Monday 30 June 2003

Street Urchins

Both kids have abandoned wearing PJ's to sleep in for the time being. Instead, they've both acquired old T-shirts of mine and keep on trying to get more. Of course, they're way too big. They look like medieval street urchins running around in them but they really like it. Luckily, I have a big supply of old T-shirts thanks to the computer industry!

Sunday 29 June 2003

Loon Fung

Finally found a new Chinese cash 'n' carry which is the closest to our place yet - still about 40 minutes. Loon Fung is a huge store just off the A40 at Hangar Lane (take first exit if coming from the west and then turn left at Sainsbury/B&Q). It bills itself as the largest Chinese grocery supplier in the UK. It also has a restaurant so we went there for dim sum (average) and then did a massive shop. Treated ourselves to some durian, mangosteen, coconut juice, roast duck, etc. Even got some Chinese sausages imported from Vancouver (Wing Wing Co Ltd on East Hastings no less). Gave the kids some "Salted Cumquat Liquoriced" which Jenny used to get as a kid and our kids thought it was disgusting. I totally agree with them! 

Artemis Fowl: The Artic Incident

Jenny and I recently finished listening to the audio cassettes of this book. It's the second book in the series again read aloud by Nathaneil Parker who is excellent at doing a variety of voices. Good but not as good as the first book. It's a simple crime adventure story using the same characters. Fun and enjoyable but don't expect too much.  Meanwhile, I've started reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Mango Season in the UK

Just in case you didn't know, it's currently mango season in the UK. Drop by an Indian grocery shop and you'll find boxes and boxes of mango's for a very good price. They're from Pakistan and usually very good. It only lasts about four weeks so don't wait.

Summer Fayre

Today we went to R*'s Schools' Summer Fayre. (yes, takes a while to get used to them spelling it fayre rather than fair just like tire is tyre here). The kids loved it. We gave them some money and they ran off and spent it on all the little amusements - donkey ride, tambola, bouncy castle, etc. We spent most of our time picking over the second hand toys and books. Jenny did a shift manning the toy tables and selling items. There was a huge amount of stuff and all of it going for a song. We used this event ourselves to clear out a whole lot of old toys that the kids had outgrown. Jenny was rather distressed at how cheap it was sold for given that we had paid full retail for most of it. Even then, much of it didn't get sold and we left it to get hauled away for free to a charity shop. In the UK, it's definitely the cheapest way to pick up toys for young children.

Saturday 28 June 2003

Links and Archives

In case you haven't noticed, I've added a page of links to people I know who have websites. If you I know you and you have a website, let me know and I'll add it. I've also provided links to monthly archives in the Software Adventures and The Good Life weblogs. I'll add one soon to the Brain Noodles weblog but there's a technical issue involved that you don't want to know about.

Recording Engineer Job

I let it slip out that I'm interested in recording so I've been invited to get the East Berkshire Youth Orchestra recorded and a CD printed. Only problem is they have their pre-tour gig on July 12 and then they're off to France and Germany. They want to sell the CD while touring so that leaves two weeks to see whether it can be done! Argghh!! I don't see how we can pull this off but it's worth a shot. Maybe we can get a local studio involved. I'm interested in recording the students over the next year. Some of them are really quite good.

Tina and the Taxi Drivers

We played our second gig tonight at the Berkshire Youth Musicians Trust Music Marathon. It's a very small casual affair. The kids will be playing for 24hrs and we did a short set starting at 10pm. Went ok - not as much pressure as before. We're now bored with the songs we've learned and really need to start working on a new set.


I ordered a diving mask today with prescriptive lenses. That's why I went and got an eye test. I've signed up for an intense diving course with DiveStyle in August and we're hoping to go to the Red Sea for a diving trip around October. Right now I'm researching the equipment we should buy (wet suits) and where exactly we should go and who to book with. If you've got any opinions, I'd love to hear them!

Eye Test

Had an eye test today and was very pleased to find out my eye sight has actually improved over the last few years! I've ordered daily disposable contact lenses which will be so much better than glasses when we're out and about doing our various activities. I always been told my astigmatism prevented me using contacts but apparently not with the ones I'm getting.

Horsing Around #4

Had Mulberry again today! She wasn't so bad provided you stay away from her mouth. Still working on the rising trot trying it without stirrups once and trying it without reins another time. Now also doing stretches to "open out the hips". It hurts but getting better. Jenny had a new horse, Peco but it was rather large for her legs to get around.

