Sunday 31 July 2005

Gone To Bodrum

I'm dead tired from lack of sleep but we're pretty much all packed and ready to leave tomorrow. I've really been looking foward to this sailing trip for many months. I'll be back in a week!

Barcelona Stag

Had a brilliant time in Barcelona but three late nights in a row sure takes its toll. The weekend was arranged by Senor Stag and they did a great job. My favourite part was the jet skiing. Definitely something I'd like to do again when I get a chance. Meanwhile, the show at Bagdad was quite..err...something.

Unfortunately, I was a victim of some pickpockets in the subway Friday night. This guy in front of me at the top of an escalator dropped a pack of cigarettes and then kept stepping backwards while fumbling for the pack. While I was tangled up behind him, another guy opened the zip on my front right pocket and nicked my wallet without me knowing. I figured it out about thirty seconds later but by then they were gone. Very clever. Lost some cash and my credit and debit cards. I called Jenny within about 10 minutes and got them all cancelled.

Luckily, I had some sterling notes back in my hotel room so I changed them to euro's and tried not let the incident spoil the rest of my time. So far, in all my travels in Spain, I've lost a laptop, camera, passport and now wallet to thieves! I'm careful too!

Wednesday 27 July 2005

Gone To Barcelona

I'm off to Barcelona tomorrow for a few days. I'm joining sixteen other lads on a stag weekend doing some sailing, jet skiing and gokarting. We may even visit a bar or two or three or four or...more. Back Sunday.

Forty Two

Or 101010 in binary.

Of course, forty two will forever be known as the answer to "life, the universe and everything"  (Douglas Adams). But today, it happens to be the age I'm turning.

It's not as bad as turning forty. By now, I've accepted that youth has been spent and I have to live on credit. And I'll spend all the credit I can get before the great banker in the sky calls in the loan...

Wayward Artists

The Internet is great for discovering artists who are really "out there". Check out Mark McGowan. Is it art? Well, I'd rather call it "colourful protest" or some such thing. I do like what Spencer Tunick is up to. You can sign-up to join in too....

Tuesday 26 July 2005

Marvellous Festival 2005

Had an excellent time at the Marvellous Festival last Saturday.

First, we lucked out with the parking. As K* had a wheelchair, we got in early and parked in the backstage VIP area. Next, we scooped up prime real estate to unfold our garden chairs and lay down the picnic blankets: center stage near the mixing desk. Then our friends arrived and joined us picnicing while we waited for the concert to start. To top it off, the weather cleared up as the clouds made way for some clear sky. Perfect!

Cavern Beatles Voulez Vous

The first band was the Cavern Beatles and they did a good set. They weren't dynamic enough to rowse the audience to dance much but they had them singing along to plenty of favourites. When Voulez Vous (Abba cover band) started their set, plenty of people got up and started dancing. The energy level definitely shot up. The Counterfiet Stones carried the energy along with the best showmanship of the lot. I had R* on my shoulders some of the time and she really seemed to get into the atmosphere of the show. Finally, there was a fireworks display to the "Live And Let Die" theme.

The only drawback of the festival is that it's a major bottleneck to leave the park. We hung about after the concert finished and then joined the queue out. It didn't take us too long.

It's the best family friendly festival I know of and I'll be keen to go back next year if the lineup is good.

Saturday 23 July 2005

Skool's Out 4 Sumer!

Yesterday was the last day of school for the kids. Here in the UK children get out much later than in North America but they get longer holidays at Easter. All the kids activities have ended as well. Yeeehaaa! No more school runs, taxi runs and hanging around waiting for lessons to end!! I'm free!!!! ....for six weeks at any rate.

I'm off for a few days to Barcelona with some mates next week, then it's to Turkey for a week of sailing and then some friends from Canada are coming over and we're off to the South of France for three weeks.

