "No, the good Lord will look after me."

The water rose further and the man had to cling to the chimney stack to avoid drowning. A coastguard helicopter appeared and hovered overhead and the crew told him they will lower a man down to lift him to safety. The man shouts back "No! The Lord God will save me".

The water continued to rise and the man was drowned. Arriving at the gates of heaven he berated St Peter, saying "I placed my trust in the Lord, but he let me down in my hour of need!". St Peter shook his head and replied, "He sent two boats and a helicopter, what more did you want!".


It's an old joke. It's kind of funny, and kind of pointed if you've been in church a long time. ESPECIALLY if, like me in times gone by, you were expecting some divine act of rescue instead of something very ordinary and human-driven.

I'm still trying to get an understanding of "what's going on" with this God/Jesus business.

A couple of random thoughts:

I understand the problem in the story. Our rejecter of rescue wanted to see bible stuff happen, but instead 'god' (yes, it's just a story) sends boats and helicopters instead of letting him walk on water. 

The current equivalent that eats me is why, when there's all the stuff in the NT about miraculous healings, do Christians HAVE to be cured by the miracle of modern medicine. 

Or not cured, and die regardless.

Why are churches centres of spreading coronavirus instead of the place people go to get healed from sickness.

Etc. in a similar vein.


I've mentioned before, the occasion someone I once respected told me, when I'd mentioned to him that I'd once prayed for resurrection from the dead and it didn't work "it would have done if you'd been in Africa". As I said at the time, my situation could not have been more desperate in any country. If it had been down to my level of faith, well, then it's not about God's power. 


If I look at the bible and suspend the 'eyes of faith' a little, I see an enormous amount of humanity, with tiny bursts of something else just occasionally. I get that stuff is written 'that you may believe' but I want cold, hard facts, not someone else's ideas of how they thought things should have been. No, I don't do poetry either. 

My friend Marc recently put this post up about being ecumenical. There was certainly a time when I was pretty sure the way I understood was The Right Way, and that approach to theology has a long and chequered past in the church (I've had some interesting talks with my mother about Bretheren and Baptish churches in the UK over the century). So when I read church history and start to compare it with the experiences I've had over the last nearly 60 years, and particularly the last 30, I start to see the hand of man very much at work in the church. Make me wonder, how much do we build out of ourselves, and how much really is God at work.

So I just don't get it. I'm not walking away, but I really can't accept the suspension of intelligence (God-given?) and integrity required to square the circle right now. For you younger than me who've already been through your crises of faith like this, I'm just a little slow, OK.  ;-)

So much rain

 Not like the flood we had a few weeks back, where I'm told we got 3" in less than 2 hours, but it started raining Friday afternoon, continuing all day Saturday and its still raining now.

We went out for dinner last night to celebrate 39 years* of marriage. Driving through the country lanes to enter Oxford on the East side, we used a small road between Water Eaton and Marsdon - part way along, cars coming the other way started flashing us. Turned out there was water across the road, not very deep, so having a 4X4 we kept going carefully. We then passed a couple of cars stopped by the side of the road and entered some deeper water, where I had to drop down to first gear in order to keep going. Eventually came up behind a Jaguar that was creeping along, presumably because that vehicle was much lower than ours and finally made it through after a half mile or so. 

Dinner was good - we got the 'Greek' dishes (kleftico and stifado) that we'd missed in Attica (seldom on the menu, or if they were then not available) and it was nice being out again. 

But we drove back on main roads. I'm starting to think that buying a 4X4 SUV may not have been as dumb as it might have seemed.

*The thing about getting married young is that you don't really think that you'll end up like your parents, and it's kinda awkward to be older and not like you were. Being together 39 years has been fantastic: I don't subscribe to the idea that there's one person for everyone (and only one) but rather through continuous effort and some self-sacrifice you remain together on good terms and in love. It's been, and continues to be, good. Just wish we were still 20ish on the outside. ;-)

Wednesday 30 September 2020

The unacceptable condition

Seems to be old, white and male.

One of the descriptions I heard of the Trump vs Biden debate this morning was of 3 old white men incoherently and bitterly wrangling.

I wonder if, in the present run to make Black Lives Matter and to positively discriminate so that women can lead and put society right, that we've lost site of the fact that everyone has value. 

 Sure these guys are vying to become POTUS so their value isn't in question - or is it? The manner in which this 'debate' has been presented looks *to me* like their value IS in question. The present encumbent has arguably worked to reduce the value of that position, but should that mean everyone then gets tarred using the brush he dumped all over?

Or perhaps I'm becoming defensive BECAUSE I'm an old, white, privileged male?

