Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Catnip Tapes

I was asked to give more details about my project with the big cats at Bristol Zoo. A function of being in the right place at the right time - wanting to be a vet, being at Clifton, needing a Biology project, being on the Science Society committee, and having a Chemistry teacher who wanted to know what it was about catnip that made cats respond as they do. The teacher asked me if I wanted to be involved and I snapped up the chance.

The idea was to expose the big cats to catnip and see if they went all kitteny. I tried fresh catnip, dried catnip and catnip extract. Put it in a box mounted on a tripod and placed it as close as possible to the cage mesh then waited for the cats to come for a sniff. Had a video at the ready (this was a long time ago, I look at my little camcorder now and compare it to that thing, three separate units, camera, video recorder and battery case) to record all the behaviour.

The great thing was I could stay in the zoo after it had closed. The reason this was so great was that the leopards had just had cubs. The cubs were very shy and wouldn't come out during the day but they would come out in the evening when it was all quiet. One evening I was leaning on the plexiglass having set up the tripod when the whole thing shook with a bang. I spun around to see a cub had leapt at me and was just the other side looking bemused. I had many a pleasant evening wandering around the zoo, no-one else to disturb me, and away that everyone else was sitting down to their homework (public boarding school, two hours strictly supervised silence).

I had problems with the project, trying to get a good response was difficult. I only managed with the leopards, the tigers and lions didn't react as we hoped. The leopards were perfect though, rolling over, pawing at the air, just like overgrown domestic cats. My theory was that we overloaded the other cats, catnip can be overwhelming and I think the extract we used was too strong.

Redland Girls


A friend has admitted that she went to Redland High School. That was because I had made a comment about being at Clifton College. Well, that got me thinking and remembering. I remember Redland. Yes, Redland definitely had a reputation for being harder than the Clifton High School girls. Never stopped us trying though. More than one boy tried to climb over those walls (which I remember had broken glass cemented into the top as a deterrent). Not me of course, I was much too busy concentrating on my studies.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Execution

I almost resisted. It was too big a news story. I didn't want to go near it. But I need to give vent to my frustration. But no pictures and no links.

I am shocked. Shocked that they executed Hussein, shocked that they picked the end of the year (an important time for many religions) and shocked that they put it on television. I am shocked that the UK is so against the death penalty but our politicians suddenly seem to think it alright as long as it is another country and someone who is not english (is it just that they hope that his execution means the whole debacle will go away). I am shocked that Bush is arrogant enough to sleep through it, telling his aides not to disturb him.

I am frustrated that an illegal war has come to this. That the biggest and strongest countries have flexed their muscles to lead a small country to disaster. I am not saying that Hussein didn't deserve to be brought to justice. But there are other countries and other dictators that are ignored because they are western-friendly. It is the selectiveness of the thing. And the attitude that we know better. The USA, aided by Britain, are nothing less than global dictators.

His death serves no-one any good. It will not help the attrocities currently occurring in Iraq, they are not driven by him. It will not bring back those he killed. And it does not give him time to reflect.

What was the point?

Steps

So many
Want to live
Want to escape
Find worlds
Unexplored
To take another step.

So many
Hesitate
Can't see through the mist
And doubt
The path ahead
Afraid to take another step.

So many
Fumble
For a truth
To guide them.

Incomprehensible

I didn't mean......
I never said.....
That isn't....
But...

Misunderstood,
Purposefully misunderstood
Avoiding understanding.

Who said?
What said?
Why?

Misunderstood
Purposefully misunderstood.

Annoyed
Annoying.

Misunderstood.

Lunch


The neighbours came around for lunch. I had originally planned fish in beer batter but the cod didn't look too good in the shops yesterday. So I decided to do a steak and mushroom pie using little whole button mushrooms and some Caffreys in the gravy. Followed by pears poached in white wine and ginger (slices of ginger root) with a chocolate sauce. Considering we had a bottle of champage to start and two bottles of red wine as well the chocolate sauce possibly didn't need the cherry brandy. Actually I think the chocolate sauce was better when it was chocolate, golden syrup and butter.

I may be biased but I have to say it was all rather good. No idea how to recreate it, I don't work from recipes, but it was a very nice meal. Actually I started doing the poached pear a few years ago (I mean I thought it up a few years ago, not that I started poaching the pear for today a few years ago, after all I didn't know that we would have people around today a few years ago did I)and I think it works very well (when I don't let it boil dry, have been known to get distracted during the main course and forget that the pudding is bubbling away). The root ginger really adds a nice tang. Try it, peel and half the pears, saucepan with white wine and a liberal addition of sugar, a dozen thin slices of ginger (which can be used as decoration later), and poach for half an hour.

Currently Listening To....


Razorlight

Just bought the album today, I have heard "America" a few times and rather liked it. Not sure yet about the rest of the album. As stated before I like Snow Patrol (sorry L, I really do) at the moment, I like the melodies, I like the lyrics. Razorlight seems to blend a bit too easily into the background, easy listening kind of stuff, but I prefer something that I feel I should stop and listen to.

There are some 70's/80's hints to the music. Kind of reminded of The Clash, The Undertones. That's not a bad thing. Currently scored 2 out of 5 for me.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Viral Update


After over two hours of scanning for viruses I get a report that my computer is clean. Go on to the next step of the instructions. Again clean. So the final and ultimately unsatisfying option was to uninstall the security system. That done I can now get emails again. Hurray. Unfortunately I am completely insecure (or maybe that should be unsecured but the first seems more appropriate). Can't get the security system to reinstall. Oh sugarlumps (my daughter is saying this instead of swearing and it seems to roll off the tongue quite well in moments of frustration).

How come I can fix animals (which are, let's face it, fairly complex, lot of important pieces needing to all do the right things) but a blasted computer (wires, limited moving parts, no significant internal plumbing and no ability to kick, bite or scratch) defeats me!

Dusty


An exciting day at Comet. No, I lie, not that exciting. Looked at the ipods, still undecided, although "J" has fallen for the pink nano (which wasn't even on the list and makes it even more confusing, what am i saying, you will never see me with a pink nano). Then looking at hoovers and toasters. Oh I know how to live. Bought new ones of both.

Got home. Fired up the new hoover, now shocked and more than slightly worried about how badly the Dyson was obviously doing. The carpets are a different colour (guests for the last 6 months have wondered why we had brown carpets, now if you come around you will see they should be a kind of orangey-red, actually that doesn't sound an improvement, put some dust back down quickly). And the new hoover rapidly filled up as if it wanted to prove how we should have bought it earlier.

I want an ipod and end up with a hoover, doesn't seem right somehow.

Feeling Viral


I seem to have a virus. Well, my computer does. How it managed to slip past my security systems is an interesting question and one that makes me think that Norton Internet Security is roughly equivalent to Night Security on mainstage (hmm, that might open me up to a lynching from a few people who understand that). It is making collecting emails a nightmare. I have about 3 minutes from turning the computer on until I get a buffer overrun (whatever that is). During those three minutes I can get emails but after that the email programme throws a wobbly, I can look at old emails but not download new ones. Something weird about not being able to rename MAPI.DLL. Of course I need to get emails to correspond with the Norton makers to find out what my problem is, possibly a sense of irony sneaking in.

For the last hour and a half I have been running an on-line viral scan of my computer and I am so bored. I think I have too many files on my computer.

