Wednesday 30 July 2003

Gone Camping

Well dear readers, this weblog is going to be a bit quiet for the next couple of weeks. I'm unplugging from the global collective (!) and going camping with my sister and her family in Maryland. Yes, it's back to nature. We've never done this as a family before so it will be quite an experience (gulp). Emailing blog entries seems to work so I might try that if I get a chance but otherwise you can look forward to a travelogue mid August.

Speaking of readers, I'm pleased to say that unique visitors tripled this month from 400 to over 1270. This was mostly due to my essay on "Writing Code Is Stupid" being discovered and linked from John Lam's site and a few others. Lots of people read it. For some reason, readers from Australia (460) far outnumber any other country (G'day mates!). The next country is Canada at 206 unique readers (eh!) and then the country ranking gets strange with Italy, Hungary and the Netherlands coming next. It's a bit daunting to discover a global readership but very cool at the same time. Well, I'm off to finish packing and, no, I'm not taking a laptop. You all come back now!

Tuesday 29 July 2003

Horsing Around #10

Still working at direction control. Got to whip, kick, change weight, look and pull the reins all at the right time.

BBC: Pentagon axes online terror bets

Fantastic. A plan by the Pentagon to use the power of markets for cheap and efficient intelligence. Buy a futures contract on the odds of an assasination? Could have given the bookies a real run for their business. Amazing that someone didn't think through the moral issues of betting on violence and atrocities! Check out PAM.

Monday 28 July 2003

Life Begins At 40?

Yesterday was my birthday and I turned 40. First, a big thank you for the emails, phone calls, well wishes, cards and gifts and to those who helped me celebrate the occasion. The honest truth though is that turning forty sucks. When you're twenty, you know you're young and life is fine. And when you turn thirty, it's a bit of shock and you wonder where all the time has gone but you can still convince yourself you're young and keep going. But when you hit forty, you know you're not young and even though the mind is willing, the body tends to remind you that time has moved on and it protests. Pain shows up in funny places. You can hear it begging for more pampering.

Older people will laugh and say life begins at forty but I don't think so. First, tell me what the first forty years were if life is just beginning now? No, they were quite good really. At least it was good after you're past those teenage years. I think that "life begins at 40" is perpetuated by folks who have kids in their early twenties and enjoy the liberation of their lifestyle at forty when they leave home. But I've got another fifteen odd years to go before that particular liberation! I really don't want to think that life begins at 55. No. Finally, you just have to do the math to figure out that at 40 there are very good odds that you're halfway to kicking the big golden bucket. So life started a long time ago and turning forty sucks. Time for a second childhood then.

Saturday 26 July 2003

Three Month Anniversary

So it's been three months since I quit Microsoft. People ask me "how's it going?" and the best explanation I have is to ask whether they remember being a kid before you started taking a summer job? For me that was about age fourteen. You would have the whole summer off and not an obligation in the world to worry about. The summer just went on and on and on and you lived it day by day. Right now, it feels kind of like that. Okay, there's more obligations but there's also more means. Certainly been able to keep pretty busy over the last three months. Plenty of half-finished projects with more projects waiting to be started. Not enough time really!


We spent Friday afternoon at the World of Music And Dance (WOMAD) Festival in Reading. Good festival. Felt like a mini Glastonbury. Very much the alternative free-spirit vegan tree-hugging activist kind of crowd. I like that kind of atmosphere and don't see it much here in the UK; at least, not as much as Vancouver. It exists but you have to either really look for it or move down to the South West. We spent most our time wandering around the festival looking into the tents, stalls and yurts since it's difficult for the kids to see the stages. Lots of drumming and world music as you would expect. Even ran into some salsa classes going on. Lots of good food. Better than chicken nuggets and hot dogs. Will have to make it back next year.

Thursday 24 July 2003

Horsing Around #9

R* is now off school so she came and watched us today. Of course she would love to learn to ride too. Had a  really good session trotting around the arena working on improving direction control. Might move on the cantering soon.

Wednesday 23 July 2003

Jesus Christ Superstar

Jenny and I took R* to see Jesus Christ Superstar at a local theatre put on by a local theatre company. It was their debut night and overall I thought the Slough Musical Theatre Company did a fine job. This is a theatre company that any amateur can join if they bring enthusiasm. The pit orchestra and choir was excellent. My main criticism is they need to sort out the audio for some of the performers a bit better. They're performing at the Farrer Theatre at Eton College up to this Sunday.

R* seemed to enjoy it. We've been playing the CD so she would recognise the music and I've been explaining the plot. We've talked about religion and Jesus before and this seemed a good way to talk about it again - another interpretation. Also hoping taking her to more plays will interest her in taking up drama.