I understand the *slogan* All Lives Matter has been adopted as a white supremacist retort to BLM, yet the inherent truth in that statement cannot be ignored. We need all lives to matter because otherwise not only will we replace one oppressive group with another (is it their turn to be on top - should anyone be on top?) but society will never be at peace with itself. As soon as the debate changes from doing what is right for everyone to individuals and groups claiming their rights then the struggle has been lost and at least some part of society will be poorer for it.

I am very much reminded of this cartoon and earlier post.

Friday 25 September 2020

And so the final day is nearly over of the holiday that nearly didn't happen.

It's genuinely been a good trip, better than expected, everything running smoothly & hassle free from the cab waiting at the airport for us to the amazing friendliness & welcome of the Greek people. Not everything has been *perfect* but it's all been pretty darn good. We also had the bizarre experience of bumping into people we know from 30 years ago (on an Oak Hall trip) at our second hotel here in Nea Makri on the Attica coast. I did wonder about trying to blog this trip, but frankly was just so tired before we went that there was no energy for writing at first.

High points?

Seeing the Acropolis (or Acropolipse as it's been nicknamed) without crowds, watching some great sunsets together, finding the (almost) perfect beach. And most of the people we've dealt with have been great.

Low points?

Having to re-organise the main section of the trip just 4 days before leaving, driving into the mountains above Athens without a clear plan of where to go and then running out of energy for the difficult roads on the way back down.

It's also been good to refresh my reading of Greek letters, and to be able to recognise some of the words locals spoke to each other from the (very little) language I've been learning. 

I have a couple of memory cards full of pictures in the camera, though not as many as sometimes, that I'm looking forwards to working through. Hopefully the house is still all OK, with dehumidifier running while we've been away. We also have a nasty suspicion that we forgot to empty the fridge and bin in the kitchen.  8^O

So the challenge that remains is to find somewhere for dinner tonight, get the suitcases packed OK and then get the car back to the rental people at Athens airport tomorrow. Personal locator forms have been completed, ditto check in, so it should be a breeze. ;-)

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.

As if you've not read or heard enough about Corona virus already.

Some of the more interesting links I've come across in the last couple of days:

A nature article suggesting covert (asymptomatic) infections are probably quite common and seeding new outbreaks:

The work of Imperial College, London, that helped changed the UK government's strategy from voluntary social distancing to closing non-essential industry and business:

Potential therapeutics for CV infection:

A short paper on some vaccine development work in the Jenner Institute, Oxford: 

The search for a vaccine and global competition: 

Not in the least exhaustive, but if that's what you want then google is your friend. ;-)

Wednesday 18 March 2020

I had forgotten the other side of serious exercise

And that is the day-after low that can sometimes come along.

Not helped by the poo that comes from Corona virus affecting people around me, making them miserable, unsettled and grumpy.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Just managed to run 5.4K

It was slow at around 37 min, but I'm going to make sure my body is in the best condition it can be for when Corona virus arrives. 

Friday 13 March 2020

Hold my beer

OK, I confess to stealing the above meme image.

Today is a slightly sad day for the UK. The lass on the right has proved once again that American divorcees are a danger to British royalty, and as night follows day, so trouble follows them into union.

Unfair? Possibly.

I'm sad about this personally, having watched what feels like a train-wreck take place with two people who are clearly unhappy, yet not knowing either how to handle things well, nor being willing to seek advice from those who might have helped them.

I'm sad too, because this has broken the social contract between the royals and the British public: if 'we' are the subjects, then they belong to 'us' too. From some perspectives it looks like they're simply born into a position in which they are fabulously wealthy, but with that wealth comes belonging and responsibility and a set of duties that can't be denied. By running away from all that, H&M have also rejected the people they were supposed to have a duty towards, and no-one likes to feel rejected.

For them, coronavirus couldn't have come at a better time, because right now, no-one really gives a wet slap what they're doing or where they've gone, and if they're lucky no-one will remember or care much about them for many months, by which time the feelings of loss will have faded.

I hope this doesn't rebound negatively on the rest of the royal family. While I'm far from an ardent royalist the royal family, and especially the present queen, have given the UK something special, different from so many other countries. Beware the dis-united republic of Great Britain.

Thursday 12 March 2020

There's a certain irony

When the UK's minister for health tests positive for Coronavirus.

It's also an interestingly challenging time for societies across the globe, to see how their elected or non-elected politicians handle this particular crisis, and to see the benefits or disadvantages of private vs publicly controlled healthcare systems.

As Christians the response we should make to such a situation may depend on our own situations. Traditionally this is a group who have shunned personal safety in order to serve others, eventually often at considerable personal cost. Yet I seem to know a number whose health is likely to make them rapid victims, likely dead, and as such causing far more trouble than if they simply self-isolated for the next 8 weeks. Martyrdom is only useful if there's a really good reason for being a martyr.

What's going to happen? No-one really knows.