Someone is now going to tell me I should have severed my broadband line and cut myself off from the digital age. Who knows, maybe reading this blog is the computer equivalent to shaking hands with someone who just sneezed into their hands.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

ipod


Nano or video, that is the question. I always used to think I liked listening to one album at a time. Then I bought the Motorola RZR with iTunes. Basically a phone with ipod function. I am now addicted to the shuffle mode, it is wonderful not knowing what is going to come up next, rock followed by Pachelbel followed by a musical. However the phone can only hold 100 songs.

So now I want to buy an ipod but I am really struggling to decide between the 8gB nano and the 30gB video. Advantages of the video - larger memory, screen for playing movies once they are available in the UK. Advantages of the nano - smaller size, a (RED) product so purchase helps fight Aids. {and before anyone suggests it, following the last post this is not hypocritical, the point of (RED) is that you purchase what you want but it benefits the war against Aids, if there was a (RED) video then that is what I would look at}

Anyone got experience with these? Suggestions (before I next go through Duty Free please)?

(RED) Is The Colour

I have to recommend that you go (RED). This is not a charity as such. It does not fund a whole heap of white Toyota landcruisers to drive around Africa. What it does do is buy antiviral drugs to help fight Aids in Africa.

It has attracted some major brands so far, including GAP, Motorola and ipod. Buy (RED) products and a proportion of the profits go to Africa. For instance a (RED) ipod will provide antiviral drugs for a month.

The simplest thing we did was change our credit card. We now use a (RED) American Express card. 1.25% of what we spend goes to Africa. OK, so we don't get our Goldfish points so no more free furniture from John Lewis but look at it, a very attractive card. And it quickly adds up, just every day shopping now does some good for others as well. We changed over in May and the monthly statement shows us how much has gone over, staggering. Enough to keep one person in anti-virals for over three years. Now that is only one person, but imagine if everyone in the UK was doing it.

Please go (RED)!

"Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze?" by the New Scientist


This is a collection of questions submitted to the New Scientist and the replies sent in by the readers.

Some of the questions and answers are very scientific while others are rather more interesting, such as is it purely coincidence that fingers fit exactly into nostrils, why do dustbins smell the way they do, why are aeroplane windows too low to look straight out of and why does a candle flame point inwards when on a moving turntable.

It is the more obscure questions that are the best, especially when they are asked or answered by young children. The really scientific ones simply get to be very dry and are reminiscent of bad science teachers at school. I have to admit to speed reading (moving into skipping) certain sections, and other questions were too obvious.

All in all, I would recommend going to one of the Schotts books if you want short and obscure but interesting facts.

Archiving


Since working in industry I have always liked to work Christmas Eve. Might sound a bit strange but generally the office is fairly quiet and it is a day I put aside for sorting the year out, tidying up all my emails and files, and getting ready for the new year. Of course, this year I couldn't do that as I happened to be in France. So on the last day I was working, which wasn't quiet as everyone was still there and we had at least 4 fairly major issues to sort out, I still felt I needed to get everything ready. I am currently acutely aware that getting ready for the new year in this case meant making a folder called "Archive 2006" at about 1830 hrs and just dropping everything in it. No sorting, no checking, just a data dump. I am now fighting the urge to turn on my work computer and go through everything. I will fight it, I will not relent, but I also know that about half way through next year I will regret it as I won't be able to find the important stuff amongst the short term dross that should be relegated to distant memory.

Ashes - Day 3, Melbourne


And what is really embarrassing is that there will be no day 4 or 5 updates. England all out on the third day and loose the match by an innings and a shocking 99 runs. Warne may be happy but this England team is fast equalling one of the worst we have seen. It is hard to know why, almost overnight they have gone from a well adjusted team to a group of poorly confident individuals.

Chris Read is probably the only one to come out of this with a positive spin. He took 6 catches in the Aussies first innings and he got 26 runs in the second England innings. When you consider that he was initially dropped because he wasn't a run-maker he must be pleased to have got the second highest number of runs in the innings. His place should be secure. The rest of the team must be wondering about their places.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Shhh, Resting


Time for a quiet day. Well, quiet for "A" and me. "J" went to work and left at some unspeakable time of morning (not that unspeakable to be honest but it felt it). I had the day with my daughter. Don't get many days alone with her. But I also felt she had had enough excitement recently. So we went to Wyevale, went to Tesco, then watched a couple of films on the TV. Nothing exciting, but still actually a very nice day simply relaxing.

Ashes - Day 2, Melbourne


England get themselves back into the driving seat by rattling Australia, 84 for 5 is looking like a good spell of bowling will help us recover. However, this is England we are talking about so it goes downhill and they fail to capitalise. 153 runs to Hayden and 154 to Symonds mean that this game, as with the series, remains firmly in the grip of Australia.

Chris Read is doing well, with 4 catches, and justifying replacing Geraint Jones. Strauss and Read may look happy here dismissing Clarke but, who can deny it, that sight screen is telling a lie if you are an England supporter.

Back Dated

The Disney trip is now recorded below in just about the right order.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Pay back

The angel who has been my daughter for the last 5 days transformed for the journey back home from my parents. To be fair she has had 5 days of excitement, disruption, lack of sleep, and travel. All quite a lot when you are only 4 years old. The culmination was 2 hours of constant crying and screaming in the car. And there was no way she was going to say what was wrong. At one point she did say she didn't want to go home but she followed that up by saying she didn't want to be anywhere so not really the most helpful statement.

I don't care, looking at this picture it was worth it.

Ashes - Day 1, Melbourne

No. Can't do it. It was too bad.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas

No entry to describe the day. Either your Christmas was as good as mine, in which case you don't need to read about someone elses day, or it wasn't, in which case you wont want to read about someone elses.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

A rather different way to spend Christmas Eve. A long drive back from Disneyland. We set off at about 100hrs and got to Eurotunnel earlier than planned. Were able to get an earlier train and really just arrived and drove straight on, very handy. The drive in France was pleasant enough, the iles just seem to disspear. Back in the UK and the UK road system it stopped being so nice. Not that the roads were particularly busy but driving is just more of an effort over here. In France I could put the cruise control on and stay in the inside lane for mile after mile. On British roads you need to be changing and adapting for everyone else every minute. Finally got to Wales, my parents, stood on the doorstep carol singing, "A" elected for "Jingle Bells" followed by "When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney". Finally a nice wind down, someone else in charge for the next 48 hours or so.

Merry Christmas

I haven't been on the blog because we have been to Disneyland Paris. On Boxing Day I will back-fill our adventures. In the meantime


MERRY CHRISTMAS

The Good Life - Dorian Amos


Unfortunately the proof reader for this book should be shot. Poor grammar and poor spelling (for instance "bowing" when referring to the rather famous make of aeroplane) end up distracting me so much that it is hard to enjoy the book.

I admire the concept behind it, a couple decide that life in Cornwall is too run-of-the-mill and that they need to break away. They decide to go to Canada, get a dog, then move out to the wilds and survive. I really do admire them for trying to make a new life and for being brave enough to do the unexpected. Then it falls down because they doing things that really are a risk to life, and mainly a risk because they are unprepared and naive. I do not believe that we should hide from risk, but I do believe that our risks should be done with knowledge and that we shouldn't risk others at the time. I can understand someone wanting to run rapids that are known to kill more people than they let through, but I can't understand someone taking their loved one through. Even if I can accept that the couple are both as responsible, they risk the dogs life and he is certainly an innocent in all this.