Horsing Around #8

Still working on that rising trot with Cypress. Cypress however decided to go in a canter. Whoa, that was different! Near panic. Felt like sitting on a rocking horse. Anyway, we're still making progress with the horse riding.

Tuesday 22 July 2003

Happy Times: film by Zhang Yimou

Just watched Happy Times by Zhang Yimou. Chinese film in Mandarin with English subtitles billed as a bittersweet comedy. I'd recommend it but as with almost all Chinese films I find there's more bittersweet than comedy. Poignant. Zhang Yimou also did "Judou" and "Raise the Red Lantern" starring Gong Li. Both are fantastic although my favourite would be "Judou" as I can still remember how beautiful the photography was.

Monday 21 July 2003

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Finally finished the latest book in the Harry Potter series! Overall, I think the stories have been getting better and better as the series progresses. Thoroughly enjoyed it although now it's an interminable wait until the next one. That's what I hate about a series - waiting for the next one. By the time the next one comes out, I'll have to reread this one again. Meanwhile, R*, has been on a marathon listening session. She finished all 18 CD's of the audio version of the "Goblet of Fire" as fast as she could. She was pretty mesmerised for a few days.

Battery Shopping

Just did a bit of shopping to replace a camera battery. The price differences are just stunning. On the high street it sells for £39 while I found it for as low as £23 on the website of Cell Pack Solutions. If you need batteries check them out. Free shipping in the UK.

Sunday 20 July 2003

Art In Action

We spent the afternoon at Art In Action at Waterperry Gardens near Oxford. It's a large four day Arts Festival with over 300 artists and demonstrators showing their art. You can participate too trying out all kinds of things. I was very impressed with how well organised it was right down to small details. Excellent parking. Golf carts running between the parking and the entrance. Clear maps and lots of sign posts. Nothing too crowded. Excellent catering. Even water bowls for dogs. The organisers have it sussed. Jenny loves these kinds of events and was in her own. She finds it very inspiring. The artists are also very approachable and will talk about their work. Lots of beautiful work. Lots of expensive work! Not all was strictly visual arts either. There were musicians, singers and instrument makers too. Didn't come home with any new art pieces but we couldn't leave without some art supplies and the kids have some interesting cardboard cutout automata by Peter Markey to assemble.


Here's a useful website covering music festivals in the UK. Still looking for more local ones to attend. Off to WOMAD next week.

Bootleg Beatles

We went to the Marvellous In The Park festival at Wellington Park featuring the Bootleg Beatles on Saturday. It was very good. It was a bring-a-picnic affair so we arrived early and were pleased to find they had reserved the area in front of the stage for picnicer's without tables and chairs. We staked out a great spot near the front of the stage. The weather was great and a bar was nearby. There were also food stalls and a tiny fun fair. Kids had a good time playing around while we waited and an ex-colleague and his family joined us. By the way, some British obviously take picnicing very seriously with huge spreads and proper dishes, cutlery, table clothes, champagne, candles and vases with flowers in them!

The opening act was good: Peter and Hugh. The two guitarists covered a lot old pop rock tunes. The audience was obviously in a good mood with lots of singing along. The Bootleg Beatles were excellent and certainly looked the part. They covered three eras: Fab-Four, Sgt Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour and then post-Sgt Pepper dressing appropriately for each era. Film footage was used to introduce each era. They also had an eight piece orchestra backing them which allowed them to do each song really accurately. The crowd sang pretty well every song.

The evening ended with a big and noisy fireworks display done to the "Live and Let Die" theme. Excellent. The only hiccup was K* going potty and hyperactive and the traffic jam getting out of the park. I'd certainly recommend going to a Marvellous Festival.

Saturday 19 July 2003

Dinghy Sailing 4 of 4

Finished the dinghy sailing course yesterday and got my RYA Level 2 Sailing Certificate. The wind was a nice breeze; not as strong as the day before. We practiced sailing a triangular circuit without mishap. Then we were introduced to racing theory and tried our hand at racing. Thoroughly enjoyed that. Finally, another student and I got to try sailing a larger two man dinghy called a Wanderer. No capsizes but boy is my body sore.

Dursleys House For Sale

According to our local paper, 4 Privet Drive is up for sale. It is, in fact, 12 Picket Post Close, Bracknell. It's just down the road from us. It goes on auction July 22 at a guide price of £250,000. It does indeed have a cupboard under the stairs.