I know that's not news, but I've recently come across someone in the healthcare sector declaiming 'thus and so' about things in a manner that wasn't necessarily correct or particularly helpful - part of the problem rather than part of the answer. We probably won't have full, useful answers until the outbreak has run its course and real numbers on the actual event have been recorded and analysed, however the following is my take on useful things to know, based on what I'm reading and seeing:

1) There are a lot of asymptomatic/very mild infections - people don't know. I'm basing this on the rapid spread of the virus through populations, and where it's not been possible to track a source of infection for individuals who've tested positive, plus the Korean finding (they tested very extensively) of lots of cases with a relatively low mortality rate.

2) Not everyone clears the virus quickly. There have been a couple of reports of re-infection, but much more likely a test has given a false positive/negative along the way. My expectation is that some individuals continue shedding virus well after the 14 day quarantine period is over.

3) If we all isolated ourselves for a month the virus would likely come back. We need some herd immunity, but a vaccine won't happen for at least another 6 months, probably more, unless someone decided things are so bad that we can waive the usual safety and efficacy testing.

4) People don't/won't isolate themselves, because habits are too hard to break/the advice only applies to others/people just forget.

5) Minimal reports from Africa and India seem to suggest a hot climate is helpful, but I also wonder if we're not hearing about infections from there simply because no-one is testing and there are so many people dying of the usual diseases that a few more aren't even noticed.

6) Warm weather may not make any difference at all, since Tom Hanks & his wife are both now positive, having apparently caught the disease in Australia (assuming they didn't bring it from the US with them - who knows, because no-one really has any idea how foar it's spread in America right now).

So wrap up, stay warm, and keep at least 1M away from everyone else. :p

I hope you're all still here in 6 months.

There's an amusing irony that this afternoon I have a sore throat and a mild cough. However in mitigation, I did spent almost 1 1/2 hours on the telephone with a customer, so that's probably why the throat is sore. Chris has gone to a prayer meeting, while I'm self-isolating at home. As she left I said "I'll try to kill it with whiskey" to which she replied "good idea". :-)

Sometime I need to get another bottle of Stroh 80 - there's nothing else quite like it with honey and lemon to sooth a sore throat.

Saturday 7 March 2020

How do you know what to do?

This morning I replaced the float valve in my mothers toilet cistern because the old one was faulty, taking around 15min to fill the cistern. This afternoon I replaced the valves in our kitchen mixer tap, because one side had started leaking after about 5 years of use and under the very high mains pressure we have here.

I invited Chris to the kitchen to see what I was doing (just in case, y'know?) when she expressed the title of this post.

To me it all seems obvious, the knowledge of the principles behind how all this works having been acquired so long ago that I can't even really remember how I learned. Some of it definitely came from watching my father, some from trial and error as I tried to do what I knew could be done by someone skilled in the art (and wished my father was there to do it at the time). So it was natural to run my fingertip around the bottom of the handle on the tap, seeking the indentation that would tell me it was held in place with a grub screw. I expected to find isolation valves below the sink on the hot & cold feed to the taps, and they were there just as expected. The original valves came out with a sharp blow from my hand on the handle of the spanner to break the mild corrosion/limescale on the threads, rather than levering away on the spanner & causing additional wear/stress on the tap body. Then everything just screwed back together without trouble, a reverse of disassembly.

Its pleasing and useful to do this stuff - I'm just grateful that it all makes sense and isn't hard to do. I'm sure there's an illustration here about learning in other areas, often seen as us 'knowing' something in such a fundamental way that we assume it must a) be true, b) be self-evident and c) that everyone else should know it too.

Sunday 1 March 2020

What shall we play?

When my mini was written off I didn't get a chance to recover my property from the car, and it was emptied by a salvage company before being removed by the insurance company.

Hence stuff got missed. Like the CD in the player, the memory stick with many hours of music and stuff I can't recall right now. It was great to get most of the stuff back eventually - I'd quite missed the Pignose G40V amp that has become so much a part of my sound - but I've now got to re-rip and then store a large portion of the music again.

Might as well add some more music too.

Man, this takes hours!

Wish I still had the tools - baked in to an earlier version of Linux I'd guess, probably openSUSE or Sabayon running KDE - that would find the album information & encode that too, because all my tracks are nameless & I have to enter album info myself. :-P

While we're talking about that, I have to say once again how impressed I am at the way the mini's infotainment functioned. Sure the new car has a bigger, brighter touch screen control system, but the mini used a simple menu & joystick control, and I could work through music storage with no more than a quick glance at the screen. This Skoda (and VW & Seat) system works much more like a tablet, meaning touches, swipes and taps are required. In a moving, bouncing vehicle. Where the driver has to watch where they're going.