The natives have a saying that your life is a story. The question posed by this book is how will your story read? I certainly wouldn't want my story to be cut short because of my own stupidity and I definitely wouldn't want part of my obituary to read that I cut someone elses story short in the process.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Rollercoaster Madness

Having discovered that "A" likes rollercoasters we promise to go on Thunder Mountain again. I am very happy but have to admit "J" is not overjoyed by this speed freak of a daughter we appear to have. So the plan is immediately we get to the park we go to Thunder Mountain. We get there and it is closed, apparently a technical fault. "J" looks happier but, not to be daunted, I hope that the tracks are just slightly frozen and that things will be OK later and I get three fastpass tickets. So we go to "Pirates of the Caribbean instead, marked as "scary for younger children". Give it a go and "A" comes off that one as well saying it was great. She had better not tell me she is scared of the dark again, that's all I can think.

She still enjoys the more "cute" rides so we go on "It's a Small World" (one of the most annoying tunes imagineable accompanies this ride). "A" has the camera, for a 4 year old I think she shows good composition, especially when you consider she was in a moving boat at the time.

We go back to Thunder Mountain at the alloted time, as we come around the corner we can see a bit of the track and I say "great, it's working", then it dawns on me that there is a "train" on the track with people in the carriages but it isn't moving. Maybe not so good. Get to the gate to find it is closed again with a technical fault. Those people must be freezing.

Three hours later I decide we should just have one last attempt. We get there and it's running. So we go through the fastpass queue (10 minutes as opposed to 90 minutes in the normal queue, why doesn't everyone use the fastpass?). Just as we get in the carriage I suddenly wonder how sensible it is to be going on a very fast ride with a 4 year old that I know has already broken down twice that day (the ride not "A" that is). Anyway, it didn't break down, "A" kept her eyes open the whole time, screamed the entire ride, and got off with an amazingly big smile. This is us after the ride. Wonderful.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Disneyland Paris


We are greeted by the perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, and head off to Disneyland, all very excited. Within an hour of being there I have seen snow. Real, melt in the hand, cold, stuff. I am amazed that Mickey has that much power, but it brings a smile to my face. The next few days prove to be so much fun that "A" develops a habit of spontaneously breaking into dance, I almost feel as though I am caught up in a musical.

As "J" and "A" join the queue for Winnie the Pooh I sneak off to Space Mountain - Mission 2. Excellent rollercoster, I suspect two loop-the-loops and at least one barrel roll but as it is all in the dark I can't say for sure. I get back and the two off them are still in the queue for Winnie, I may not have been missed but the tears in my eyes from the ride gave me away.

Quite a lot of the day is spent meeting characters but we manage some rides. Late on I have this mad idea to try taking "A" on a fast rollercoaster. She seems up for it and I know she likes speed. She has to stand on tiptoe to get through the height restriction but we get on Thunder Mountain. It sets off, a lot of screaming, dark tunnels and very rapid turns. I look at "A", her eyes are closed. "Whoops" I think, overestimated that one. It stops, we get off, and "A" starts laughing saying she wants to do it again. I didn't overestimate, she loved it and it was her favourite ride of the break.

We see the Disney parade. Front row as we get in position half an hour before it starts. I like the parade. At the end though they have these wooden soldiers, 12 of them marching in time, with wooden boots. Honestly it is like a Christmas version of the cybermen.

And Disney at night. The lights. It is just beautiful. Amazing to see.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Break


I haven't done well for holidays this year for one reason or another. As a relatively spur of the moment thing I decided we should go to Disneyland Paris just before Christmas. Gamble on the weather and how many people might be there.

Luckily decided to get Eurotunnel so we weren't stopped by the weather. Arrive at the Davey Crockett Ranch at about 1800hrs, French time.

The advantage of staying at a Disney hotel is you get to see some of the characters there. So the holiday really starts immediately for "A" as Pluto comes around as we sit down for dinner. Her day is made, and a good reward because she was so well behaved on such a long trip.

Away

Please bear with me. I will be away for a few days but I have not deserted my blog. Normal service will be resumed on Boxing Day. Thank you for visiting and I hope to update you soon.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I Am Conservative


Look, following on from the last post really, I admit I am a conservative. I have dabbled with communism and being green, but I am a Conservative. That is how I vote. I also admit that the Conservative party is not strong at the moment. They need to sort themselves out.

But how, please tell me how, o how, did labour get in again. I swear that this is the most devious, underhand and manipulative government that has ever been seen in the UK and it is shameful that enough people could not see through the farce. Did you ever watch "V", aliens reptiles that dressed up as humans to take over the world, this is the same. I am sorry that enough people could be taken in by a shallow man only interested in his own legacy.

Only Reality After All


So Carne Ross, a UN diplomat known as an "expert" on Iraq, has said that the UK government may have mislead the public about the reasons for going to war. He is struggling to avoid saying that Blair actually lied, preferring to stick to the line that there was some embellishment. carne Ross quit his job because of what was said about weapons of mass destruction. This is a man of principle.

The response from Labour - easy, let's just rewrite history. Margaret Beckett is interviewed by the BBC. Confronted with a question about Blair and the "45 minute quote", easy enough, none of us actually thought he meant that did we, no-one actually paid any attention to it and it was never referred to again was it. Asked about Carne Ross, easy enough, he isn't an important peron, he invited himself to the enquiry and he didn't know anything that should be taken seriously. Questioned about the fact that the public were lead to believe that Iraq was a threat to us, easy enough, no-one ever said that we or the west or even Saddams neighbours were at risk.

I was really stunned listening to this interview. You can get used to politicians twisting facts but this was in a league of its own.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Star Burst

Instances of brilliance
Like a shooting star
Surrounded by darkness
Eternally.

Hogfather


I don't know if you watched The Hogfather the other couple of nights. I was very disappointed. I got all excited about the idea of a Terry Pratchett book being televised but it didn't live up to expectations. In some ways I shouldn't have been surprised. The great thing about the Discworld books is the way that Terry writes and the words he uses. That just can't come over on TV, so what are clever uses of words and wry observations of our world turn in to mediocre jokes. Mind you, Bilious, the "O god" of hangovers worked.

If you watched this but haven't read the books don't let this put you off, the books are fantastic.

Monday, December 18, 2006

To or From

Sitting
For hours
Driving onward.
Rain splashing
Rain beating
Vision comes and goes.
Wipers blurring
More than cleaning.
Day passes
Night comes on.
Lights ahead
Lights behind.
Stop, coffee.
Then on.
Leaving behind,
Moving towards.

eBay

I have just sold a dining table on eBay. I often sell small things, such as Masonic jewels, but every so often go for something big. Now that we have bought new furniture for the conservatory we need to get rid of some of the old furniture. It was a good table though and would have been a pity to break it up. I did think the problem was how to fit it in the post!

Of course we offered it for collect only. The winners contacted us only for me to find that they lived just around the corner from my parents. If only I had known a week ago I could have taken it to them. As it was they had to drive 3 hours in the rain, squeeze it in the back of their car and then drive back. Long way for a table.

Not only do they live around from my parents but the husbands sister actually lives almost opposite my parents. And the farmhouse they have just moved into was one I visited when seeing practice as a young boy hoping to be a vet. Life is just full of coincidences.

