Sunday 30 March 2003

Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday today. My wife got to lie in bed, lots of teas, cards and dinner made for her. We went to the open house at the Berkshire Agriculture College. The weather has been fantastic for over a week so it felt like early summer. Daffodils are everywhere. The open house is like a country fair with animals, farmers market, tractor rides, horse riding etc. The best part for me is seeing all the new born lambs, some only hours old. While there, we joined the local Wildlife Trust. Seems like a worthwhile cause with talks for adults, events for children and I can even see myself doing some volunteer work with them. We also enjoyed petting some owls and I picked up brochures for the Thames Valley Falconry Centre. Very cool - they offer a one day course introducing you to falconry and you can participate in taking falcons out hunting in the evening. I'd like to try that.

Kindermusik Koncert

On Saturday, my daughter performed at the Kindermusik Concert. I take both children to Kindermusik each Saturday. From the website:

The classes are designed to encourage young children to enjoy musical self-expression, self discipline and co-ordination through a wide range of activities including singing, playing percussion instruments, musical games, listening and movement.

I just hope it encourages them both to be musical. R* now wants to learn the violin. *sigh* - I will learn to like listening to squeaks. I would prefer the cello myself. In truth, R* really wants to learn the trombone but you not really allowed to learn brass instruments until you've got your adult set of teeth. Violin it is.

The Vitality Show

My wife went to The Vitality Show in London on Friday and brought back a whole bunch of brochures. The subheading is "Come and be part of The Spiritual Journey experience: celebrate exciting new visionary ideas and wisdoms of ancient healing practices".

I try to keep an open mind about this stuff. It's much more common back in Vancouver compared to England and I do think some of it can be beneficial. But I have a very rational scientific background and a lot of it just lights up my "flake-o-meter". At any rate, it does have entertainment value.

We now have a subscription to Kindred Spirit - "The UK's Leading Guide for Mind, Body & Spirit" and I can enjoy the fascinating variety of little ads in the back of it. Psychic readings over the phone? Trance Channeling? Sacred Origins of Money? Chakra Singing? Ear Candles? Hmmm. Not yet.

That said, I have certainly enjoyed the company of hippy/spiritual types. Can get into many interesting coversations that techy types don't readily engage in. Maybe I'll find myself a drumming circle...

Saturday 29 March 2003

Online Journalism Review

Interesting site. Until I write my link portal, I post interesting links here. The Internet is fascinating as a media since it by-passes all of the large media organisations out there (which are owned by a small aristocracy) and all kinds of alternative journalism can reach a broader audience. Only problem is quality...

Thursday 27 March 2003

Iraq History

Read up on the history of Iraq today. Very interesting. The British (Empire) messed up yet another country. Interesting reading through the change of U.S. foreign policy towards Iraq too. Lot of other sites out there describing Iraqi history.

Tuesday 25 March 2003

War Costs

The US Congress has been asked to shell out 75 billion dollars for the cost of the Iraq war just for the period up to October 2003. Doesn't that make you feel sick? What an incredible waste of money. Each cruise missle costs £400,000 and I seem to remember hearing they shot 400 of them in just one night. The budget for munitions is 6.5 billion assuming the war lasts 30 days.

Notice the payoffs to other countries. Israel gets 10 billion(!?). Jordan and Egypt get a billion each. But Iraq earns 25 billion in oil revenue so maybe some of that can be used to pay the bills. That's an interesting idea. Invade a wealthy country and then get it to pay for the invasion. Then get contributions from other countries (e.g. Japan and South Korea) in return for construction contracts. Interesting way to make a war pay for itself.

So out of all that, the budget for rebuilding Iraq is only 1.5 billion and humanitarian aid a measly 500 million. Does that really demonstrate care for the Iraqi people?

I Resign

I wrote and submitted my resignation letter today. Phew. Quite difficult really. Logically, I have lots of reasons why it's time to move on but I feel sad to leave. It's a good company filled with lots of interesting people and plenty of opportunity. It's a comfortable known.

I think one of the most underestimated aspects of work life is the community and social interactions. Work not only gives you an identity but it makes you part of a community. And if you think about it, you probably spend more time in that community than with your own family. That's why I don't think telecommuting is a good idea or works that well.

So I am concerned about what will be my community after leaving Microsoft. It wouldn't be healthy to be reclusive but most of my friends either work for Microsoft or live in Canada - two places I've left. So I'm pretty conscious about what my community will be and how like-minded members of that community might be. Microsoft is full of geeks like me and it won't be easy to find such a concentration :-)

Candidates so far center around either music, academia or charities. I guess there's cyber-communities but electronic media is feeble and no match compared to face-to-face interactions. We'll see.

