Sun, 02 Oct 2005
For some time I've been wanting to do something musical. I dabble on the
guitar and piano, but lack anyone to collaborate with. Saying that, I have
been teaching Tilly the piano and accompanying her when she plays the violin she has just
started at school.
Through the Herts Linux User Group I met
Malcolm who is involved with
Secret Bass drumming
group. Today I got around to attending a meeting. This involved finding a small
village in darkest Hertfordshire down twisting lanes, but I got there. The venue
is a wonderful straw-bale structure in the woods.
There were six of us there with
myself as the only complete beginner. I was taught the basic techniques and we
worked on a Senegalese tune they had picked up from another group. I was pleased to
find I could pick it up quite fast and even keep up with the others. Someone had
brought along a small metal drum that he started to demonstrate and a jam ensued,
complete with some dancing. Then we did a bit of Swahili singing! I know it all
sounds a bit new-age, but I really enjoyed it. I'm sure my hands will be sore
I intend to go along again.
Wed, 31 Aug 2005
Summer Holiday 2005
We went camping with another family at the
near Weymouth. We chose this as a family friendly site, but it turned out not to be. The tent area was very basic with
no showers and very basic toilets/washrooms. There were better facilities as short walk away at the main complex, but
even these had problems. The showers were not that good. On the plus side there were outdoor and indoor swimming pools,
that we used once, a restaurant with affordable food, an entertainment bar (with insufficient seating) and amusement
arcade. Their main focus seems to be on selling static caravans for thousands of pounds. Our main complaint was
about the lack of control of some rowdy campers. Several large groups set up around us and we had to put up with
loud music until late at night, bad language, mini-motorbikes and free-roaming dogs. I could put up with that at
a motorbike rally, but not at a family camp site. Luckily the kids slept through the worst of it. We made several
complaints with little result. We shall not be using Haven again. The other family left a day early as they had had
One thing we can't blame them for was the strong winds one day. After sheltering in the complex all morning we returned to
find our tent about to blow away. One guy rope had snapped and others had pulled out of the ground. I managed to
secure the tent using all available pegs, but a few things got wet. The tent was really flexing in the wind and
one metal pole got a bit bent. Meanwhile, the sturdy frame tents didn't budge. A few others fared worse than ours.
In the end we managed to repair the damage.
Weymouth has a very long beach with all the usual attractions. The beach slopes very gently, so you have to walk
a long way out for a swim. It was fine for the kids to play in the sand. Nearby is an excellent
Seal Life centre. Next door to that was the fun
Pirate Mini-Golf. Tanya had an impressive round with two holes-in-one.
Durdle Door is a beautiful spot, but not such a
good beach for the kids. It is reached by a steep path down the cliff and consists of a pebbly beach and a sharp
drop-off into the sea. Fun for strong swimmers.
We had a great day out at Monkey World. It's sad that they have to
rescue so many apes and monkeys from bad treatment in homes and the 'entertainment' industry. They are really well
cared for there and the staff really care about them. The kids loved it. They have a huge adventure play area
as well. We adopted some of the animals for the kids as it's a very deserving cause.
Many years ago I used to visit Lyme Regis with my family. It's a small
fishing port famous for it's fossils. It hasn't changed much. There's just no room for it to grow. It happened to
be their Candles on the Cobb day, a charity event attended by a very
Our final day was spent at Lulworth Castle. It's a restored ruin with extensive
grounds. The main attraction for us was a jousting display, but we also enjoyed the 17th century dancing and the
Fri, 12 Aug 2005
Escape from Canada
I had a productive week in Toronto and so was allowed the come home a day early.
A few hours before the flight I heard that there was a strike at Heathrow, but
my flight still seemed to be on. Nic and I got to the airport early to find
that it had been delayed 24 hours! I'm not sure what was going on, but as well
as the crowd of confused passengers there were lots of cops, TV cameras and then
a couple of SWAT-type guys armed to the teeth.
We both managed to get transferred onto a Canadian Airlines flight that left an hour
later than we were meant to. Unfortunately this meant travelling economy! At least
it meant getting home that night. So I spent a short, uncomfortable night on an
aging Airbus with no personal video screen (what's the world coming to?). I
had been thinking of watching Hitchhikers on the BA flight.
Heathrow was busy when I got in, but at least I didn't have to wait in the huge
non-EU passport queue and found my case as soon as I got to the casousel.
What could have been a nightmare was not too bad in the end. I'm back with my
And big congrats to big Al on his first-born son.
Fri, 05 Aug 2005
I have Freecycled!
Like most people I have old stuff lying around that I don't need, but it's too much
hassle to sell it. The problem is that I find it very hard to throw things away that
others could use. Then I discovered Freecycle
It's a network of people who are giving away things they don't need. You can also
put out requests for things you do need. They operate through a series of
for each area. There are several near
me, including one around Letchworth
I've got some spare materials from our housebuilding project and decided to see if
anyone wants them. Last night someone came and collected a long piece of plastic
pipe that was left over when we laid our electicity main. It's just been in the garden
for a couple of years. Then last night I found out that the local scouts are trying to
get rid of all their old stacking chairs. I'm sure someone could use those, so I
posted a message about them.