Ashes - Day 5, Perth

It looks increasingly likely that I will be wearing an Aussie cricket shirt soon. I woke to the radio alarm and, after a minute of listening to a news piece suddenly said "that's not good" as I realised what I wasn't listening to was cricket. That meant that it was all over, England had lost again. Of the last 6 wickets, 5 of them mananged to only score a total of 6 runs between them. It was another humiliating collapse. Pietersen could only watch as the support dropped from around him and he was left the last man standing with a score of 60. From a stable position yesterday we managed to lose the game, only scoring a total of 85 for the final 5 wickets. Yes the Aussies are a good team, yes they are playing well, but they are getting an awful lot of assistance from the England team.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Price of Love

Garfield is another one who has a good insight into life. Don't think that this needs further comment.

It's Christmas

So Christmas has definitely arrived. This afternoon was the carol concert at Stowe gardens. They have a brass band and one of the local primary schools sends some of their children as well. Then we all stand around the temple and sing carols. Have to admit "A" looked liked she had a miserable time but at the end said it was the best Christmas ever and she wanted to come again next year. Who knows what goes through the mind of a 4 year old! Strangely not everyone who goes seems to get into the spirit of the thing, I haven't quite worked out why you would go to a carol concert and then not sing. I sing as loud as I can and I love ending with "We wish you a Merry Christmas", although I am still not entirely sure what figgy pudding is, even if we do want it brought right here.

Ashes - Day 4, Perth


Did the England team read my blog yesterday? Today they have shown more of a fighting spirit and finally come back at the Aussies. Indeed, if it wasn't for the two wickets falling in quick succession in the final overs, they were almost poised to take the game. As it is, a victory will still be difficult. Even batting through the rest of the final day will be difficult. However they should aim to win. Once batsmen have the mindset that they just need to survive then they change their natural playing style and that is when the next wicket falls.

Alistair Cook reached a century, seen celebrating to the right. He was ably supported by Bell and Pietersen but, as normal for this team, a few have just failed to live up to the demands. All of our batsmen do have ability, but there are always two of them in each innings who don't score and this is the underdoing of the team. If they could only just all be on form then this team would beat anyone out there. But, with a target of 557, 265 is still adrift of where they need to be.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

West Wing


I am just going to lift a whole scene from West Wing (series 2, "Midterms"). This will make this a longish posting for me but I think it is worth it. For me West Wing really does nail down some interesting aspects of our psyche. I admire people who can raise a strong argument, can put their points clearly and the writers have done an excellent job here. It tackles that area where people use the Bible to defend their own small-minded, intolerant and prejudiced views. Where God is used as a defence for hatred.

This scene finds the president in a White House meeting with radio talk-show personalities. He is supposed to stroke their egos, telling them how important they are, but is obviously struggling. Then he notices a character (based on a well known real-life host) known for her radical views. The scene plays out like this:

BARTLET: It's a good idea to be reminded of the awesome impact, the awesome impact... I'm sorry. You're Dr. Jenna Jacobs, right?
JACOBS: (obviously pleased to be recognized): Yes, sir!
BARTLET: It's good to have you here.
JACOBS: Thank you!
BARTLET: ... the awesome impact of the airwaves, and how that translates into the furthering of our national discussions, but obviously also how it can ... how it can ... Forgive me, Dr. Jacobs. Are you an M.D.?
JACOBS: A Ph.D.
BARTLET: A Ph.D.?
JACOBS: Yes, sir.
BARTLET: In psychology?
JACOBS: No, sir.
BARTLET: Theology?
JACOBS: No.
BARTLET: Social work?
JACOBS: I have a Ph.D. in English Literature.
BARTLET: I'm asking 'cause on your show people call in for advice - and you go by the name Dr. Jacobs on your show - and I didn't know if maybe your listeners were confused by that and assumed you had advanced training in psychology, theology or health care.
JACOBS: I don't believe they are confused, no, sir.
BARTLET: I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an "abomination!"
JACOBS: I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.
BARTLET: Yes it does. Leviticus!
JACOBS: 18:22.
BARTLET: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here. I wanted to sell my youngest daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown Sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?
(Bartlet only waits a second for a response, then plunges on.)
BARTLET: While thinking about that, can I ask another? My chief of staff, Leo McGary, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself? Or is it okay to call the police?
(Bartlet barely pauses to take a breath.)
BARTLET: Here's one that's really important, because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you?
(The camera pushes in on the president.)
One last thing. While you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building when the president stands, nobody sits.
(Jacobs sees that, in fact, the president is standing and she is the only one in the room sitting. After a moment, she rises, holding her tiny plate of appetizers. After the president exits, Sam Seaborn sternly approaches a thoroughly belittled Jacobs.)
SAM: I'm just ... going to take that crab puff.
(Sam snatches Dr. Jacob's crab puff, then hurries after the president.)

The Good Women of China - Xinran

It is a little while since I read this book, probably about May this year, but I think everyone should be aware of it. Xinran was a radio presenter in China. As such she received a lot of letters from listeners, and some of these indicated sad stories. Xinran not only listened to these stories but investigated them and found out the truth behind them.

This book reveals these true stories and, in doing so, reveals how women are treated as second class citizens in China. These women speak out from the pages and paint a vivid picture of life in a repressed state. Stories such as those of the mothers who lost their children during an earthquake, in many cases having to watch their sons and daughters die over days, trapped in the rubble without rescue. Women taken away from their loved ones to be used as trophies during the revolution. Women with successful sons who are left to scavenge on the streets.

Xinran has been brave enough to put these voices down for people to read and be aware. She was in a unique position and, at times, put herself and her career at risk to investigate further. But she realised that she was lucky to have a career that could be put at risk. She felt she owed these other women a duty, and that she has fulfilled.

Ashes - Day 3


All credit to the Aussies. They went out to destroy England and that is what they did. Gilchrist gets the second quickest scoring century in test history, incredible rate. Hussey and Clarke also getting centuries. Over 400 runs for the team in just over 70 overs. Enough that they are able to declare with two days left. Then they get Strauss out immediately, on the 4th ball of the 1st over.

There is a marked difference between the two teams. Australia don't let their heads go down. They might have a rough spell but they not only pick themselves up but actually coming out even more determined. England however seem to just let it go, there seems to be no desire to win. You have to wonder what is happening in the dressing room and how much politics is getting in the way of good play.

Through gritted teeth I have to say, I have the utmost respect for this Aussie team.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Law and Order


This is a tough one. Just when is it right to ignore law and order, to put justice to one side? An investigation into fraud involving arms sales to Saudi Arabia has been stopped by the Prime Minister. Factors that were considered included the loss of jobs and the loss of a £10 billion deal signed three months ago. Interesting that this deal was signed three months ago but the enquiry started 2 years ago (at a cost of £2 mill). So the government knew that an investigation was on-going, that there was a suspicion of wrong-doing, but signed a deal anyway and then let themselves be blackmailed on the basis of that deal. Not only do we keep the deal but shares in BAE have gone up by 6% so the company suspected to be involved in fraud has actually benefitted.

Another decision has been made on the rather flimsy basis of "national security". Flimsy because this excuse has been used before and it appears we were mislead (at the least) at that time. It seems that we can drop our principles whenever we need to as long as the excuse is security. And no-one is in a position to challenge the excuse as the only one who sees the documents is the Prime Minister. Once rule of law can be ignored then the public interest may soon follow. In fact once rule of law can be ignored have the terrorists not in fact won, they have made us surrender that which makes us good and raises us above murderers and thieves.

I was wrong at the beginning, it is not a tough one. Upholding the law should trump all else.