Thursday 26 June 2003

Shield Making

We've been making medieval sheilds for the kids. We started with white cardboard and I cut them to the right shape. They painted them. Jenny finished them off with gold emblems. They look quite good so they both took them to school today to show them off. Now they want swords! Hmmm. That will only end in tears so they have to make swords themselves out of paper. Even then, we've got to stop them stabbing each other in the head!

Delamar Academy

Went down to London to visit the Delamar Academy Open House today. Kind of a long story but basically, I've always been kind of interested in the way they can make-up someone into aliens and monsters in shows. So a few weeks ago I was cruising around the net reading about the latex foam they use to do this and found this great site called Monster Makers. Essentially, it's a shop that will provide you with everything you need to do it yourself; the same stuff they use in Hollywood. But it seems trickier than reading a book and following instructions so I said to myself, "self, wouldn't it be cool to go on a monster making course". So I started looking and lo and behold, I found the Delamar Academy Make-up School. They have a week long workshop on how to make casualties (burns, cuts, stabs, bruises, etc). They will also have a two week workshop on prosthetics which teaches you how to use that foam latex. In fact, in one year you can get trained to be a professional make-up artist! Now there's an interesting alternative career! I think it would be a riot to do something like this just for fun and then dress the kids next Halloween! I very tempted by the casuality workshop. So I went to the open house to check it out and see the portfolio's of the students. Yep, looks fun.

BBC: How to make a perfect cuppa

It's official. You put the milk in first and then the tea. I've always done it the wrong way.

Dance Lessons #1

As part of getting back to dancing, I've been wanting to have refresher lessons of all the modern and latin ballroom stuff we used to know. Today we had our first private lesson with Suzanne Lear at a local church hall. She's a dance teacher I found through the Internet like everything else I find. The handy thing is that we can take R* and K* with us rather than find babysitting. We kind of hope that by watching us, they might get interested in dancing.

The lesson went well. We showed her some of what we remembered (embarrasing how little) and then proceeded to work on Social Foxtrot, Quickstep and Slow Foxtrot. The body remembers better than the mind. A lot of "Oh yeah! We've done that before!". Don't think it will take too long to get a lot of it back.

Mystery Week

Jenny has put a mysterious entry into our calender "Ian busy for whole week" from July 14th through to the 18th and refuses to explain it to me. She just wants to make sure I don't book anything that week. No doubt this is a birthday surprise. I have no idea what it is and she won't give clues yet.

Wednesday 25 June 2003

BBC: Five million mark for music service

Interesting to see that the Apple iTunes Music Store is doing so well at 99 cents per song. Maybe the music industry isn't dead but certainly the way it does business is going to have to change. Piracy and file swapping has it bleeding heavily. Looking forward to seeing the Windows version from Apple. I'm sure there are few people in Microsoft kicking themselves for not being first out with a similiar offering. It would be great to integrate it with Windows Media Player. I suspect they wanted to wait a bit and get it integrated into the new digital rights management software that's just making it's way into Windows.

A Complete Horlicks?

Can some kind soul explain what it means to describe something as "a complete Horlicks"? I know Horlicks is a drink but what does it mean as an adjective? I found the reference in this news article with the following quote:

He admitted the whole "dodgy dossier" affair was "a complete Horlicks".

School Gov' Lessons

Got a package today introducing me to how to be a school governor. Lots to learn about the procedures and process they follow. There's also some courses that I can go on that are provided free. More reading to do!

Harry Potter continued

Harry Potter is the favourite reading material at the moment around our house. Jenny has just finished the Goblet of Fire and the Order of the Phoenix in just a few days each! I've just finished listening to the Prisoner of Azkaban ahead of R* who has one more CD to listen to but it's quite scary for her. We'll have to find Goblet of Fire on CD for her next. I like to savour books like that by reading them slowly over long stretches of time in silence without any interruptions. I'm itching to start on Goblet of Fire now but I've got some other reading I need to do first. I'll probably take it on holiday.

Reading On The Toilet

So how many of you out there sit on the toilet and read? Well, I caught K* doing that today. He's only four and can't read yet but he diligently took his new Lego Fanclub magazine with him and sat on the toilet and looked through it slowly. Funny, never thought it would start this young!