K* has a new light-weight synthetic cast on and he's hobbling about quite well. We had a major kerfuffle with Excel Airlines who are flying us to Turkey. They were refusing to allow K* on the aircraft unless his caste was split and the doctor was saying it shouldn't be split. Insurance wasn't about to cover any cancellation since it's not a medical problem but a failure of the airline. Meanwhile, British Airways and Turkish Airlines were willing to fly him but it was going to cost a packet. Well, Jenny eventually got a compromise with the doctor willing to split the cast just before we go, or if we don't split it, the airline willing to accept a letter from the doctor guaranteeing that his leg won't swell during the flight.

So we're taking K* sailing with a full leg cast on. It's a bit crazy but there you go. Hopefully, he will be out of the cast before we fly to France.

Meanwhile, if I hear the "I'm bored" whinge this summer, I'm going to assign housework tasks to the offender!

Friday 22 July 2005

Single Sex Education?

I read a great book a few months ago entitled "Why Gender Matters" by Leonard Sax (2005). It's subtitle is "What parents and teachers need to know about the merging science of sex differences". I tried writing a book summary in my wiki but I haven't got around to finishing it.

It makes a very strong case for single sex education by summarizing lots of research about the fundamental differences between boys and girls and how they learn and behave. It's a fascinating read. For example, there's a significant difference between the balance of M cells and P cells in the visual cortex of boys and girls. Supposedly, this gives boys the advantage in seeing movement while girls have the advantage in object discrimination. The author goes further by claiming that young girls draw nouns prefering warm colours while young boys draw verbs prefering cold colours.

There are many, many more differences which all lend a lot of weight to the proposition that the teaching style should be different for the two genders. The key point is that while you want both boys and girls to have the same opportunities, how each gender is engaged should be different. I gather this is a hot topic in education circles.

Since reading the book, I've raised the topic of single sex education in various conversations and there seems to be two main objections:

1) If you don't socialise boys and girls together, they tend to see the opposite sex as another species. You get even worse "boy crazy"/"girl crazy" behaviour in the teenage years. This is particular worse if a child doesn't have a sibing of the opposite gender.

2) In class discussions, the opposite gender will often bring up points of view that would not arise if the class was all one gender.

I guess the ideal compromise would be to have a mixed school with more single sex lessons that just P.E.. However, this has a taint of discrimination and stereotyping so I don't see how this could work in practice. 

It's a pertinent topic to me since we need to start considering what senior school R* will attend and there's an all-girls school and mixed school close to us. It's a few years until we have to choose but it is on my mind.

Friday 15 July 2005

Secret Car Clubs

When you're driving, do you wave to anyone driving the same car as you?

Well, it's not really a wave. You just extended the fingers of the hand closest to the driver's side window in a cool and deliberate manner. Maybe even lift it a little just to make sure the movement is seen. But, heaven forbid, you don't move it back and forth!

It's an interesting phenomena as only drivers of certain brands and models do it. It pretty much defines what an enthusiast car is. If you drive a common, mass market car, there's no waving. The car has to be a bit special for a fraternity to spring up. I expect it's mostly those driving sports cars but Mini's and VW Beetles (the originals) certainly had their own fraternity.

So leave a comment and let's see whether we can uncover these secret car clubs. For example, I'm pretty sure that people who drive Mercedes never acknowledge each other. Period. Or am I wrong? Drivers of Subura Imprezzas almost always wave to each other (that was my last car). As for Porsche, the rule seems to be that you only wave to someone driving the same model as  you. Driving a 993, you only wave to fellow 993 drivers. On a rare occasion, you might get cross-model waves but I'm sure Boxster drivers and 911 drivers don't acknowledge each other.

I suspect the older the car, the higher the percent of waving occurs as you meet fellow drivers less often. When it's old, it doesn't even have to be a sports car. But how old does the car have to be before waving starts? Do drivers of fellow bangers wave to each other?  I doubt BMW driver's wave to each other until you get to some of their classic models.

So, if you do wave to fellow drivers (and they return it!), post a comment and tell me what you drive.

Sunday 10 July 2005

Broken Leg

K* broke his leg today.

We were at a friend's house and he, R* and another friend were bouncing on a trampoline. Suddenly K* crumpled and howled in pain. The pain wouldn't subside and he refused to stretch his leg so eventually we decided to take him to the hospital.