Told You


I hate to say it, but told you so. Nintendo is to replace (recall) 3.2 million wrist straps following a rash of injuries and broken TV screens as the Nunchuck has flown across the room.

Senate Heading For Deadlock


Even though I watch West Wing I still find american politics hard to follow, and sometimes incomprehensible.

A democrat senator, Tim Johnson, has had to go for major brain surgery (actually not sure if there is such a thing as "minor" brain surgery). This apparently leaves the control of the Senate hanging in the balance. Apparently if a replacement is needed then the replacement is chosen by the Governor of the state. As the Governor in this case, South Dakota, is a republican then the replacement he chooses is also likely to be a Republican even though the people of the state had voted for a democrat.

If TJ has to resign and a Republican is put in his place then the Senate will be split squarely down the middle, 50 seats to each party. That spells years of stalemate and nothing being achieved. The peoples wishes will be ignored in a country that is supposed to be the worlds greatest democracy.

Ashes - Day 2, Perth

And over to the batsmen was a mistake. Day 2 hasn't quite ended but it has so gone downhill for England. Pietersen was, as expected, the best of the batsmen and got a decent score but the rest crumbled. So no wonder the bowlers are now struggling, they were hoping for a decent rest, which they didn't get, and the advantage they gave England after the first day has simply dissolved.

Ashes - Day 1, Perth

Got to get this in quickly before day 2 starts. Could be risky based on the way we folded in the last test match but looking good at the moment. Why did it take so long to bring Monty in to the team? Australia all out for 244 in only 71 overs. That will be a frustrating score for the Aussies especially after Ponting elected to bat. The man who has gone from the butt of the jokes after dropping a "sitter" has now gone to being the hero. He is enjoyable to watch, not just because of his bowling, but also because of his celebrations when he takes a wicket. Now over to the batsmen.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Carbon Neutral


The proposal of making houses carbon neutral is an interesting one. I believe that global warming is occurring, I am not a denier. I believe that we should do what we can to help save the environment, we should be aware of what damage we do. But the figures don't stack up. If you change to solar power then it will take 99 years for you to break-even, if you change to wind turbines then a mere 10 years. I am sorry, I don't know if I will be here in ten years. I don't want to install, move, install, move, and never see the benefit. It would be entirely altruistic to fit renewable energy at the moment, and that is a decision too far.

Giving It Up or Getting It Up

2 patients in Glasgow went to see their GP for help with a smoking addiction. After examination they were prescribed medication to assist them in giving up. Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately from their wives point of view) a computer glitch meant that they were actually prescribed Viagra. This may bring new meaning to the phrase "beating the habit".

{Just in case of doubt, this is a true newspiece}

Election

I had such a wonderful night last night. As well as a third degree ceremony for our Lodge, it was also our election night. And I was elected by the other brethren. This means that the next ceremony I get installed as the Master of the Lodge for the forthcoming year. This is a great priviledge. I am especially lucky because this is my fathers Lodge as well and he was Master in 1998, just before I joined. It is nice to be able to follow in his footsteps. He proposed the toast to me last night at the Festive Board (the meal after the lodge meeting) and that was a very special moment. To be the Master is an honour and is not to be taken lightly, but I know I have the support of my brethren and that we can grow the Lodge over the next year.

This does mean that I will now have to read as many books as I can in the next few months. Once I am in the Chair it will be a very busy year, there is a lot to learn for the ceremonies and I can't see me having a chance to read again for another 12 months.

Storage

Have you noticed the increase in big storage warehouses? This seems to be a growing industry. The question is why do we need so much more space? Why are we hoarding more? Why can't we let go?

I think it is a result of families living further and further apart. When families all squeezed in to one house, or at least lived 5 minutes walk from each other, family stories and traditions were easily maintained. There was no need to keep the physical things because the bonds still existed. However, as families have moved apart and it becomes harder and harder to see each other then the material becomes more important. If you no longer see granny then the vase that belonged to granny becomes more precious as it is the lifeline to the family history.

News Travels

I am amazed how quickly things travel on the web. I mentioned about stomach stapling for children in a recent blog and the next thing I know I am being quoted by Channel 4 in a special report.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Shares

Well I was completely wrong about Burberry. The city are a lot more pragmatic than the people who were on the news. Despite the demonstrators the shares have gone up from 616.50 to 628.25. I still don't feel that these are the shares for me to buy at the moment. They seem ideal for a long term investment of a substantial sum but not so good for speculation.

Character Group are going well. This is the company who make toys, including the Dr Who range. With the current revival in Dr Who I thought that this sounded a good bet and bought £500 of shares (you see, I dabble, that's all). They are now worth £746, Not a bad return on the investment. I now have the problem that I always get with shares, and that is whether I should sell and make good on the investment.

Shares can be very frustrating. A few years ago I bought shares in Protherics. At one point they went so high as to quadruple their value. Would have been great to sell but all the phone lines to my broker were engaged and I didn't manage to give the instructions. By the time I could get through they had returned to a more normal level. They are still worth twice what I paid for them but I live in the hope for another peak.

With any luck I have fixed the trading problem by joining Shareview. This means I can trade on-line and I can set buy or sell requests in the evenings which will get acted on the next morning. You can also set watchlists so you can see how companies are performing before you decide to buy. I am currently watching Vectura and Oxford Biomed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Senses

Every so often,
Every once in a while,
Something happens -
A sound
A smell
A taste -
Not much,
But an instant,
And she remembers
Remembers the time
When they held
When every instant was a lifetime
Every instant was forever,
And in remembering
Smiles, through the pain,
Smiles, though the tears fall,
And as the sound
The smell
The taste
Dissolve,
So does the smile
But the tears remain.

You WILL Do As We Say!

What did I say about a Big Brother culture?

It appears that we are now to be force fed folic acid. No matter that the majority of us don't need it, and that for some it may be detrimental, the government knows what is best for us and will make sure that we comply. Yes sir, I am just a number, I am not a free man.

And then at the end of the article, almost as a throw away line, NICE are recommending stomach stapling of obese children, yes children. At £10k a pop. This is just ridiculous. One day we have Patricia Hewitt saying the NHS has to break even, then the next we have this. We are talking about surgery here, and surgery is never basic. And we aren't talking about for a serious medical condition. Yes, obesity needs to be controlled, but resorting to stomach stapling is the wrong way to go about it. Especially in children, what is needed is education so that they can go on to live healthy lives. Teaching children that bad eating and exercise habits can be fixed just by surgery is entirely the wrong message and will lead to future problems.

We continue to teach people that problems are not an individuals responsibility. And then when something happens people look for who they can blame. Burn your mouth on coffee, then blame the person who served you, don't think that coffee is supposed to be hot and you should have checked. The man who sued Winnabago because they didn't point out that "Cruise Control" did not mean he could get up from the driving seat and go make himself some tea. The woman who sued MacDonalds because she slipped on a puddle of coke, coke that her own son had spilt a minute before.

Lonely

So many people
Everyone rushing past
Leaving me standing
Lonely
People speak my name
Talk and talk
Shake hands
Slap backs
Smiling at me
Still lonely
Doing this
Involved and busy
Calendar full
Never alone
Still lonely

It would only take one
That one
The one always in my mind
To stop me from being alone.