Low Carb Diet

I've been reading lately about low carb diets. I heard about them sometime ago and read a little on the net before buying "Atkins for Life" from Costco. Makes a lot of sense to me - I've known that bakeries are evil for a long time - sugar and white flour are the big killers. The big controversy with Atkins is that he goes against the dominate low calorie/low fat diet and just restricts carbohydrates and uses ketosis. You can eat lots of protein and fat. If you read the book though, you'll find the diet is very balanced.

So I've been thinking about trying it and losing a bit of extra weight I can do without. I've been experimenting with having no-carb meals but I haven't gone all out yet. Still have to work out exactly what the diet entails but I know that sugar in my tea is out and of course pasta, rice and potatoes are out too.

Pet Peeve: Packaging

A large box arrived for me today. Inside the large box were air bags and a smaller box. The smaller box was hard to get open and the plastic very sharp. I finally extricated a small webcam and a CD. Most of the box was air. I really hate how much garbage all the packaging generates which I now have to dispose of. It's a complete waste and it's all just a marketing ploy to make the box look substantial and pretty as it sits on a shelf. And this happens over and over again with almost everything I buy. I fully support slapping an environment tax on manufacturers that insist on using excessive packaging. 

Horsing Around #3

Had my third horse riding lesson today. Jenny was well enough to have her second. I again had Cypress but unfortunately Jenny got Mulberry. Jenny didn't think Mulberry was so bad. I continued working on getting the rising trot correct. Quite tricky to get the right motion but it's getting better. Next week,we'll be working on getting the motion of my legs correct. The half hour goes by very quickly.

Tuesday 24 June 2003

Family First Aid

Jenny went on an all day family first aid course on Sunday called Family First Aid. She enjoyed it and said it was good. They crammed a lot in. She got to snog a dummy but I pointed out she does that every day. Now she can keep me alive while we wait for the ambulance.

Sunday 22 June 2003

BBC: Potter 'Is Fastest Selling Book Ever'

The Harry Potter phenomena continues. We were in Oxford today and saw lots of people sitting around reading it. Of course I'll get a copy as well but I haven't read the fourth book yet and we're still in the middle of listening to the third book so no great hurry. Amazing event though - it's broken all kinds of records for book selling and ecommerce. There have been 13 million copies printed and JK Rowling is set to make £30 million from it. It's simply amazing how she went from being nearly broke to being richer than the Queen. It's hard to imagine what it must be like having that many people reading what you're writing. The big question is "who dies?" and I sure hope someone doesn't spoil it for me before I get to read it.

A Day in Oxford

My friend Willy and his family are visiting from Vancouver and staying at our place this weekend. After much discussion over the numerous things that we could do we decided to spend the day in Oxford. We started at St Marys Church and the children climbed up the tower stairs to get a view of the town. Next we grabbed a picnic at the covered market which is a great place to explore if you have time but we didn't. Instead we went into the Botanical Gardens and had a relaxed picnic there under a tree and the kids ran amok. It was a beautiful hot sunny day. The garden was full of people reading their newly acquired Harry Potter books. Then we headed for the primary thing we had all agreed we wanted to do that day: punting. We rented two long shallow punting boats and Willy and I stood on the back of one each and made our foray into the busy river life pushing our boats along with a very long metal pole. Jenny and Iona (Willy's wife) also took their turns at the stern. Of course we all had plenty of minor collisions with other floating craft but that is pretty much the inevitable. The river is narrow and flows slowly through cool woods. Most of the boats are laiden with drink and people of pretty high spirits. If you're not doing the pushing, it's a very pleasant activity otherwise it's a good deal of work! We had a great time.

We ended the day as most days in the British summer might end. A drink in a local pub and then a trip out to a lovely country pub. In this case, The Bull And Butcher in Turville which I highly recommend. If you've visited us before, there's a good chance I've taken you out there.

Friday 20 June 2003

Horsing Around #2

Had my second horse riding lesson this morning. Unfortunately, Jenny wasn't up to it with her cold. The lesson went well. My horse was Cypress and she was much better than Mulberry. More sensitive. That's means you don't have to kick her much to move her forward. Not emotional. No biting. Cypress was also less bouncy and much more comfortable to ride when trotting. Maybe the tight underwear also helped! Started getting the knack of the rising trot - essentially you stand up in your seat every other "beat" of the horses gait and bounce up and down as you ride. I also learned to steer which was easy enough. By the end of the lesson I rode Cypress untethered around the arena doing a rising trot. Hey, this is pretty cool.