I intend to try and dispose of some more stuff soon.
I ought to get rid of the motorbike I no longer use, but I'd prefer to get some money for that.
Reduce, reuse, recycle and Freecycle!
Wed, 03 Aug 2005
Water, water everywhere
A while back I heard Anita Roddick on the radio talking about how she never buys bottled water as it's overpriced and wasteful
in resources. Since then I've asked for tapwater in various restaurants without problems. I just saw another article on the
subject at the NY Times
. It points out that you might not want to take the chance in
some countries, but generally there's no harm in drinking your local tap water. We now have units to cool and filter tap water
at work instead of the old containers that were delivered saving a few lorry trips. At home we have a built-in filter and use it
to fill a jug for the fridge. Tastes fine to me. I only buy a bottle if I'm desperate when out and about. Maybe there should be
more public drinking fountains.
Thu, 14 Jul 2005
Watching the news as it happens
From the high vantage point of our office in Wembley we can see a large section of London including the new stadium.
Today someone noticed that a building over that way was on fire. Apparently it's a CD/DVD plant. Large clouds of
probably toxic smoke blowing away from us. More details at
Thu, 07 Jul 2005
A Terrible Day
I was working at home today when I heard that there had been explosions on the London
Underground. Initial reports said this was due to a power surge, but then I heard
that a bus had blown up and it became obvious that something sinister was going on.
I'm fortunate in that I'm fairly sure that nobody I know was hurt today, but my
sympathy goes out to those who have lost someone and to those who will bear the
mental and physical effects for the rest of their lives. It often seems with a disaster
that you hear plenty about the dead, but less about the survivors.
I hope this doesn't result in knee-jerk reactions like the USA did back in 2001.
If we all have to change how we live then the terrorists have won. See
Schneier's comments for a reasoned look at how terrorism should be handled.
London is riddled with CCTV cameras, but that didn't stop this happening. Would ID
cards have made any difference?
Wed, 04 May 2005
May the 4th Be With You
One again George Lucas has missed the perfect release date for a Star Wars
Let's hope this one is better than the last two. I grew up with the original films and these prequels have been
too full of talk and mumbo jumbo.
Meanwhile, I'm off sick today after major sniffles and sore throat struck yesterday. I hope it's not the flu that I had
recently returning. That was horrible.
For those in the UK, don't forget to vote tomorrow.
Thu, 21 Apr 2005
Our wasteful civilisation
links to a couple of interesting things.
One is a programme (The Energy Gap) on Radio 4 that I missed at the time, but was able to listen to on-line. A UK family tried living
on the same amount of energy as one in India. This meant cutting electricity use by 2/3 and sourcing food from
local sources. They may have gone to extremes by having a solar panel fitted, using camping lamps and using less heating.
They pointed out the wastage from all the low voltage adaptors that are left switched on all the time. I gather they
reverted to some of their old ways when the experiment was over, but I hope they learnt something. The programme should
be there for a couple more days.
The other is a list of statistics about how much more of everything the average home in the USA has. More TVs, baths,
cars and bigger houses. I'm not sure if the UK is going quite to the same extremes. A lot of new houses are not very big,
but we still have more gadgets. They point out that some devices that get left on standby can use more electricty overall
in that state than when they are switched on.
Of course there's lots of things everyone can do to make a difference. Turn off lights and other devices when not required,
don't boil more water than you need, re-use carrier bags. It all adds up. Oh, and try driving a bit slower. That seems to
be a hard one for a lot of people. I've been taking it a bit easier lately and getting a few more mpg. Makes for a more
relaxed journey too for the sake on taking a couple of minutes longer.
Fri, 01 Apr 2005
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It's been a few weeks since I added anything here. I'm sure you've all been eagerly
awaiting an update ;)
We took a week off work to visit my sister in Edinburgh. Friends and family will
be able to see the photos at my Multiply
site. The geek aspect to this visit was that I was able to meet up with some
people for a keysigning. This was facilitated via Biglumber. This is a site for those interesting
in keysigning to advertise the fact, along with their location. I signed keys for
four people and am gradually getting their signatures on mine. Managed to have
a brief chat with them before dashing off for a great veggie meal at David Bann.
I had my first bit of guestbook spam this week. It's deleted now to deny them any
benefit. Spam seems to be generally getting worse. Some is being filtered by the
mail server, but Thunderbird
picks up most of the rest.
After my earlier deliberations I bought a new digital camera. It's a Canon Powershot A400.
It's near the bottom of the Canon range, but I was going for economy. It offers
3.2 megapixels, a 2x zoom and lots of features like movies, sound, panoramic shots
and much more. It will do for our family snaps. I'm trying out KimDaBa as a simple photo management tool.
It lets me classify pictures according to location and subjects. The Gimp is handling the image manipulation nicely.
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