Swan

At night
Even the swan
Looks black,
And your youth
Looses all innocence,
As darkness masks
Those drowning eyes.
And as the swan
Still glides, dark shadow,
Upon the water,
My heart
Still flies, fast beating,
Upon the dreams
Of you.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Day Surgery

I listened to Patricia Hewitt going on about the NHS and how the target is to make them balance their books. And how is this to be done? By increasing day surgery cases. Apparently the "top" hospitals have 75-80% of their cases as day surgery. And Patricia Hewitt says this is "good for the patient". I can tell you now that those are the words of someone who has never had major surgery. I had my gall bladder out two years ago and I got over the op fairly well but even so I am glad I was in the hospital for an extra 24 hours.

Day surgery is NOT about improving things for the patient. It is about saving money. One of the reasons I left veterinary practice was because I was fed up of pushing patients through as fast as possible, making them feel like sausage meat going through a factory. Patients need time and attention. But the demands being put on the NHS are definitely more sausage than caviar. In the last 18 months I can name three people who are worse off because the NHS wanted to get them out of their bed too quickly, and one of those people died.

There is a place for day surgery. Certainly it is not good to lie in a hospital bed for too long (after all, who knows what you may catch) but neither is it good to be forcibly ejected. Surgery is a major assault on the body, it takes time to recover. Even anaesthetic alone, without a blade being wielded, takes its toll. Rush people in and out too quickly, fail to check they are stable, neglect to put them on fluids while the liver recovers, and you can be sure more accidents will happen.

Big Brother

An amazing 20% of the worlds CCTV cameras now have their residence in the UK. If there was only the UK and the USA then that statistic would be just about OK, although still too high (we make up 17% of the total population of the two countries combined). But what about the rest of the world. I don't actually know how many people are on the planet at the moment, but I think it is fair to say that we have more than our fair share of CCTV. I don't have any problem with the cameras, per se, as I do not think they are likely to catch me doing anything too bad, I am a generally law abiding citizen. But the principle is a different thing. Why do we need so much more surveillance than anybody else? We really do live in a Big Brother society, and I don't mean channel 4.

Busy Times

Life as a four year old is a busy one at this time of year. Surprisingly so, as a three year old there is little to worry about, but once you are 4 then there are all kinds of responsibilities. In the last three days "A" has had to give a ballet concert and then a school concert. Quite impressed by the ballet, she looks like she knows what she is doing. At the school concert she was a donkey, no really she was meant to be a donkey, that was not an insult aimed at my daughter.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wii

I am yet to work out how this should be pronounced (weeee, why,wi) but the latest console has been released. And the rush to the shops has been overwhelming. Even when people have put down a deposit they have still being queuing all night to pick one up.

I have to admit that the price really isn't bad. It even makes it quite attractive, competing with the older consoles that are available.

But exactly how sensible is it to design something that means players will be swinging the Nunchuck (who came up with that name) control towards the TV in any number of throwing motions. I will take a moment to quote from the website "If you use excessive motion and let go of the Wii Remote, the wrist strap may break and you could lose control of the Wii Remote. This could injure people nearby or cause damage to other objects. "

So you want me to get completely immersed in the game, think that I am under attack and my life depends on this final swing of my sword. Hands sweaty, tension mounting, thin strap around the wrist. One expensive HD TV soon becomes the target for a bullet shaped piece of plastic. Somehow I can see a few lawyers rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of being able to sue Nintendo for a number of broken TV screens in the near future.

Terror Threat

John Reid has announced that a terrorist attack over the Christmas period is "highly likely". The rather cynical element in me is asking why he should announce this. As far as information goes it is actually completely redundant. It doesn't allow us to do something to rectify the situation, it is so vague that we can't do anything to protect ourselves. So we are absolutely no better off for this news. In fact, as a population we are probably worse off as some will find this very frightening.

Coming at roughly the same time as news of an operation by the Met to bug the phones of black and Asian policemen I can't help get the idea of smoke and mirrors out of my mind. Just when the police are under question then the Home Secretary tells us waht a wonderful job they are doing preventing the threat to our lives from islamic fundamentalists.

No, I must be imagining it, the last thing this government would want to do is to distract us from one story by releasing another one.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sorry, Can't Help It

A neutrino walks into a bar and orders a whisky. "How much is that?" he asks the barman. The barman replies "for you sir, no charge."

Reflections

Looking in your eyes
I see a reflection
Of a deeper part of me
What I hoped I could be
The man I would like to be.

Without your eyes
No reflection
I simply see me
Not what I hoped, but who I am
Not what I like, but detest.

Can I spend my time
Chasing that reflection
Living my life
Through your eyes
The better part of me.

Sounds you don't like

There are some sounds in the world you just don't want to hear.

A vet doesn't want to hear a snarling dog in the waiting room.

A custody seargent doesn't want to hear a prisoner falling down the stairs.

A postman doesn't want to hear the Christmas postbag hit the ground.

A gasman doesn't want to hear a striking match.

A student doesn't want to hear the bar run dry.

A milkman doesn't want to hear breaking glass.

A farmer doesn't want to hear a DEFRA visit.

A scientist doesn't want to hear his neighbour say "eureka".

But most of all, a parent doesn't want to hear a 4 year old say "ooopsie".

An Awaited Sequel

My thanks to "C" for alerting me to the fact that there is a sequel to "The Crimson Petal and the White". For the last year I have been wondering what happened to Sugar. I first came to this book via one of the Radio 4 book club type things, I only caught the last few minutes but the discussion seemed intriguing.

Although the main character is called Sugar, there is no way this book could be described as sugar coated. It is set in a bleak age, and as such it is a bleak book. It is advisable not to get attached to any of the characters (although many are hard to get attached to anyway, there are not many nice people in this world). Logically, because the characters are not loveable, or often even likeable, this should not be a gripping story. But it is. It tells how people struggle to raise themselves out of the gutter and that in doing so they cannot always take pleasant choices. It explores the mind, as well as politics and religion, ostensibly Victorian but applicable to our own times.

Don't be put off by the fact it is a "big" book, around 800 pages. You will read it fst enough as you get drawn into this world. But be ready for some fairly explicit passages, be aware that this is the story of a prostitute desperate to improve her life.

Freemasonry

It amazes me how many people are scared of Freemasonry. I even lost a friend when she found out I was a Freemason. When I say found out I mean I told her, she didn't manage to unearth it like some dark secret. I am more than happy to tell people I am a Mason, I wear a watch with masonic symbols, I wear cufflinks with masonic symbols. That is the first rumour to dispel, we do not have to keep it hidden that we are members. In fact I believe the main reason some people do not like to let on is because of the way they get treated once people know.

Freemasonry is about learning a moral code. It uses "plays" to tell stories which teach us about ourselves and our fellow man (as in Homo sapiens, not as in male). The secrets relate to parts of the plays, and that is not unusual. Do you like to go to the theatre knowing exactly what you will see? Lodge meetings are one of the few times I have seen people from every social and religious background getting on, no creed or belief gets in the way of recognising that we all have value and that we are all equal. We raise money for charity, not just masonic charities but anything and anyone who has needs. We stand by the principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. We do not just look after our "own" (I did hear some people condeming Masonry because a lodge had given support to the widow of a mason, I still don't understand why that is actually wrong, she was in need and we helped, surely that is good) but for the community as a whole.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Trust

You sat
Tears on your face
Hand in his hand
Heard him say
“I will change”
And heard the echo
Back through the years
And, trusting, as those
Before you trusted
Believed it to be true

You sit
Tears on your face
Hand in your hand
Hear him say
“I’m sorry”
“I never meant to cause you pain”
And feel your trust
Burning in the flames

Jam and Jerusalem

If you haven't watched this then I urge you to do so. I suspect there is a reasonably high chance you won't like it, but you should try because if you do you will love it. The term "quirky" comes to mind, it really is a little odd. The thing I though, I worked in Devon for a few years and this programme is so right. It is a French and Saunders and has an incredible cast including Joanna Lumley (met her when I was a school, she showed us how a lady should exit a car, honest). Watch it, be ready to feel uncomfortable at times, and be ready to laugh.