So walking is first gear. Trot is second gear. Canter is third gear and gallop is forth.

Thursday 19 June 2003

School Gov'

I've been invited to become a Community School Governor at R*'s school starting next September. I've accepted of course. I'm really quite looking forward to finding out how I can help and being part of a non-corporate organisation. More details in a few months.


Jenny is in bed nursing a cold today. It takes a lot to keep Jenny in bed so she's really zonked. Suffering with allergies makes it worse too.

Guardian: GM Pets

Just what I've been waiting to happen. Why stop at GM food? How about GM pets? It's a horrific idea but there's bound to be a market and where there's a market, there's bound to be a supplier...

Wednesday 18 June 2003

BBC: GM seeds 'spread by human activity'

Just say no to genetically modified foods. Yeah, I know the arguements for wonder foods but letting profit motivated companies play god can't be a good idea. This research goes further in showing that you can't have GM and non-GM co-existing. It's really disappointing how much the US and Canada accept GM foods with hardly a whimper. Go ahead and research it but not on my dinner plate.

BBC: N Korea issues nuclear warning

Anyone else think North Korea is just plain scary? Isolated, armed and poorly led. They're probably more nervous about the US than ever before.

Matrix Parody

A friend sent this link (thanks Joe) of a Matrix parody mpeg (6Mb). Very clever. If you like the movie, check it out.

Legoland Visit #3

Took K* to Legoland again today but when we got there we found the "Build & Test" room closed for school groups. I had one disappointed little boy on my hands but luckily there was still lots of other stuff to do. But I have it on good authority that *nothing* is as good as the "Build & Test" room.

Salsa Lesson #5

Tonight we had our fifth salsa lesson. Mostly a repeat of what we knew plus one new move. That's the problem with drop-in lessons; you often cover old material. But it's all beginning to flow somewhat better. Lots to improve on of course. Got a salsa CD now and downloaded a whole lot of salsa music using Kazaa so we can practice at home.

Tuesday 17 June 2003

Horse Riding Lesson #1

Jenny and I had our first horse riding lesson this morning. Went well. Of course, we started with basics and just managed to try the rising trot at the end. The sitting trot is not fun as you essentially just have to relax and absorb all the bouncing in the lower half of your body. You're at a definite disadvantage if you happen to have testicles; no wonder more women seem to be into horses! Tight underwear is definitely a good idea. The rising trot is better but is obviously going to require a lot of work from the thigh muscles. So for women, horse riding might be good for their sex life but for men, it's probably a form of contraception.

My horse was Mulberry and Mulberry, according to Judy my trainer, was in a bit of a strop. Not too good for one's confidence getting on a large animal with emotional problems but she seemed well behaved enough. She only tried to bite Judy once. Meanwhile, I learned there are multiple styles of horse control. Polo horses are taught much differently from classic style so what I learned at Ascot last week wasn't applicable. Horses in Australia and the Western USA are taught Western style which is closer to Polo than to classic style. This is all relevant if we ever do a horse riding holiday. Next lesson is Friday.

BBC: Poll suggests world hostile to US

Not a great surprise is it although you always have to take polls with a large chunk of salt. The show is on tonight at 9 on BBC2. One thing I really like about the UK is that you get a lot more decent debate in the media compared to the dribble you get in the US and Canada.

Sunday 15 June 2003

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

So we've started on a new spoken word CD series listening to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. We have now discovered just how effective this is for passing time on long car journeys. It's good for at least two hours. R* is addicted. I've read the book but my memory needs refreshing as I haven't read the book that comes after it yet. The series is 10 CD's long so that means we've got 6 more hours of driving we can do! :-)

Colchester History Fayre

Today we drove over to Colchester to see the History Fayre at Castle Park. It's a living history kind of fayre set primarily in the 15th to 16th century. It seems quite a lot of people are into historical re-enactment. There were maybe thirty or so medieval tents with either craft people, traders or just folks demonstrating what medieval life would have been like. Of course everyone dresses the part and many of the visitors too. We watched a puppet show, knights demonstrating sword fighting and a falconry display. I learned about the cittern. R* tried her hand at archery. Both kids tried out the "splat the rat" game. We had quite a few interesting conversations with the people there since everyone is pretty much by nature an amatuer historian and is there for the fun of it.  It was a nice day out.