At this point, I must say I'm rather annoyed that I had to carry K* from waiting room to waiting room and try to keep a six-year-old comfortable in my arms. He was whimpering in pain all the time with the jostling. There should have been a trolley or a temporary bed for him to wait on.

Well at least we didn't have to wait long. A doctor checked him out and quickly sent us for x-rays. The verdict was swift. A clean spiral fracture of the right tibia just below the knee. I was surprised since I was just expecting a nasty sprain. It turns out K* was bouncing on his right leg and turning when the break happened. I suppose with more than one child on a trampoline, the surface gets too unpredictable and it caught him at the wrong moment.

K*'s Broken Leg

He now has a full plaster cast on his right leg and his spirits have returned. I've been assured that it should heal very well but he will need to wear a cast for a good six weeks. We're now working out how to deal with it. We're supposed to go sailing in just three weeks!

Saturday 9 July 2005

Guardian: Selling Rapture

Detailed article about how the business of evangelical fiction in booming in the United States. In 2004, it was worth $2 billion so obviously there's a big market.

According to a recent Fairfield University study, there are 159 million adult Americans who now call themselves Christian, of whom 46% label themselves as "born again" and 24% as "evangelical".

As a secularist, I can't say I'm keen to see the rise of a faith-based popular culture. Fiction based on The Rapture is one thing but I hope I don't see Hollywood films where God intervenes in the end.

Guardian: Public provides new dimension to media coverage

Interesting article highlighting this evolution in media coverage of major events. Many of the images, both still and moving, now come from members of the public at the scene of the incident thanks to the ubiquity of cameras. Better yet, with mobile phones, the images get sent to news channels within minutes of the event or they soon show up on blogs. These images often have much more impact that what a reporting crew can capture hours later.

This really is a great evolution in how media is created and consumed. Of course there is still a need for due diligence to make sure images are authentic, but it does change the relationship between the public and broadcasters for the better.

Friday 8 July 2005

London Bombs

We've had a number of emails checking to see whether we're ok so I just want to let everyone know we're fine. Thanks for the concern. Everyone we know is fine too but I'm horrified to say I heard a father of one of the children at a local school was killed.

The bombing was tragic and pointless if you ask me. What was it meant to achieve?

Sunday 3 July 2005

Pssstt! Want to have a Marvellous time?

The Marvellous Festival is coming up July 23rd and we're going on the Saturday with a small crowd of friends. Come along to hear cover bands of The Beatles, Abba and The Rolling Stones. Should be fun and I'll be celebrating my birthday.

Microsoft Summer Party

An ex-colleague invited me along to the Microsoft Summer Party yesterday. After a few years of decline, I must say Microsoft parties seem to be back in top form. It was held on the grounds of Stratfield Saye House near Reading in (allegedly) Europe's largest tent. We were greated by performers on stilts, jugglers and a roaming classical quartet while waiters passed around flutes of champagne and canapes.

The highlight of the evening was performances by Madness and Basement Jaxx. Madness was superb and really pumped up the atmosphere with upbeat ska. I thought the singers of Basement Jaxx were great but I just didn't get into their music much. Between performances there were the Lost and Found DJ's and the DJ Norman Jay did a stint too.

Of course, there were lots of bars - even a coffee bar - and the food spread was the best I've ever seen for a crowd that size. Best of all was seeing everyone I knew at Microsoft but there's fewer and fewer faces I know. It's top marks for Microsoft for a great party.

Oscar Peterson at the Royal Albert Hall

I'm afraid another Canada Day went past pretty quietly but we did go down to the Royal Albert Hall to see a fellow Canadian, Oscar Peterson. Traffic was heavy so we got there late. Never fun tromping over half a row of people and stumbling towards your seat.

It was a simple event. Four old guys on a bare stage playing absolutely fantastic jazz. Oscar doesn't look like he's in the best of health and he stopped to talk about how the death of some of his colleagues really has been a blow to him this year. He has quite a bit of trouble walking but he insisted on walking on the stage unaided after the break. I'm quite amazed he still tours.

But he sure can play! Absolutely fluid. His band was superb too. Jazz doesn't get better.