I KNOW this system is not unusual, and in fact is better in this respect than many others presently available on the market. I just wonder what they were thinking when they put this kind of system together, because it really IS hazardous to find music while driving. Perhaps there's voice control that will work? I've a lot more to explore yet, though TBH I don't really want to learn all the different systems - a little like computers, I want the system to support me rather than me support the system.

Yes, I have suffered modest buyers remorse. Not a lot, but a little. And another countryman would have been cheaper, though having all the same flaws as the previous vehicle.

Thursday 27 February 2020

Do you care who knows where you go?

An interesting article on internet browsers 'phoning home' with information about what you view on the internet.

This isn't the stuff of tin-foil hats, but is worth considering if privacy is important to you.

Monday 24 February 2020

Everything smells

Especially when you already have a scent firmly embedded in your nose, and that is probably also in your clothes.

Yesterday I ran the smoker again, smoking some more cheese, salami, chorizo, a couple of steaks and a bacon joint. The sweetish smell had got into the house this morning, even before I went out to empty it after running overnight, and once the stuff was in the kitchen then all of downstairs seemed to be filled with the smell. Sat here at my desk at work, I can still catch the scent from time to time.

This time I tried oak to begin with. Normally the dust smoulders for 10-15 hours, but the oak dust burned through in around 3-4 hours, so I reloaded about half the spiral with some beech and ran it  overnight.

Food done this way lasts a long time, both in terms of reduced spoilage and because the intense flavours allow less to be used. Last week I finished the last piece of salami that was smoked back in October, by which time it had thoroughly dried (just like real salami should be) to a hard, reddish material that offered resistance to cutting and biting, rather than just greasily squidging out of the way as wet salami often does. In this case the red colour comes from paprika, included in the salami by the maker. At some stage I need to try this with saucisson, hopefully with the smoke overpowering the slight rotten meat taste that an air-cured sausage sometimes has.

Jam isn't my thing, but these are the kind of preserves I could live on. :-)

Wednesday 19 February 2020

Collected the new car last night

Kidlington to Stafford is a long way when everyone else is going home at the same time - about 2hrs 20min for a little over 100 miles - although the journey back was better at around 1hr 40min.

So we bought a 1 YO Skoda Karoq. It's relatively comfy, quite relaxing to drive and has far too many electronic bits inside that I need to learn to use. Hopefully that won't take too long, and it can be set up as needed easily - last night I used an Android app to mirror the phone sat nav on the car screen, and this morning my phone kept bleating as the bluetooth wanted to connect.

This is just an ordinary car really. I remember when I first had the Countryman, about how I could feel the road, how it went round bends on rails, the responsiveness of the engine. I also remember how, after a while, it was hard to understand why other drivers didn't simply get on with the business of driving and going where they needed to go. A colleague with an electric Renault Zoe described a local major road as having bends where he felt a need to slow down, while for me in the mini they were gentle curves that presented no apparent hazard at all.

This car may help me be a little more generous to others who are also driving ordinary cars.


The registration starts SX68. I wonder if the same registration in the following year will become a personal number plate? 8^0

Monday 17 February 2020

It's been a crazy time

For some weeks I've just not had the emotional energy for much interaction online. Been off my usual photography forum since mid Jan, then came the accident and a mad scramble to get things sorted and replace the car. I've noticed a good friend has suddenly starting wearing out their 'POST' button, but I've lived so little on the internet recently that it all passed me by.

Tomorrow we drive a couple of hundred miles to collect the new car, hopefully bringing to a close this particular phase. It will be good to move on, not be dependant on others for transport etc.

Saturday 15 February 2020

Buying a car - how to lose an atypical customer

When we were younger and had no money buying a car was easy: you found the least crappy thing you could afford, often in a private deal or from a back-street dealer, plonked down a few hundred quid and drove away in something you knew would be scrap in one or 2 years time. No-one gave you sales talk, tried to flog insurance, extended warranties, paint sealing treatment, financial packages etc - they all knew the deal too.

Actually it sucked, but that was because you knew the car was probably junk, but it didn't matter other than you couldn't really afford for it to break down for a while.

Now we have money to spend on cars, and it requires visiting showrooms that are operated by main dealers all with quotas to reach, sales 'exectutives' with commission to make etc. So you dance with them to their tune, spending the first 25-30min in the showroom having photocopies taken of your license, answering questions about why you wanted to try the car you came to view, what your priorities are when puchasing a car (which of brand, style, space, value, colour etc most important to you) before being told what a wonderful car it is that you're going to see and how it's a really good price right now.

When we bought Chris's mini (Sytner Mini, Slough - I want to add the word 'despond' for John Bunyan fans) everything we said was "perfect", and it was tempting to make comments about bowel movements, just to see if it would elicit the same word. At collection time* a few days after agreeing the deal we were taken into a darkened room with the car wrapped in a bow - they played congratulations style music with cheering in the background, as the lights were brought up to reveal..... a shiny car with a bow round it - as though we'd made some kind of life-defining choice and this would be our salvation.