The best thing about this kind of historical re-enactment is that it's a great way to interest children in history since they can be part of it rather than look at museum displays, ruins or watch TV. Here's a list of other historical events coming up.

Before leaving, Jenny purchased a dress pattern design book for 12th to 13th century costumes and some clothe as well. Some of us might be in costume next time!

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day, Dad! Yes, I'll phone too. Jenny and the kids made me cards and bought me a music CD each (I always like getting a new music CD). We've been out the rest of the day so no day of leisure for me.

Saturday 14 June 2003

BBC: Moore heads honours roll call

Interesting read of people receiving honours from the Queen. There were 509 in all and over half came from public nominations. Here's a description of the British honours system or even more detail at Debrett's. The more common honours were invented by King George V in 1917 to recognize non-combatants in World War I as the war dragged on. Within "The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire" are five classes:

Knights or Dames Grand Cross, (GBE)
Knights or Dames Commanders, (KBE or DBE)
Commanders, (CBE)
Officers, (OBE)
Members, (MBE)

There's a link to the full list and what they do. Nice to have this kind of recognition system. I wonder what other countries have similiar systems?

Lost Email

My web/email hosting company had a little accident and lost all our email accounts and mailing lists. I was one of the unlucky 10% that weren't recovered. Still some hope of a restore but it's not really a big deal. If you just happened to have sent email to me on Friday/Saturday, I might not have seen it. Unfortunately, Jenny hasn't checked her email for much longer so if you sent her anything in the last week, you should probably resend it.

Thursday 12 June 2003

Spanish Bit Riding School

Jenny and I signed up for horse riding lessons today! After trying out polo, I thought it might be fun to learn a bit about riding. First lesson is next Tuesday at the Spanish Bit Horse Riding School. They say you need about twelve lessons to get proficient. Looking forward to it!

Israel & The States

Found this interesting website detailing the relationship between Israel and the US. Includes a large Jewish encyclopedia. I'm much too ignorant of Jewish/Arab culture and issues given the importance of the conflict.

BBC: Egypt bans 'too religious' Matrix

Egypt has banned Matrix Reloaded because it may cause "crises" and "harm social peace". The press complained that it "reflects Zionist ideas, and promotes Jewish and Zionist beliefs."  On the one hand I appreciate the need for cultural sensitivity but this seems rather extreme. Too bad they named the city Zion in the movie.

Legoland Visit #2

Took K* to Legoland today. It was great; no line-ups and no crowds. Spent most of our time in the "Build & Test" room which is by far K*'s favourite place. It's a room with tables and lots of lego where you can build small cars. In the middle of the room are two racing ramps with a starting gate and finish line. You race up to six model cars and it tells you the finish time and speed of the winner. K* can spend hours at it and of course I can't help but get involved in the engineering challenge...

Wednesday 11 June 2003

The Matrix Reload

Went and saw The Matrix Reloaded last night. I would tend to agree with most of the reviews - it's still a fun movie if you like the genre but not as good as the first movie. Great fight scenes but they drag on a bit. Excellent effects. Not sure the erotica really works. Spectacular freeway car chase/crash scene. The plot gets stranger (spoiler). It's worth going to see and if you do, make sure you stay until the end of the credits as they show a trailer for the next movie. I hear X-Men 2 is better.

Tuesday 10 June 2003

Tripping In The Peak District

Friday morning (6 June 2003) saw us packing and loading up the MPV for our next short weekend trip. This time it was to the Peak District in Derbyshire. I was hoping it could all fit in the Porsche so the drive would be more fun but no such luck; there was simply too much stuff to take. K* packed a big box of lego. After stowing it away, I checked with Jenny to make sure she had sanctioned it and found out that she had thought that I had sanctioned it. Nope. But we let K* get his way and packed it anyway.

We left at 2:30 pulling R* out of school early and wound our way up north around Birmingham, Burton-on-Trent and Derby hoping not to get stuck in the Friday rush. Jenny had never been past Warwick so this was new territory for her. I've driven as far north as York for work trips. Our goal was Yeldersley farmhouse B&B just outside of Ashbourne which is on the southern outskirts of the Peak district.

The farm is also in the middle of nowhere. After leaving the main road, you drive for a few miles down a winding single track lane with high hedges on either side. You silently pray that no car is speeding the other way and about to crash into you. After only one panic stop, we arrived safely.

