Wednesday 30 April 2003

Joined Costco

Joined Costco today. They have a store near Reading that opened about a year ago. It was like getting reacquainted with a long lost friend as we used to go to one often when we lived in Vancouver. The layout is still the same old formula and the prices certainly good - especially for food. And finally, proper pizza! Thick ones with lots on it and not the anemic things they try to sell everywhere else in the UK. But alas, no maple syrup...

(Addendum 3rd May: Went shopping at Costco and found the maple syrup! Two happy Canadians! :-)

Tuesday 29 April 2003

R* Starts Brownies

R* started brownies today and really enjoyed it. "It was brill" she says, "we played games, sang songs and other things". "I knew two other friends there already." "It only seemed like I was there for a minute before I had to come home"

Monday 28 April 2003

Monday, Monday

Rained today. Started with my regular routine. Took R* to school. Had breakfast. And then had nowhere to go. Very strange feeling. It's hard to shake this feeling of being in wrong place at the wrong time. Got in the way of the cleaner trying to clean our house (once a week). Went back to bed; that didn't help as the cleaner wanted me out. Hmmmm. Our cleaner is a character I'll have to tell you about later. So I worked on my computer which felt more like the usual thing I do.

Had a leaving party last Friday. Jenny surprised me by decorating the house and cooking a great meal for about a dozen colleagues that came over. She's great. We went to bed at four in the morning and nothing much got done on Saturday.

Song Of The Salesman

Ever hear a song on a TV ad you really like it but have no idea what it is? That happened to me tonight with the Ford Fiesta ad and Jenny found it for me after discovering the songofthesalesman UK website. Turned out to be "Walk'in On The Sun" by Smash Mouth (from the "Fush Yu Mang" CD). I used Kazaa Lite to then download the MP3 and listen to the full song and some of their others as well. I'll definitely have to go buy the album since I still prefer CD over MP3.

I also find now that I can just watch MTV for a bit to find some good tunes and then use Kazaa Lite to check out other tunes on the same CD. It's a great way to "try before you buy".

Sunday 27 April 2003

I've been googled

Hey cool. I've been googled. If you type "brain noodles" in google it finds this website. So I guess that makes my internet presence official! The first external link to this site has gone up at Microsoft Watch in their list of Microsoft Bloggers. I guess I better put some reasonable meta tags in my pages. I just checked and Yahoo can find me as well but MSN doesn't. I wouldn't be surprised if I get listed in health food or cooking searches at some point :-)

I get a really good statistic report from my ISP. I've had 127 unique visitors so far resulting in 2159 hits. Not sure how somone in Brazil, Finland, Ireland or the Netherlands found out about the site.  Hey, thanks to those who have left comments or sent me emails.

Friday 25 April 2003

My Daughter Discovers Capitalism

So R* asked me the other day how I earned money when I was a boy. I proceeded to explain about recycling bottles, selling berries and doing a paper route all for the sake of some spending money. I told her about selling girl guide cookies and that being a cute little girl, she could sell anything. Something clicked.

Today she hounded Jenny to help her make chocolate chip cookies until twenty were baked and sure enough she went and sold them! Sold 10 to one neighbour, 4 to another and 5 to yet another. At 10p a cookie (biscuits in England) she made herself £1.90. Didn't have the heart to factor in cost of ingredients and no I don't know what happened to the last cookie but I can make a good guess!

Tuesday 22 April 2003

Paul McCartney Concert

Went to the Paul McCartney concert last night at Earls Court. Here's a detailed tour write-up. It was excellent from the opening "Hello Goodbye" to the end "Sgt Pepper/The End". Ok maybe there were a few songs I didn't care for - pretty much anything after he did "Band On The Run" with the exception of "Live and Let Die" which had an indoor fireworks climax. Superb concert. This is the first tour he's ever performed the Sgt Pepper songs live. It's just amazing the catalogue of songs he has to draw upon and he sang for 2 3/4 hours straight with no breaks. The songs he did are the same as on the "Back in the World" CD. Got to pick it up.