Thursday 17 July 2003

Dinghy Sailing 2 & 3 of 4

Day two of the dinghy sailing course was frustrating. We got the bad weather but absolutely no wind. Did some theory and few practical things but minimal sailing. Today, day three, was completely different. We had a strong breeze and after the instructor demonstrated zooming around the river while hanging over the side of the dinghy, we were all rather nervous. We reefed the sails to make them smaller and set off. I was pretty smug at first as everyone else took turns capsizing but then it happened to me too. Arrgghh. Everything happens so fast and you have to concentrate on tons of things. Need to learn to really hang my butt off the side of the dinghy when the wind picks up. Amazingly the river felt warm today. I capsized again in the afternoon too. Still, it was a great day and I'm absolutely exhausted - sailing takes a lot of physical effort.

Tuesday 15 July 2003

Dinghy Sailing 1 of 4

Today was day one of the four day course on dinghy sailing I'm taking (Jenny's birthday gift). It's at the Bisham Abbey Sailing School. First day went well enough. There's only three others in the class so it's cosy and friendly. It's blindingly hot to be on the river - 32C - and unfortunately, the wind is too light. We did some theory and our first sails on the river. Not as easy as I thought it would be. There's quite a lot to think about as you sail. We're sailing Toppers and you spend most of your time kneeling and crouching which isn't too comfortable! They can move though when a good breeze comes. Feels great. Hope we get some bad weather! Since there wasn't much wind late in the afternoon, we got to practice our capsize and recovery. Yep - had to sit in the boat and flip it so it's lying on it's side in the water and then flounder around to get it back up again and haul yourself back into the boat. The Thames ain't warm I tell you.

Monday 14 July 2003

Marriage 'tames' geniuses, criminals

It's official: marriage kills creativity. That's my excuse!

But, regardless of age, the great minds who married virtually kissed goodbye to making any further glorious additions to their CV.

Yahoo: Camera-Equipped Phones Spread Mischief

Ah! The social implications of phones equiped with cameras. Skirt shots, Toilet shots, digital shop lifting and more. Gee, who could have predicted that? <sarcasm>

Vancouver To Host Winter Olympics 2010

Congrats Vancouver! That means some great investment will be forthcoming in local facilities. Will have to plan on coming back that winter. Nice to have so much notice!

BBC: Bloggers take on politicians

Blogging going mainstream. Would be great to read what my parliament representitive actually does if it was frank and honest. Yeah, right! Well, some might be good such as Tom Watson.

Sunday 13 July 2003

More free ebooks

There are new free ebooks from Microsoft. I'm impressed. Got Bill Brysons "Short History of Everything" and this "Open Innovation" book looks interesting. Meanwhile, Jenny is downloading "The Joy Luck Club" which is a favourite book of hers. Looking forward to what the other freebies will be.

KML's Monoblog

I'm very pleasantly surprised to discover my blog listed in someone's "Worth Reading" list. Flattered even. It's a very well written and thoughtful blog. Worth checking out.


R* and K* had their last Kindermusik lessons for the summer. R* has done very well in them and is keen to continue but K* is still rather shy about participating. It's a bit frustrating as he's very musical at home but doesn't like to perform on demand. Hopefully, he'll be more forthcoming next year. Meanwhile, R* is ready to start an instrument. Someone suggested we should get her into the choir. At any rate,  she's still keen on the trumpet but she can't start that until she gets her four adult front teeth. She starts a new school in September so we won't decide until we talk to the music teacher there.

Diving Course

I've now confirmed my place on an intensive diving course over the August 23/24th weekend - takes place at a local private school. Got a book to read and chapter quizzes to complete. Bit concerned about the swimming test (eight pool lengths plus ten minutes treading water) as I'm no great swimmer but should be ok. Ought to practice but I've never liked public swimming pools.

Saturday 12 July 2003

Goodwood Festival of Speed

Yesterday we drove down to the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The event was good but the family outing was a bit of a disaster. It took three hours to drive there because there was a traffic jam through Petworth. Luckily we were listening to the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire so the kids suffered patiently.  It was very hot and sunny and the kids had to do a lot of walking as the event is spread over a huge area. All the cars were fantastic. Lots to see but the kids are much too young to enjoy them. Unfortunatley, the track was hard for them to see as we didn't get grandstand tickets. Couldn't even find a non-dairy ice cream for K*. It's really a festival for big boys. Even the airshow by the Red Arrows didn't really seem to impress. They might like these kinds of event more in a few years.

Friday 11 July 2003

Ours is less and less a free society

Very interesting animated presentation by Lawrence Lessig (Professor of Law at Stanford Law School) that builds on this refrain:

  1. Creativity and innovation always builds on the past.
  2. The past always tries to control the creativity that builds on it.
  3. Free societies enable the future by limiting the past
  4. Ours is less and less a free society

Unfortunately the audio stopped on me half-way but still worth it. Lots of historical examples. It's aimed at supporting Open Source and certainly provides food for thought.