It had taken four hours to get there but the kids soon sprang into action. R* was thrilled to count nine cats wandering around outside the house. There were also two hundred dairy cows. However, we only stayed long enough to drop our bags and check in before heading out for dinner.

The landlady recommended The Knockerdown pub and it turned out be perfect. It's a family pub with ostriches, donkeys, fish and a rooster. They also have a large playground. Food was alright; certainly good value. And they served Marston Pedigree which is one of my favourite beers. No surpise they've won a few awards. It was a good place to lose the stress from the days drive. It was still daylight and sunny too. At this time of year, the sun doesn't set until quarter past nine.

We had a good nights sleep and started the next day at nine with a full English breakfast which Jenny just loves. We got on the road by 10:30 and meandered our way across the dales to Cromford. The countryside is indeed very picturesque in this region. Gentle rolling hills and small valleys. Copses of trees. Stone walls. All the elements of the heavily stereotyped English countryside. Unfortunately, this lovely countryside was also playing havoc with Jennys hay fever so she suffered quite a bit.

Cromford is home to the the first Awkwright Mill which is famous for being the first powered cotton spinning mill. In this case, it was water-powered and it began production in 1775. This mill and it's technology revolutionized the textile industry worldwide and was a significant milestone in the Industrial Revolution. It's still undergoing restoration but has a great sense of place. It also gave us a chance to shock R* with tales of child labour. We bought an autobiography of a childs account of his worklife which I'm looking forward to reading to her.

After the mill we headed to the National Tramway Museum which came with many recommendations. Here they've recreated a Victorian street with original components from all over the UK complete with shops. They've also assembled together old trams from all over the world which have been refurbished and are run along the street and up to a picturesque lookout point. As predicted, K* quite enjoyed this. We wandered around the museum, had a couple of rides, did a woodland walk and a stopped at the playground. Despite a lousy lunch, it's a pretty good place to visit.

Next we drove down to the Denby pottery factory which was a real treat for Jenny. They have a huge seconds store which she poked around in for a good hour and filled four bags with bowls and mugs. Unfortunately the line of Denby mugs that we currently have has been discontinued.

Time was getting on and we had an important dinner date so we drove home to rest and then got all dressed up. Unfortunately K* suffered a rebuff from a farm cat's very sharp claw before we left and needed a lot of consoling. We patched him up and he now understands cats a bit better. 

I had been warning the children for days that we were taking them to the most exclusive restaurant we've ever taken them yet and that their behaviour had to be top notch or they would suffer dire consequences.  We drove up to Callow Hall Country House Hotel and Restaurant and met up with our friends Gareth and Denise. Gareth is an ex-colleague of mine from Microsoft who grew up in Derby. Denise is a textile artist. The hotel is small and elegant; check the website for pictures. It's one of those places where you get seated in a lounge for drinks and you place your order from there. You then go into a fancy and very, very red dining room. The British love red dining rooms. Check the website pictures.

We all had a five course dinner and the children were great. A little moaning perhaps but very good manners and great patience given that we spent three hours there. K* befriended a young woman at another table and spent most of the evening chatting her up (Rachel - a nanny turned lawyer). She knows everything there is to know about us now and probably so do a lot of other guests given K* complete inability to speak quietly. Generally the food was very good but we were not overly impressed with the main courses.

The next day, we finished another full English breakfast and then checked out. Gareth and Denise arrived to join us on a little jaunt around the area.

We drove up to Buxton getting into the heart of the Peak District. Lovely scenery. Buxton is famous as a Roman spa town and it's drinking water. You can buy bottled Buxton water all around the UK. But we didn't go there for the water, our destination was Poole's Cavern.

There's lots of detail on the website. Suffice it to say, we spent about an hour on a guided tour of the cave and the kids seemed to enjoy it. It was a different experience for them. Certainly was cold in there and it felt almost tropical coming out.

After that we drove down to Bakewell to find a late lunch. Bakewell is famouse for the Bakewell tart among other things. We found a nice enough place and eventually shared a Bakewell tart (and custard - you *always* have to have custard) for four. After lunch we poked around the shops but soon found it was getting late and we had a long drive ahead. We said good-bye to Gareth and Denise and headed home. The kids fell asleep which helped make the long trip seem shorter.