Sunday 23 March 2003

Iraq Day Three

Took the kids for a trip into London on the train - a real treat for K*. Met my wife in Chinatown and we binged out on dim sum before doing some food shopping around Chinatown. Earlier in the day, there had been a large anti-war protest so there were still numerous people around with placards. Felt pretty sad seeing all the war images on the front pages of the newspapers.

This evening we watched the war coverage on the evening news with the children and talked about it with R*. Explaining international politics to a seven year old is an interesting exercise is distilling the issues down to the basics!

Personally, I'm against the war. A few key points for me are:

  • What is the real agenda of it? I don't think it's really about fighting terrorism or the threat of Iraq. The process of disarming Iraq was making progress via the U.N weapons inspections. I seriously doubt Iraq has much in terms of "weapons of mass destruction", but at least an internationally supported framework was in place to find them. That process was working and needed more time.
  • If the agenda is to get rid of Saddam, then of course that's problematic. There's no legitimate way to do it. I don't dispute that Iraq and the world would be better without his dictatorship but there is no legitimate framework for imposing the regime change. The idea of the U.S. overtly demanding and imposing regime changes on another sovereign state is repugnant and dangerous. In the past, it's always be covert. Now it's even worse when they masquerade this abuse of power under the "fight against terrorism" or the "fighting for freedom and democracy" banner. The U.S. is the largest terrorist state in the world (see Rogue States).
  • Most power struggles in the world boil down to some economic benifit. Wars of ideology are dead with the end of the Cold War. Clearly the U.S. can gain regional influence and secure it's oil interests by invading Iraq. It will be interesting to see what the U.S. does in Iraq after the war. Even more interesting is how this effects the relationships between members of the Security Council and the United Nations as a whole.
  • War is so incrediblely repugnant. It's the last, last, last, resort. It didn't seem justified to me. This moves U.S. foreign policy much closer to a strike first attitude. Now that's much more scary that anything Iraq seemed capable of. For really scary reading take a look at this website about the New American Century and the heavy-weight supporters of it. Welcome to the Empire of America!

No, these are not the points I made to R* after watching the news but we did go over the problem of what to do about Iraq and that she was not going to get bombed. I wish I could say the same for the people of Iraq.

Thursday 20 March 2003

My Daughter Discovers Sex

My inquisitive seven year old daughter (R*) has discovered sex - thanks to a book and her new found reading skills. From the "Usborne Pocket Scientist", I quote page 58 with the heading "How does a baby start?":

"A baby starts to grow when an egg and sperm meet and join together. They do this inside the mother's body. The way the sperm get to the egg is through the mother's vagina. The mother and father cuddle each other very close. The father's penis gets stiffer and fits comfortably inside the mother's vagina. This is called making love or having sex".

R* decided to mention this the other day in the car while we were driving off to buy some groceries. Our reaction was just "Ummmmm. Yes, yes. That's right." while exchanging bewildered glances. R* then confesses that she has been reading and re-reading this section on "Where do babies come from" VERY carefully.

On subsequent inspection, the book does seem to be quite thorough and well illustrated. Time to hide our old copy of "The Joy of Sex"! Glad she thinks the idea is rather gross.

Band Practice

Missed blogging yesterday due to band practice. Maybe "band" is overstating it but there are three other guys I recently started practicing some songs with the idea of playing for fun at a charity gig in six weeks. I've played guitar on and off - well mostly off really - for the past twenty odd years. No, let's rephrase that. I've been stuck in a rut for twenty years and never got that good. But I'm still trying and this is the first time I'm actually playing in a group. Can play lots of chords but my soloing isn't very good and I need to work on that. It's great fun though- a rock 'n' roll band!

Tuesday 18 March 2003

Commuting Sucks

Out the door by 7:30am and trekked to Canary Wharf by car, train, tube, train and then walking. Took over two hours. Then a tedious visit at a customer followed by the same long trek home getting back after 8:00pm. That kind of commuting can really suck the life force out of you and reminds me of one of the reasons I want to get out of consulting. I've got the same gig tomorrow *sigh*.

The only good thing I'll say for commuting is that it gives you a kind of think time. You can essentially zone out while your body finds the way there. Driving can be especially hypnotic that way. From the looks of it, I don't think I'm alone in zombie commuting.

Monday 17 March 2003

I Did It

I did it today. After working at Microsoft for twelve years, I sat down together with my manager, Ken, and a latte (small with one sugar) this morning and announced that I had decided to leave Microsoft.

The decision was a long time in the making and I'll probably try and explain some it at some point in this weblog but not today. Today I just want to mark this event and to do that I thought I'd start blogging. So welcome to my blog.

I'm feeling calm and optimistic after pondering this change for so long. It feels like the start of a new journey and one for which I don't have a map. But I can also feel some growing excitement as I think through some of the options.

But tomorrow I'm still working. I'm off to visit a bank at Canary Wharf that has some system performance problems.