The Limo Front

There seems to be some surprise that companies hiring out limousines may be fronts for more illegal activity. Well there's a surprise. Someone spends the nights driving around groups of lads and laddettes on stags, hens and 21st birthday parties and he happens to know where you might be able to pick up some extra, very friendly, company or something white in small packets to speed the evening along. Gosh, would never have crossed my mind.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's A Conspiracy

I was watching Question Time tonight. What a strange world we live in where people can believe in conspiracies to kill Diana etc but they can't believe in global warming.

Greys Anatomy

I have often seen clips for Greys Anatomy and thought it might be good to watch. After all, I enjoyed ER (at least the earlier series, they made it too depressing in the end, Abby deserved a bit of happiness). They blew it tonight though. Saw an ad and one line stuck out "you can't go out with a vet, that's not a real doctor". Sulking now.

Blog Searching

Every so often a friend of mine puts a post on her blog showing the searches people use to find her blog. And she has such interesting ones.

I really am quite envious. So far I have had a sudden influx from South America relating to searches on "England" and "rugby", and a massive influx from Australia owing to searches on "Ashes", "England" and "cricket" (and I have to say thank you to all the aussies who have visited but managed to resist the urge to gloat). A couple of searches for ballet and a slightly weirder one for "Paladin with Wings". Nothing really mystifying though. Maybe in the future.

Burberry

Interesting news about Burberry today. Interesting because for the last few weeks I have been considering buying some Burberry shares. Glad I didn't, not because I think they should be boycotted but because I suspect the shares will drop for a little while and will be better to buy.

If you haven't heard, Burberry are rather unpopular because they are closing a factory in South Wales to move production to China. This means tops will cost £4 to make rather than £12. People are complaining that Burberry isn't a struggling company so they should keep the jobs in the UK. Let's be realistic though, they are succeeding because they are making sensible decisions ahead of the game, unlike a lot of other clothing manufacturers. Realistically how can they ignore such a differential in costs. In order to keep making profits then they have to save where they can and this is the only sensible choice. Burberry cannot be blamed for making this choice. If we want to keep manufacturing in the UK then the government have to make it attractive.

Rehearsal

Trip to Cardiff last night for a lodge rehearsal. For those that don't know, a certain amount of a lodge meeting is like a play. That means learning and rehearsing is necessary to get it right. The problem I have is that living in Northampton I can't get to most of the "rehearsals". I end up going to the main one just before the meeting. For the words that isn't too bad, I can learn those fairly well by myself, but some of the "floorwork" (where we move around and take candidates from one part of the temple to another) can be complicated so I have to hope I can pick it up quickly. I was hoping to make two rehearsals this time because this is a complicated ceremony, but one rehearsal clashes with "A"s school concert so I will have to make do with just the one. It went well, although the evening was long with a few moments of confusion (not just me), but that is the point of rehearsals and we should be alright on the night.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Christmas Tree

When the Christmas decs were put up last weekend "J" rang me at Ikea to tell me that the 120 light set for the tree had broken. On the way back I had a rush to the head and stopped off to buy some new ones. Only got a 250 set. That was to go with the 40 light set that was still working (we are only talking about the tree here, I have lights everywhere). Got home. I put on the 250 set, then the 40's (on the tree obviously, I know my "A" decorated herself but I am not that sad). Looked good so I left the girls to it while I put together the furniture. They did a great job - tinsel, beads, baubles, golden sparkly stuff etc. Wonderful, until an hour later the 250 light set (that's right, the new ones) proceeded to give up. Of course they were the "bottom" layer, there was no way to get them off without dismantling the lot. Tonight I managed to get the original 120 light set to work (found the dodgy bulb, then another hour trying to find a replacement) so I stripped the tree down, changed lights and redecorated. Very pleased with the result, but I do need to get some more lights for next year. My motto is "never too many lights at Christmas".

Just had a strange thought ref the Nuclear posting - I have more lights on my tree than the UK has nuclear bombs. Not sure what that means or even why it is relevant, but it was a strange thought.

Ashes - Final day at Adelaide

In the words of Victor Meldrew "I don't believe it". How did they throw that away? I went to bed thinking that all they needed to do was keep on batting. It was never going to be a win for England but a draw would have been fine, would have meant we were moving in the right direction. Wake up to find Australia in with a ridiculously low target. I still blame Giles, if he hadn't dropped Ponting in the first innings this would have been a completely different story. The Aussies can't be given even a glimmer of light, they will stick their size 20 boots in the crack and force it open. In addition this dismal collapse means that Flintoff has had to bowl again and that won't have helped his ankle. Hard to see how we can get this going now.

Now we have a lot of Aussies at work. T.., my equine partner in crime (that is, he is the equine product manager and I am the equine vet, not that we are both horses), is one of them. And he gloated today. In fact he came in wearing an Aussie cricket shirt. So we now have a bet (and I am writing this here and now so neither of us can back down). If England lose all the test matches then I will have to wear the Aussie cricket shirt but if we win one, that's right just one, then he will wear an England cricket shirt.

Wait for the photo!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dinner


"A" did well at swimming this evening and received a medal (not quite sure why, but she did something good). As a reward she was treated to fish and chips. Of course "J" had to join her, couldn't let the little girl eat them all by herself could she. When I got home no-one else needed food. So I had a Stagg chilli, the Dynamite Hot flavour. Doesn't sound wonderful does it. But usually I do the cooking, see what I can rustle up - chicken and banana curry, beef and broccolli with sesame seeds, chicken and sweetcorn pie, fish in beer batter etc - and it is surprisingly nice to have a night off. Chilli out of a can might be incredibly basic, but every so often basic is nice.

Going Nuclear

I was never a member of CND, Greenpeace yes as I felt we were destroying our environment, but not CND. Nuclear weapons as a deterrent seemed to make sense. Not so sure now. When would you ever condone the use of nuclear weapons? Once it gets to that stage it is too late. If someone lets loose a nuclear bomb is there really any value in sending one back? We would all be dead anyway. And would it deter terrorists or rogue nations, those in powerare not driven by logic in those situations so it is hardly going to help. Then look at what we seem to have decided to do. Oh yes, we will cut back. Instead of 200 bombs we will have 160, and we might cut our subs from 4 to 3. Percentage-wise it might sound great, 20% and 25%, but that's just statistics (as is so much with Labour, stat fluff). In reality there is really no significant difference in those numbers, the amount of damage done by 160 bombs is unthinkable.

Ashes - Day 4

As this match in Adelaide draws steadily towards a draw, please can someone tell arne that he is a bowler not a batsman. His 43 is a good score, and he seems to be making a habit of getting good scores against England. Not a thrilling day, Australia scoring even slower than Englansd did (and maybe some of that Aussie press should issue a few apologies). Of serious concern is the condition of Flintoff, sporting an ankle injury that can be ill-afforded. Strauss is a good captain if needed but he can't equal Flintoff, a man who seems to know how to lead from the front.