There's certainly many more things to do in Derbyshire and it's a shame we didn't manage to get to the high peak area where the scenery gets even more dramatic. Indeed the UK is littered with lots of places to see and visit so we're trying to do more of these short trips when we can get around to arranging them. More to come.

Polo Lessons

I had polo lessons yesterday at the Ascot Park Polo Club. Very cool. I was lucky to join a Microsoft jolly with my old team (thanks guys!). There were two groups of eight. Our group started on a field armed with polo sticks, a ball and divided into two teams of four. We were then given an idea of the rules of the game and ran about whacking the ball (err sorry about your jaw, Ken). Hey, not too different from hockey! Next we had to stand on crates learning how to whack the ball properly using four different strokes. And finally, the eight of us were put onto horses and got to ride around an enclosed arena trying to whack the ball and ride at the same time. It wasn't hockey! I was mortally afraid of whacking my horse (Suzy) and fearing how she might display her displeasure. Note I've only ridden a horse once before this. I found trotting difficult as my balance seemed very fragile. Luckily, these horses are trained *not* to gallop as that would surely had made me fall. Anyway, it was excellent fun. Wouldn't mind more horse riding lessons.

Monday 9 June 2003

Peak District Trip

We were away last weekend on a short trip around the Peak District so that's why it's been a bit quiet. I've written up a short travelogue describing what we got up to.

Friday 6 June 2003

Jenny starts Pilates program

Jenny has started on a Pilates exercise program. Yeah, I didn't know what Pilates was too - at least until recently. Seems really good. I like the philosophy behind it. Haven't tried it myself yet but I probably will. Right now, it seems to be killing Jenny though!

Thursday 5 June 2003

Book Review: Cascading Style Sheets, The Designer's Edge

Finally finished reading my first technical book since I left Microsoft. It's "Cascading Style Sheets, The Designer's Edge" by Molly E. Holzschlag. I know, I know. It's not the most exciting topic but necessary if I'm ever gonna get this website looking half decent. Not a bad book but not great. Reasonable if you want to learn CSS but you can pick up most the information you need on the web rather than buy this book. The before and after pictures are useful. Chapter seven is very good where she goes through in detail how to reconstruct a table-based site into one that just uses CSS. Molly has a great personal website with many other articles.

Wizard of Oz

I've been reading the Wizard of Oz to the children. Didn't realise it was first published in 1900 and there are thirteen other books about Oz written by Baum and more after his death. Certainly the story differs in quite a few details compared to how I remember the movie (made in 1939 and one of the earliest major colour films). For one thing, Dorothy's shoes should be silver and not red. Have to watch the movie again. Check out these other criticisms. And here you can read the entire text.

Kid Stuff

So the kids decided yesterday to have a bath with their underwear on. They thought it was hilarious. They also invented a new language where every word they said had to start with a "p". Pe've peen phaving pa pot pof pun pive phat! K* has also figured out that he has to peel oranges with his eyes closed to stop getting squirted in the eye.

BBC: Record number of clean beaches

Nice to read some good news for a change - 105 blue flag beaches. It's interesting to read the criteria for a blue flag. And the BBC provided a follow up UK guide to the best beaches. Nice and timely as the weather has been excellent and its time to get down to a beach. We're off to Cornwall for our summer holidays later in the summer to experience the quintenssential British holiday.

Wednesday 4 June 2003

Salsa Lesson #4

Still working on it. Learned the hammerhead turn and the cuban turn. Classes are getting bigger as the evening seems to be getting more popular. Getting enough dance moves now to make the dance interesting.

Monday 2 June 2003

Nice Cup Of Tea And A Sit Down

Great site for anyone who is serious about a nice cup of tea and a sit down (with a biscuit).

Jungle Book Two

Took the kids to see Jungle Book Two this afternoon. Very much recycled material; feels like someone in the marketing department came up with this as a quick way to make more revenue for Disney. Very little plot, poor script, nice animation and many of the old songs. Well, the kids liked it and we pretty much had the theatre to ourselves.

May Website Stats

So in the month of May, this website had 168 unique visitors (different computers/IP addresses) visiting 1300 times viewing 5212 pages. The peak for a single day was 67 visitors. I'm impressed. I have no idea the number of people that really represents but it's more than just Mom and Dad! :-)

Sunday 1 June 2003

This category deprecated

I've stopped posting to this category. The posts will instead appear on the home page weblog. I'll leave this here for a while and then delete the whole thing in a few weeks.