It took a lot to stay in the room and not run away from the insane people who had our new car. ;-)

But back to the present.

We've been to main dealerships twice in the last 8 days, both with somewhat similar, though non-identical experiences. Both times we've been lucky enough to have a new recruit deal with us, and that's greatly reduced the  amount of twaddle that's been peddled, but neither experience was actually enjoyable. I'm trying to analyse why, and I think it's because there's a cultural gulf now between ourselves and a typical member of the public that they'd normally deal with.

There's been one exception.

This afternoon we visited a car dealer in Wheatley, just south of Oxford. They were relaxed, friendly, mature, were happy to give us a key and let us look at the car without recording our inside leg and shoe size in their Contact Information Management System. They took a copy of a driving license, got the car out and we drove it for a couple of miles each. The whole thing was like grownups working together without playing games, and it makes me want to give them my business, even though I don't think it's entirely the right car for us.

Tomorrow we're going to try one more car, then make a decision. It's terribly tempting to go back to Wheatley regardless.

*I must remember to tell whoever we buy from NOT to do this, on pain of losing the sale.

If anyone cares, we're probably buying a Volkswagen Tiguan or Skoda Karoq. Yes, it's an SUV, but it's a small one, and very practical for our needs at this stage in family life. It was tempting to get another Mini Countryman like I had before, but the ride was a bit too hard on our broken-up roads, and it gave back-seat passengers a hard time.

Friday 7 February 2020

Did you ever think the Germans were humourless?

Just came across Simon Weckert and an amusing google-hack.

This reminded me of the way we'd find workarounds to make otherwise sensible systems do more interesting things.

Want to pedestrianise a road? Take a bunch of old smartphones with you. Certainly not cheap, but apparently effective.

Thursday 6 February 2020

Taking the mick?

Thornton's chocolates.
I'm impressed by their sheer brass neck, putting so much chocolate into so little packaging.  🙄

Monday 3 February 2020

A successful ressurrection?

A recurrant theme of cinema for the last 20 years has been to remake and reshoot successful films or extend their series, but with more recent actors, better CGI, and in some cases a reworking to include misandrous thinking. Sometimes the films are good (most recent films adding Spiderman to the Marvel series can stand up on their own) while sometimes they are not (did we need to remake Ghostbusters with women?) .

Then there's the Starwars debacle.

It was therefore with some trepidation that I approached Amazon's new 'Star Trek' series Picard.

The essence of the original series (TOS) with William Shatner was 'cowboys and aliens' with lots of classic, memorable lines to use in the playground, plus a come in peace and shoot to kill approach to action where the good guys always won using courage and 'magic' technology. It suited a simple world, where war was still a fresh memory, the general public were not technologically savvy or especially liberal, and it naturally found a place in many hearts.

The Next Generation (TNG) with Patrick Stewart was a very different beast. Pushing a strong liberal and libertarian agenda to the point of being preachy at times, it also suited a generation that felt they had put the wars behind them and were looking for a society that would continuously offer them more of everything that was fun without guilt. In contrast to TOS, there were a broad spread of characters starring, though none could overshadow Patrick Stewart, not that I think any of them would have wanted to.

Almost all the shows were able to encapsulate a complete story in 45-60min of screenplay, and the time often seemed much longer, simply because everything was packed in so tightly. There was the odd double-episode, but they were rare. This made the shows relatively satisfying, at least to a viewer who was not demanding or overly concerned with dotting every i etc. Possibly because of growing up with TV in this format, I dislike a story in episodes.

So to Picard.

I was already aware that this was a series, rather than 1 off shows, but it felt like I had barely started watching before the first episode had finished. Where did that time go?! The show is very carefully paced, suiting a now very old lead character, yet at the same time in that first epsiode it never once dragged (that happens a little in episode 2, with too many returns to Chateau Picard, but not enough to spoil it). 

In terms of feeling and visible technology, this is much closer to the latest Startrek movies reboot than any of TNG TV programs. That's not a bad thing, since they were well done in sympathetic style, though see my opening comments, but it does mean comparisons are going to be a little apples and oranges.

In terms of philosophy, thus far it has escaped the worst ravages of 'me too', and although there will be lots of opportunities to present men as weak, shameful and failing in contrast to strong, powerful and successful women, I'm hoping they won't spin the series like that. My one concern is that IF they don't then the series will be critically damned for having missed an opportunity to strike a feminist blow, and presented as a failure, rather than success for having presented the sexes naturally and with equality. Not that they are afraid to handle current kinds of issues: as shown in the live TV interview scene where the interviewer has an obvious agenda they wish to press, also the obvious moral stagnation and disinterest within the Starfleet organisation mirroring western democracies that are facing accusations of failing nations through actions taken in relatively recent times.