Sunday 20 April 2003

Easter Sunday BBQ

Hosted our first BBQ of the year to celebrate Easter Sunday with family and friends. All went well. Yolanda and Jenny cooked a fantastic spread. I didn't burn anything (not much anyway!). Broke out the champagne. Had an Easter egg hunt in the garden for the kids. Even the weather was better than expected - warm enough to sit outside. My cousin offered to swap golf lessons for computer lessons. Wouldn't mind learning but I don't think I've got THAT much time...

Z Communications

Todays cool website - "The spirit of resistance lives". Particularly like ZNet "a community of people committed to social change" and... 

"ZNet offers this Global Economics Crisis site as a source for understanding global economics and trade issues and particularly in preparation for ongoing demonstrations about economic justice."

Also check out their Politically Special Quotations. As usual my favourites are from Noam Chomsky such as:

The beauty of the democratic systems of thought control, as contrasted with their clumsy totalitarian counterparts, is that they operate by subtly establishing on a voluntary basis--aided by the force of nationalism and media control by substantial interests--presuppositions that set the limits of debate, rather than by imposing beliefs with a bludgeon. Then let the debate rage; the more lively and vigorous it is, the better the propaganda system is served, since the presuppositions (U.S. benevolence, lack of rational imperial goals, defensive posture, etc.) are more firmly established. Those who do not accept the fundamental principles of state propaganda are simply excluded from the debate (or if noticed, dismissed as "emotional," "irresponsible," etc.).


There are a vast number of people who are uninformed and heavily propagandized, but fundamentally decent. The propaganda that inundates them is effective when unchallenged, but much of it only goes skin deep. If they can be brought to raise questions and apply their decent instincts and basic intelligence, many people quickly escape the confines of the doctrinal system and are willing to do something to help others who are really suffering and oppressed. This is naturally less true of the better-educated and ‘more sophisticated’ (that is, more effectively indoctrinated) groups who are both the agents, and often the most deluded victims of the propaganda system.

and many many more...

Saturday 19 April 2003

Castle Combe Track Day

Had a fantastic day at my first Track Day. I wrote it up as an article since it got too long as just a weblog post. Great fun and worth doing again!

Porsche Track Day

Got to race my Porsche on a race track today (Easter Saturday, 2003). Very cool. Or maybe the right term is "wicked!". The track day was organised by the Porsche Club Great Britian and this is the first time I've ever attended an event like this.


Got up at the ungodly hour of 6am and out of the house by 7am so I could shoot down to Castle Combe and be there by 8am. Signed in waiving all my rights to sue the organisers. Also decided I was going to run on the track with no car insurance (yes I was nervous about that but a calculated risk). Rented a crash helmet and arranged for tuition with an instructor. Then I went to get my car scrutinized for noise.


Horror of horrors I failed the test with the car weighing in at 102.8 decibels at 4500RPM. Arrgghhh! Was told to go run around in the car and warm the engine up some more. Did that. I doubt the little villages I passed through really appreciated a sports car whining around in 2nd gear at 8:30am! Got back and realized I was missing the track briefing so I caught the tailend of that and then had to go run around with the car *again* to warm it up a second time! More grumpy villagers. Sat in line for the scrutiny test with the engine revving at 2000RPM and finally got to the front frantically thinking how I could avoid being sent away losing my track fees. Luck was with me. They let me go with a reading of 100.6 decibels. Phew!


It was quite daunting being in the line-up surrounded by about forty other  exotic 911's - 4S, RS, Turbo's, etc. They let six cars onto the track at a time for about 15 minutes each go. After your turn, you rejoin the back of the queue and wait about an hour for another go.