E For Additives

Picked up this book the other day: "E For Additivies".  I'm a compulsive label reader so it's interesting to find out what all those E numbers are. Unfortunately, it's a bit old (1988) so it's probably missing information about the effects of some of them. I've discovered E numbers on some of the sweets we have that are banned in various countries - usually food colouring. I couldn't help but point out all this junk to R*. Maybe I'll only let her eat sweets where she can spell all the ingredients like Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (E464).

Thursday 10 July 2003

Report Card Time

Met with R*'s teacher tonight to discuss her report card and see her work. She did very well so not a whole lot to discuss really. She also finished the national tests and did fine in them (in the UK, there are controversial national tests at ages 7 and 11). We're letting her decide how she wants to celebrate this success so she wants to go to a theme park with scary rides.

Dance Haven

Tonight we had a private two hour salsa dance lesson with Faisal Hameed of Dance Haven. Again, someone I found off the Internet. It was very good - learned lots. I especially learned a lot about proper leading - it turns out to be a lot stronger than I thought. The lady pretty much has no choice but to go and do exactly what you want her to do. No spaghetti arms. We learned several new moves and strung them together in two routines. Need to practice them now. Also learned that everthing you learn in salsa can be easily applied to merengue but it's much easier since you can take all the time you want (it's a 1-2, 1-2 rather than a 1-2-3-4). I'm convinced it's well worth having some one on one lessons when learning to dance.

Tuesday 8 July 2003

Horsing Around #7

Yeehaa! Finally got the rising trot much better. Felt good. Jenny has moved onto a pony named Coral which being smaller, gives her a much better riding position. Unfortunately, ponies aren't as well behaved as horses and tend to do what they want to do. She was told you have to treat a pony like a small child which should be to Jenny's advantage I suppose.

Accommodation on Blackcombe/Whistler?

We're looking at doing a ski trip up to Blackcombe Jan 5th to 9th. Anyone know a good and reasonable place to stay up there? One bedroom or two bedroom would be good.


Spent the weekend with guests. Our friends Willy, Iona and family were on their way back to Canada and stayed with us the weekend. Didn't do a whole lot. Bummed around London on Sunday and enjoyed a stroll through Kensington Gardens. Discovered a good Malaysian restaurant called Assam Manis on Queensway. Very big portions. Jenny, Iona and Iona's daughter went to see The Reduced Shakespear Company and had a good time. Said it was very funny and highly abridged.

Sunday 6 July 2003

CNET: Software takes stab at corporate jargon (Bullfighter)

Download Bullfighter for free - a text analysis program from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu that tells you how "readable" a document is. Essentially a bull sh*t detector.

Why does Harry Potter wear glasses?

So wizards can grow bones, shrink teeth, transconfigure themselves and all kinds of other amazing things. Don't you think they should be able to fix eyes? Corrective lenses should only be a muggle thing.

Friday 4 July 2003

Contact Lenses

I'm wearing my new trial contact lenses right now for the first time. I thought I couldn't wear contacts due to astigmatism but it seems you can with these Toric contact lenses. They're daily wear lenses so no fussing with cleaners too. Still feels very odd - like how your eyes feel when you're super tired. It's a trial so I'll see how it goes. Vision is certainly good with them on.

Horsing Around #6

Jenny's has her rising trot down well. I'm afraid I haven't. Got a bad back today so worked on steering and how to setup the saddle instead. Back on Cypress. Mulberry nearly bit Jenny.


Forgot to mention that R* earned her Aqua Skills Level Two badge last week. I take her to her swimming lessons every Thursday now. She's doing very well and is definitely getting a lot more confident in the water.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Just finished reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last night. The story was rather slow to start but enjoyable none-the-less. The ending was great! Never would have guessed it. It's getting a rather dark and scary though for young children! Good thing R* will be much older if they ever make it into a movie. Don't see how they could fit it all in.

Wednesday 2 July 2003

A Brownie In The House

Tonight R* was officially sworn in as a Brownie after pledging herself to the Brownie promise: "I promise that I will do my best: To love my God, To serve the Queeen and my country, To help other people and To keep the Brownie Guide Law". The Brownie Guide Law is: "A Brownie Guide thinks of others before herself and does a Good Turn every day".

Tuesday 1 July 2003

Horsing Around #5

Still working on that rising trot with Mulberry. Jenny got Cypress this time. Our legs hurt!

Happy Canada Day!!

There are no celebrations where we live (that I know of anyway) and I didn't make the trek down to the Maple Leaf Pub in Convent Garden where there will be a huge crowd of Canadians. I went down there one year and it was good fun with everyone asking everyone what part of Canada they're from. One year, I really should organise a party to celebrate it. We only know one other Canadian couple here so maybe it will be a "Anyone Who Has Visited Canada Party" or a "Bring Something Canadian Party".