I have high hopes however.

Patrick Stewart does very well reprising his role - I suspect that JLP simply is Patrick Stewart. The other key characters revealed so far look potentially interesting and are developing nicely. There's lots of scope in the plot (no spoilers from me) for things to go in interesting directions and hopefully it will all come together well in following episodes. Personally I would rather have it edited into a single film of perhaps 4 hours duration, but I'm prepared to put up with episodes for something of this quality.

Saturday 1 February 2020

Think I'm still getting over Thursday's crash

Couldn't sleep last night, not helped by spending the last couple of evenings researching replacement cars.



Feeling grumpy.


Thursday 30 January 2020

Thus begins the hunt for a new car

This morning I had a close encounter of the third (party) kind, and the countryman is unlikely to drive again. C'est la mort.

We will probably end up doing a car swap, with Chris getting something new, comfy and quieter, me getting the rattly, slightly harsh riding car that I don't think she ever really enjoyed driving very much. It's an ill wind, as they say.

I'm OK, a little achey but no harm done except to confidence and shortly the bank balance.

Monday 27 January 2020

And sometimes truth depends where you stand.

That can, of course, be a cop-out.

I've just been looking through some data produced a while back using a couple of different kits to couple enzymes to antibodies for the assay work we do. I plotted the values in a couple of different ways, using log or linear axes. Where a set of concentrations reduce over a range of say 100 fold, plotting on linear axes will make the difference at the highest concentrations obvious while masking behaviour at the lowest concentrations. If the same data is plotted on log axes then the behaviour of the data over the whole standard curve is normally revealed, at the expense of making big differences (like double the signal) at the top end seem relatively small.

Of course if you are used to these things then it's easy to read what's going on, but from a marketing perspective, big change = eye-catching.

I wonder what the church has done over the years like that? Society does it all the time, and we're constantly being told about rights for this minority group or reform in that area going on. This is often not difficult to read, but can result in some eye-catching headlines and pressure to shut up and get in line.

Back to the church, is Missional one of those areas that look like they're making a big difference at the wide end without touching the more sensitive parts? Actually, is that true for evangelicalism generally - not that I have energy, inclination or enthusiasm to investigate it, but I wonder a little.

Or am I just a little slow, having missed the POMO 'deconstructing church' bandwaggon?

Sunday 26 January 2020

Quotes and truth

Today I came across 2 quotes alongside each other, that have been used in newspapers:

The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be prefered to those who think they've found it. Terry Pratchett, quoted in the independent.

A man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must also be right. Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, quoted in The Times

While taken out of context, one says to me that they would prefer to remain proud in their self-deceit, while the other recognises the need for truth.

So here I sit, broken hearted.

Usually there's an iffy next line to complete the Limerick. In this case I'm sat outside the church building in Oxford waiting for someone to unlock. The email giving details said to be there at 8.30 ready to practice for 9am. Scrambled to get out, having got home late last night, extra stuff to load into the car too, and forgot headphones for the (slightly loathed) IEM. 

I was feeling nervous and unprepared, but in a way this has helped. I've always maintained that worship should not be too professional, and this helps prove the point. 😉

Friday 24 January 2020

Abuse and cruelty isn't in the business model.

While listening to the wireless in the car this morning, they were interviewing Nick Clegg - the former British deputy Prime Minister, ex-leader of the Liberal Democrat party in the UK, and now PR person (title, head of global affairs) for Facebook.

He came across badly to begin with, being asked questions about the use of Whatsapp to exfiltrate data from Jeff Bezos phone, apparently not having significant technical understanding and offering 'nuffin to do wiv us' answers. When quizzed about proposed taxation of internet companies by the UK, the grease oozed and the politician surfaced, suggesting piecemeal taxation would be ineffective and that any money obtained would be just a tiny amount compared to the taxes normally taken by the UK.

And then he earned his money with a bit of real insight.

The interviewer moved on to online material posted that encouraged children & vulnerable adults to self-harm or even committ suicide, wanting to know why it wasn't being stopped, with an undercurrent suggesting that this was something the business actually wanted on their platform. In a way she set up the situation for Clegg's answer, but at this point he became much more serious, much less obfuscatory. It seems it's a real problem for them too - the advertisers don't like it - and it *sounds* like they're doing all they can  to 'fix' the problem.

So where does this stuff come from, and why can't they fix it?