My turn came up quickly an instructor jumped in and we were off. Sure glad I had someone there to tell me exactly what to do and keep out of trouble. Quite a few cars passed us as I gingerly got my speed up. The car was very grippy and I wasn't anywhere near sliding it. It also has monster brakes and you really start appreciating it.


(the other day I was demonstrating the brakes to someone and I braked so hard that I swear I was left dizzy for a few seconds)


After this first turn I was chatting to another guy who owns the same Porsche as me and I found out the instructor happens to be John Bussell, a professional race car driver and three time winner of the British Porsche Open Championship. He also strongly suggested that next time, I should let him drive and see what it should really feel like.


So I paid for another session with John but he was busy and  I had to go by myself. Talked myself through everything I learned in the first session but there is just *so much* to remember! Did all right. Only got passed by other cars once or twice and the car threw only a wobbly once but I kept control and didn't spin it. A Porsche will tell you very quickly if it doesn't like you for doing something stupid.


The next session I had was with John again and I got him to drive a few laps before we swapped. It was absolutely fantastic having a pro race car driver show me what my car could really do. Wow! And he said he kept in quite gentle to go easy on my tires. Great blowing off a BMW M3 that was also on the track. Very smooth and fast but still only about 120mph on the straight which was plenty as the car didn't feel very stable. A bit of sliding here and there but not much. Unfortunately he informed me my shock absorbers were shot and needed replacing to get the car into top shape. That was why the car felt unstable sometimes. Something for my next service I guess.


I was learning lots so I paid for yet another round of instruction. On my forth time out I was getting the hang of it much better. One car passed us. I was getting in the right position at the right time and getting the speed right - eerrrr, well, most of the time! Still found the chicane quite troubling but I was definitely getting faster and the car was responding with a bit of slipping here and there. It's amazing how hard you can push the car and still the grip is there. Still don't know where the limit is.


I drove the fifth and last session by myself. I was very self-conscious that I was not going to get overconfident and blow it - a common mistake. I made a few mistakes over the course of several laps but nothing disgraceful and no one passed me. It was getting less nerve-wracking and a lot more fun hammering around the race circuit now that I knew the right brake points, turn points, apex's and power-on lines. Awesome.


So I calculate that I had about 70 minutes of track time over the course of the day covering about 80 miles at high speed. Also met and chatted with four other people attending the event. The crowd is mostly middle age men and older. A few women who look like they're there to humour their spouse. Many seem to keep their cars as weekend toys so there's obviously quite a bit of money floating about. Quite a good place to network for venture capital and easy to strike up a conversation!


It was certainly great to get lessons from John Burrell. Turns out that John offers private instruction. Hmmm, sure would be great to spend a day with him learning to drive a Porsche well. Hold that thought!


Addendum (May 5th)


Here's a picture of my car:





It's a 1997 Porsche 993 Carrera 2 Targa. You can find specs for it here or even more at p-car.

Friday 18 April 2003

Morbid Questions

For several weeks now our daughter has been posing rather morbid questions to us out of the blue:

Would you rather:

    • be trampled by elephants or starve to death?

    • be eaten by a lion or burn to death?

    • be eaten by a lion or slowly eaten by rats?

    • be eaten by a lion or thrown in a pool of crocodiles?

    • drown in water or be eaten by a shark?

    • go to war and die or get your head chopped off?

    • get killed by a sword or get killed by a gun?

    • burn to death or choke to death?

    • be slowly eaten by rats or burn to death?

I think she's trying to figure out the worse way to die. I vote for burning to death although it's a close call with slowly being eaten by rats so I refused to answer the last one!

Thursday 17 April 2003

Helping Monsanto

Sad but true. Microsoft technology helping one of the most evil companies in the world. Just do a google search for Monsanto and evil. No, I don't like genetically modified food thank you very much.

Blokes Only

A very very british site. Definitely guys only. The agony Uncle is quite funny and extremely sexist. Some very good links to gadgets and other guy oriented things.