Mornington Crescent

Doesn't matter how bad things are, Mornington Crescent will always make the world better.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pinochet

It is strange looking at Pinochet in the news at the moment. Difficult to imagine that this man was a dictator. He looks so innocent, like a kindly old uncle. Yet he is a man with a horendous history, and many human rights abuses can be laid at his feet. During his reign over 3000 people disappeared. It is hard to know whether it is his actions or the backing of the US government that is the most shocking. I suspect the US government and their role is the biggest crime. The country that prides itself on its constitution has managed to back a lot of places where a constitution is the last thing you can expect to hear of. And it hasn't changed much.

The news from Nicaragua is as strange. How does Ortega manage to get elected back in? In the late 80's Nicaragua was the hot topic of Greenbelt, almost every seminar talked about what was happening, the oppression, the actions of the Sandinistas, the actions of the contras, and again the actions of the US (wherever there is trouble, there is the US). I supported the Sandinistas back then, I was going through a definite "red" phase of politics, and it seemed to me that the US was more about oppression than any other political group. I think there is little question that the majority of the contras were puppets for the US. But attrocities occurred on both sides and massacres were not uncommon. It is hard to know why the Sandinistas lost the election in the end, unpopular becuase of their own actions, because of their failure to make an economy work, or because of the US interference. Doubtful that anyone will know for sure. But Ortega coming back now indicates an interesting change of heart for many and raises interesting questions on how they will progress in the future.

Christmas deccies

While I was out at Ikea, other things were happening at home. Christmas has arrived and the decorations have gone up. I got home to find that, not only had the house been decorated, but "A" was decorated as well. What an exciting day she had.

England vs Australia Ashes

This match remains under control for England, but only just. And it so nearly could have been different. Ponting is the run machine for the Aussies, keep him under the cosh and England have a chance. And while Ponting was in the thirties the chance came - but Giles dropped it. Opportunities don't come often against Australia, and definitely not against Ponting and he went on to capitalise on the error. Dinally out after another century (and a bit) but the damage was done. It doesn't knock England out, but it takes away the main advantage, and a draw looks increasingly likely.

Ikea

Have you ever been shopping in Ikea. Today was my third visit in approximately ten days. Not the best of experiences. I like the things in Ikea, and they are definitely a good price, but the actually shopping bit is just hell. First you have to fight the masses to see what you want. Then when you have found it you need to get a reference number for the aisle and location. Finally you get to the aisle and location and, if you are lucky, you get to pick up what you want. The first visit failed because we got as far as the location and found it was out of stock. The next step is to steer a heavy and unballanced trolley, which is too small for the boxes you have loaded on, through the check-out. Then load the car. Second trip failed because we found we couldn't fit everything in and take "A" home. I did think about leaving her at Ikea, then I thought of strapping her to the boxes, but neither option seemed particularly good. So we took everything back in to the store. Today I went by myself to ensure plenty of space in the car. Went to Nottingham rather than Milton Keynes. Found what I wanted, bought it, then discovered that they don't let trolleys into the car park. And the table I had bought didn't fit into the trolley lock-ups. So I had to leave all my things, go to the car and drive back to the pick-up point. Luckily no-one walked off with my furniture (in reality I suppose it is difficult to walk off with a dining table, a coffee table and four chairs).

When

Was it yesterday
The day before
When it happened
Was there a time
A before, an after
A path taken
Decision made?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

School Fete

A busy day in order to get to the school fete today. First took "A" to ballet where she had a great time as usual. At least I assume she did, she came out happy, but the problem with children is that they seem incredibly reticent to tell parents exactly what they have been up to. Then in to town so I could have a hair cut and "A" could find a grey top and trousers as she is a donkey in the school show in a few weeks time. Stopped and had a chinese lunch. Very nice buffet, we all like chinese. "A" didn't try the banana fritters but she had got distracted by the Midget Gems that were on offer.
Then off to the fete. "J" had baked a cake (and was very pleased to see it had been sold when we got there). So many people, it's only a primary school, it is only designed for little people, rather a crush. Not a lot of luck on the tombola, obviously "A" has got "J"s genes. We queued for Santa and saw him in his grotto (any other time of year and the police would be interested in this whole set up). Anyway "A" was given a present. Then she got a penguin tatoo (and before I get into trouble for cruelty, it was only a wash on one). Ended up with a bit more chocolate than is probably good, but no tears when we said no more. Actually thinking back, maybe she hadn't had that much, a santa on a stick and a small tree decoration. Sometimes wonder if we are a bit strict. She was also very good about the fact she didn't win anything. Seemed to all go very well, and the money raised is going to refurbishing the school library (discovered that the teachers have a book club, which I think gives the children an excellent message). Only 14 more years of supporting schools to go.

Ballet Girls

Ballet,
The graceful art,
Flowing
And mystery,
Plie and points.

Four year olds,
Little grace,
No swans.
The only mystery
How they make so much noise.

But their eyes,
Learning,
Achievements.
And for that time
They fly.

Sport - Looking Up

Thought I would get this one in while I can. It is bound to go wrong but, for now, sport is good.


Cricket - well done Collingwood and Pietersen. A record 310 run fourth wicket stand between the two of them. No wonder they are both smiling. Collingwood, who seems to have a knack for falling just short of a century, gets 206. Pietersen, always a good player gets 158. A number of records broken. Aussies reeling.



On rugby side - Cardiff 31 London Irish 7. That gets them into the semi-finals of the EDF Energy Cup. An early scare but Cardiff got back on top to get a convincing victory.

Whisper

If many voices
Whisper
Would it become
A shout

Friday, December 01, 2006

Freezing Glass

My nose pressed against the window
Frost melting around my breath
I watch you
Move from room to room
But
One hundred miles away

I want to touch your silken skin
To feel your subtle touch
I reach out
My hand towards you
Met
By freezing glass

Then I see another join
Wet from a shower
He enters
I know him
He took your heart
And I turn
To leave footprints in the snow

Thank You

I do owe my thanks to a couple of people today.

One supported me and backed me when others could have blamed me. She made me realise that I hadn't completely misunderstood the situation. That we have both thought something different was happening. That sheer incompetance on my part wasn't just annoying people. In fact I hadn't demonstrated incompetance. And she backed my decisions at the moment that tough choices were needed.

The other sat me down and talked. Talked about where I am and where I could be. Let me know the impression I made, the feelings people had for me and, hard to admit, that some people, people whose opinion I value highly, also thought well of me. This is someone who I trust, and on more than one occasion I have done well to listen to. Someone who is incredibly open and who I believe will never let politics get in the way. And someone who is very busy but can always find time.

Both those ladies, I say thank you. A really deep felt thank you. Today was a good day, but it was a good day because of you.

Holiday

I have to sell some holiday. I just have too much left this year. I am able to carry some days across but that still leaves me with some. And it really annoys me. Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful that my employers let me sell holiday back to them, it is an excellent idea. It's just something I have tried to avoid for years. The reason I don't want to do it is because I don't want Gordon Brown getting yet more of my money. It seems completely wrong that I can be taxed on money that is my holiday money. After all I don't see Gordon coming along and pushing me off my deck chair on the beach for 2 out of 5 days (not that I go for holidays on the beach but it wouldn't sound quite the same if I referred to him pushing me out of a museum). Holidays are an entitlement, so the fact that I have been unable to fit enough in this year shouldn't mean more money gets taken from me. Doesn't seem fair.