As a kid at school, life was frequently deeply unpleasant. The smarter bullies would set up situations where you were given choices that either ended up in public humiliation or getting physically abused in some way in order to show their superiority (while surrounded by their gangs) while the less bright ones would just threaten and punch. When the weaker children were picked on they would attempt to divert the attention of the bullies on to other, weaker or more vulnerable children. Some of the kids I knew at the age of 13-14 were already talking about getting into protectionism when they left school (and they had few choices apart from a local sweet factory, since they were disruptive and unlikely to get qualifications).

At the age of  16 I went to work in another 11-14 school as a lab tech, and I saw exactly the same kind of behaviour again.

To me, the problems in Facebook, Instagram etc are all about ordinary people. I've been lucky to work with generally well educated people, though have seen a reasonable number of bullies, liars and the odd nut job over time. It has sometimes made me forget that ordinary people camn often be extremely unpleasant. It also makes me ask whether I've been like that at times without realising it.

The problem isn't Facebook as such. The problem is giving everyone a public voice.

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Posted once before (so worth repeating then ;-)

 While everyone is pondering the future and how we might have to change things, perhaps we should be reviewing the various alternative political and economic systems available to us:

You have 2 cows.
You give one to your neighbour.

You have 2 cows.
The state takes both and gives you some milk.

You have 2 cows.
The state takes both and sells you some milk.

You have 2 cows.
The state takes both and shoots you.

You have 2 cows.
The state takes both, shoots one, milks the other and then throws the milk away.

You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows.
No balance sheet provided with the release.
The public then buys your bull.

You have two giraffes.
The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

You have two cows.
You sell one and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

You have two cows.
You go on strike, organize a riot and block the roads because you want three cows.

You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called a Cowkimona and market it worldwide.

You have two cows but you don’t know where they are.
You decide to have lunch.

You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.

You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

You have two cows.
You worship them.

You have 2 cows but owe Santander for 6.
Nobody drinks milk.
You have a siesta and read about the collapse of the Euro

You lease 2 cows and pay somebody 3 times the going rate to milk them using borrowed money.
You refinance the 4 cows to secure the services of Goldman Sachs. They sell the future milk production of the 60 cows and fund your lifestyle.
You retire to anywhere that doesn’t use the Euro.

You have two cows.
Both are mad.

Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
No-one believes you, so they bomb the cr_ap out of you and invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least you are now a democracy.

You don't have any cows.
But you claim sovereignty over the ones belonging to your neighbour

You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

You have two cows.
The one on the left looks very attractive.

There's an amusing irony to this trip

In a couple of weeks I'm due to visit another company for the first business trip since May 2012 when I went to the ESHRE conference in Lille.

The irony? It's to Belgium.

Google maps live view doesn't paint a pretty picture - flat, wet, in a new town at least 10K from anywhere that's anywhere. It's a privilege to travel with work, but sometimes it comes with a sense of humour.

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Driving a new car feels odd.

So my 9 year old mini with 126,000 miles went for an 'authentic' service with the local mini dealer this morning, and I had a loan car with 893 miles instead.

Now I'm completely fine with a new car, and an unfamiliar vehicle is no trouble, but car tech has moved on again. This time it was keyless ignition (where's the switch, do I just press the clutch or what?) and a lack of obvious controls for adjusting the driver's side mirror. Some things that should have been great weren't so smart, like the instruments were mostly analogue, but a bit dark and cramped, difficult to read at a glance.

At some stage we're going to have to chop this old mini of mine in, but I've no idea what we'll replace it with yet.


The interior of the new car looked really nice after dark, with everything suddenly much clearer and making more sense. The leathery interior had that nice 'new and expensive' smell, and generally seemed a lot better than first thing when all I wanted to do was get to work ASAP without hitting anything.

But driving back to the dealership tonight, the new car felt kind of vague, rubbery, a bit wandery on the road instead of precise and crisp, and with poor feedback & action at the brakepedal. There was plenty of power, but also turbo lag, and it just made the experience a bit remote, imprecise, uncertain and took away confidence that the car would go where I tried to point it. Getting back in my own car, it felt crisp, precise, relaxed and like I was connected closely to the wheels, engine and brakes. Certainly the ride wasn't terribly comfy compared to many more softly-suspended cars, but it did feel good.

A colleague described a bend on a road we both use to drive to work as though it were a corner, requiring significant slowing to get around. He drives a Renault Zoe electric car, and also describes himself as not being a good driver. The bend is gently sweeping left-hander with reasonable visibility and a wide carriageway, and certainly far from being a corner *to me*. I wonder if the Zoe is as bad as I think it is, and it makes a gentle bend like that feel like a corner, simply because it's a rotten drive without either feedback or precision? My old Peugeot 307 was nice & floaty over bumpy roads, but handled like a drunken cow on the bends.

I'm also impressed that my old car still feels good to drive at this mileage. There's certainly less power than when it was younger, but it says quite a bit for build quality that things haven't become sloppy or worn out.