Tuesday 15 April 2003

Urban Garden Design Show

Jenny went to the Urban Gardens Show in London last weekend and seemed to have a great time poking about and attending seminars - even had a celebrity cooking theatre. I took the kids to the Look Out Discovery Center at Bracknell Forest - it's one of their favourite places.

On Sunday we took a family walk at Cliveden to see whether the bluebells had come out. There's a great walk you can do in the woodlands on a ridge above the Thames river. Very pretty and we only just discovered it!

Story-centered curriculum

Ran across this abstract of a talk by Roger Shank of Carnegie Mellon University. Thought it was interesting food for thought...

In our culture we have a conception of an Educated Mind that comes from what one might call the tyranny of the academic elite. Although the academic elite love to read and teach and cite scholars like Plato, Plato actually thought that an educated mind was one that could get into a good argument and defend a point of view. Instead, facts, formulas, and test scores are the currency of modern education We are in a major crisis in education in this country that few understand. Tests have begun to dominate education. But no one asks: "Why is it reasonable to teach what we test?" or "How do people learn what they will need to know how to do?"

Aristotle, Galileo, Einstein, Dewey, to name a few, have all noted that people learn by doing, not by listening. Experience is what matters and schooling must provide experiences. Learning is about practice. School needs to provide the right things for students to practice. School has been out of touch with what students need for a long time. "I'm sure the reason such young nitwits are produced in our schools is because they have no contact with anything of any use in everyday life." Petronius (d. circa 66 AD) The Satyricon The current K-12 curriculum was designed in 1892 by the President of Harvard and some colleagues. They were not concerned with producing people who could function well in the world of work. They had other issues about scholarship and academia that might have been germane to those who went to Harvard in 1892, but are of little relevance now. We need to ask hard questions about what students should be learning and how technology can help?

CMU is providing the opportunity to try out new educational ideas at its Silicon Valley campus. At CMU West all degree programs are available on line as well in a form that is identical with the on campus version. At CMU West there are no classes, no tests, and no lectures or reading (except just in time.) For this reason it is possible for students who are located far away from campus to get the same first rate education that is provided on campus. In fact, many of our on campus students only work on line. We use an idea called web mentoring within in a story centered curriculum (SCC) meant to simulate a real work environment.

In the SCC, projects dominate learning, each leading to another within a cohesive year long story. Students do not take courses, they simply participate in projects meant to reflect the realities of the work place including an emphasis on teamwork, communication, and real world skills. To help students experience things that enable them to practice important skills we need to create situations for them that require those skills. The idea behind the story-centered curriculum (SCC) is that a student lives within a story. The curriculum is intended to teach the student how to do something for which the material to be learned is instrumental. While the student is engaged in a story that provides a variety of tasks for him or her to accomplish, the student has constant access to on line mentors who evaluates his work iteratively and provides pointers to material and suggestions on how to approach a problem.

The SCC will work in any complex learning environment as long as there are mentors available and realistic roles to learn. A great deal of work is required to build a realistic environment. This environment is entirely on the web. Mentors do the teaching one on one, on an as needed basis. Work is evaluated by mentors. What mentors don't do is stand up and talk, nor do they tell people how to do things before they try to do them. Instead they point students towards help (written or with tutors). CMU West currently offers masters degree programs, using the SCC in software engineering, e-business technology, learning sciences, networking and security, and management of software development. We also offer a pre-masters program meant to get students ready to enter a masters program in computer science.

More Anti-war ridicule

Clever duet by Bush and Blair

Saturday 12 April 2003

The Unfortunate Case of Simon Kirby

Poor Mr Kirby was badly ripped off by Zurich/Allied Dunbar. He invested in one of their pension schemes and they took most of the money in the form of upfront "fees". Stunning. His website is an excellent protest site and the PowerPoint presentation he prepared for the CEO and board of directors is superb. Demonstrate the power of the Internet and the ideas behind cluetrain.