I have amusing memories of a Ford Cortina E MkIII we owned briefly. It had done around 100,000 miles, but didn't feel too bad solo or with a front passenger (if driven gently at London speeds). We popped down the motorway to Gatwick to collect my parents and grandfather from Gatwick airport, and on the return journey, full of luggage too, it was more like trying to guide a boat up the motorway than drive a car. We got back safely, but my knuckles were a little white at times. And related, I have similar memories of a Sierra with only 50,000 miles that was a company pool car, but that was a horrible drive even solo.

Yup, the mini is good.

Monday 20 January 2020

Like a fine wine

We aren't the kind of household that just throws things away because it's been around, unused, for a while.

I should correct that.

I'm not the kind of guy who throws things away, just because they've been sat around unused for a while. Chris isn't a guy, and she DOES sometimes throw things out, but generally she's not wasteful and we both have a fair bit of stuff 10+ years old.

I digress.

Some time back I posted a picture of some of Lauralea's jam, given to us on a previous visit, stored carefully from 2013. That's Chris's department, since I don't do jam.

However recently it became obvious that the wine rack (stored in the coolest, darkest room) was beoming full, and free space was needed. Now a while back we were given a vast quantity of victoria plums by a friend which were duly converted to wine and jam. After 6 months they were sampled, and while the jam apparently tasted OK if you managed to chisel some from the jar, the wine flavour embodied all that was unpleasant in yellow plums.

In the hope of improving, it was laid down to mature.

A couple of years later it HAD improved, and we drank some, then for reasons no longer remembered it was forgotten and left. Over Christmas I re-explored the bottles. Several had severely corked and were un-drinkable, but 3 appeared to have survived intact, and although they'd thrown a sediment, once that had settled out after the change from horizontal to vertical they were sampled.

The nose was like a Rheinessen or other German wine, with strong scents of green apples and flowers. Flavours still had a background of plums, but not in bad way, with a pleasing amount of acidity balancing a moderately dry and quite long finish. It's actually not bad, though I suspect a fair bit of the alcohol has departed via the cork.

We dated these bottles - 1996. That wine is older than some of the people I work with.

Just for a bit of context, I have a 'special' bottle of wine on the same rack - 1982 Coteau du Layon, that I'm still waiting for an occasion to crack open & try.

Guess our house is a place of relative stability.

Friday 17 January 2020

Shall we go to 'Transform' (insert the 'inspirational' name of current denomination bibleweek).

We talked this week about whether to go to the bibleweek that I've previously discussed here and here. From a historical POV, although some good things have been said, I've felt increasingly over the years like they are discouraging and unhelpful, making the cracks and divisions between groups seem more obvious, and the wriggling to get along has looked painful.

So this year we aren't going, at least not to stay - perhaps just for a day or 2.

It's a relief. We've all changed: me certainly; but them too, possibly more than me. I don't identify them as being in the 'us' group, and I haven't got with the program so pretty sure I'm not in their 'us' group either. If and when we move out of the area I'll be relieved from a church point of view, because we'll be able to start again - or not - but will have freedom of choice to decide where to go instead of feelng boxed in and heavily invested.

Thursday 16 January 2020

I am a fair-weather runner.

That should come as no surprise, after all, who wants to be out pounding the grey streets (or slithering on the brown mud) of Oxfordshire's pseudo-village, Kidlington, when they could be in the warm eating lasagne.

I had my first run back on Monday. 3.2K=2 miles in about 20min. A better start than it might have been, and it was actually quite pleasing to be out again, even though I feel like I just shuffle along old-man stylee. Today was intended to be run 2, but it's cold (due to get colder) and just tazzing it down out there right now.

Staying in, not getting soaked & catching a cold, seems like a much more prudent thing to do.


Tuesday 14 January 2020

You KNOW you're getting old

When you look at what's involved in rooting and reflashing a phone, and decide it's not worth the hassle.

Almost like an asteroid about to smack into the Earth

Today is the day when Windows 7 support is being discontinued by microsoft.

According to some news papers it should be a valid reason for mass panic, weeping, wailing and stopping doing your banking online. DOOM! Doom I tell you!

It's nothing a quick Linux Mint install couldn't fix, but there's nothing like a good panic and a screaming headline at the top of the front page to help shift a bit of product.

Much more quietly, Windows phone died today.

Not that it wasn't obvious - both the remaining users weren't surprised.

It had reached the point more than a year ago where a lot of stuff wasn't really working anymore, but the things carried on, y'know, working a bit. Ben had our last Lumia (the rather crappy 650, having already 'consumed' my 640) we had no use for them since moving back to Android.  However to finally see the platform killed is disappointing - given decent hardware and reliable apps it could have comfortably taken on Android, but that was never going to happen.

Goodbye Nokia Lumia - we enjoyed you while we could.