Clue Train

Very interesting discourse on "markets as conversations". Almost the antithesis of the branded corporate world described in Naomi Klein's "No Logo". It frames how blogging might evolve and the role it might play.

I recently discovered the blogging community within Microsoft (http://blog) if you're internal and there are of course public blogs up on There's also an internal email discussion alias on blogging with people discussing where it might go. I haven't looked into the BlogX code yet that Chris Anderson has written and that's getting use.

One simple way I explaing blogging is that with newsgroups, we order things "by topic, by thread, by time, by person" while with blogging you order "by person, by topic, by time" which allows you to maintain the context of the person doing the posts. Of course the core aspect of blogging is the community and cross-commeting it forms. I haven't really dealved into that yet. Got to decide on a good RSS reader first. Heard that SharpReader by Luke Hutteman is really good.

Kids Review

R* posted a review of "James and the Giant Peach". I'll send you the link if you want to see it but I can't post it here.

Wednesday 9 April 2003

Going Public

I went public with my resignation yesterday at our team meeting. Surprised everyone with the annoucement and we all then went to the pub. I'll sorely miss being part of a technical team. Told my parents that evening. News is spreading. After churning over this decision for so long I'm now feeling much more relaxed. Decision is made and there's no going back.


The value proposition of this website is "To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves."

Open Source Community on Manufacturing Knowledge

Interesting site. "The Oscomak project will foster a community in which many interested individuals will contribute to the creation of a distributed global repository of manufacturing knowledge about past, present and future processes, materials, and products."

"The project’s ultimate long-term goal will be to generate a repository of knowledge that will support the design and creation of space settlements."

Wow. That's ambitious.

Tuesday 8 April 2003


Someone pointed out this site to me. You can order numerous things to eat which many would not consider to be edible - chocolate covered scorpions, smoked rattlesnake, canned water bugs, etc. The website has superb graphics but unfortunately it's *very* slow.

Sunday 6 April 2003

Porsche Club Meeting

I'm a member of the Porsche Club of Great Britain. Went to a local regional meeting down at the pub today. It's a very casual affair where owners just get together and have a beer and a chat. In the parking lot were about twenty Porsches of various models old and new. I still think the 993 looks the best. Had a great chat with a fellow who owned a purple 993 Carrera 4S. Turns out he's also an IT Consultant and he was born in Malaysia. Lots of talk about! Got a bit of advice and had a nice time. Plan to go again. I'll post a blurb about my 993 Targa at some point.

Quiz Night

Attended a great British instituition tonight - Quiz Night at the local junior school. Out of 14 tables, ours came in 3rd to last after 10 rounds of 10 questions. Oh well. I was never that good at Trivia Pursuit either. Certainly, there is a great love in British culture for general knowledge - or should that be obscure knowledge! Good fun anyway especially as they have an open bar.

This afternoon we dropped by the Thames Valley Falconry Centre I mentioned earlier. Cool. They demonstrated flying the birds. R* now wants a small owl of her very own. She also wants to be Harry Potter...

Esso leads George Bush by the nose

Clever. There's some really good anti-war media out there.


Ha. Finally caught one of them. Always knew they were running around our planet....

China Serves As Dump Site For Computers

Sad. So software is a dirty industry after all and Microsoft contributes by targeting only the latest spec machines.

Thursday 3 April 2003

Juicy News

My wife, Jenny, just bought a juicing machine for us after a few days of intense research on the Internet. She finally decided on  the Green Star GS-3000 and minutes ago we tried out our first juice - apple, carrot and celery. Seems like a pretty good product - very good yield, dry pulp and not too noisy. Cleaning doesn't seem too difficult but took longer than actually making the juice. The machine has twin gears and can even juice leafy vegetables. It can also make nut butter, pasta noodles and turns frozen fruit into slushes. That will be great this summer. Hopefully it won't get added to the appliance graveyard!