Friday, 8 December 2017

So sad, sordid and true.

The passing of Christine Keeler, the former model at the centre of the Profumo affair, has prompted many elderly Britons to pine for a time when Tory ministers got sacked for doing something enviable, like sleeping with sexy women who were also having an affair with Russian diplomats - from Newsthump.

“People were scandalised by John Profumo, but most men were envious too. Everyone wanted to be a powerful man who gets ensnared by a young promiscuous beauty. No one – and I mean no one – wants to be the guy that gets drunk and tries to feel up Julia Hartley-Brewer.”

Take that, liberal post-modern world, and shove it up your... errr, jumper. Although I didn't think J-HB was THAT bad.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Tesco had a 'special offer' on takeaway curry

I've eaten about 1400 calories tonight and feel it. Meh.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Does anyone else wonder how Paul could get people to listen to him speak?

Or to put it another way, does the current Christian tradition have nothing to say of value?

I've just read this post this evening, and it made me wonder if the way we're making church social and based on low-value friendships is gently killing off the value of Christianity to both those inside and outside alike. It's as though many of our preachers have nothing to say that carries any weight or worth that would actually make someone want to listen or know more.

Does antimatter exist in news?

Because it should be possible for 2 articles to cancel each other out with a loud bang and release of excessive energy. For example:

Inside Internet Archive


The right to be forgotten is an assault on freedom

So 'we' applaud the efforts of a team making sure that no-one can drop stuff down a memory hole to be forgotten, and we applaud governments for fighting for our rights to have dumb stuff we do deleted from the internet.

It's contradiction at its finest.

Of course we don't want our politicians and celebrities faux pas to be forgotten, but in that case why should we expect to cover our own backsides? Does this only work if you have the 'right' perspective, and because you know that you're innocent? Or does this only apply to search engines, and the guys running the internet archive are not making money off their public product and are therefore in the clear.

Quite curious really.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Channeling my inner 'Joe Walsh'

For some reason this picture from a friend's 50th birthday party on Saturday night reminds me of Joe Walsh.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Curation is so much harder than creating

Next weekend Chris and I are both taking part in a local exhibition and art sale, and I need a tangible, coherent set of pictures that are pertinent to the area and hopefully attractive enough that some will end up on customer's walls.

Curation i.e. the selection of works to put together seems a consuming and highly negative business. All the shots that are 'interesting' or have some value to me as their creator have to be scrutinised and unless really useful, discarded for the purposes of showing. I've been through iterations of how the works might be displayed too, whether as hung pictures (how it will be) pictures in mounts presented in clear plastic sleeves (there will be those too) or photo books (this was an idea that kept coming back, but putting together a book that actually works is darn hard!).

My 'cop out' will be to set up a monitor with a continually changing slide show comprising around 500-1000 favourite images (500 images was the number that I wanted to exhibit at first pass) that can just keep playing while people watch.

The flip side to curation is that I just don't feel like processing images. There are quite a lot from Crete to work through & polish, plus more that have been taken since, like those from the Durdle Door trip earlier this week. Hopefully once this is out of the way then I shall feel like bothering again, and get back into the processing side again, to crank out more new stuff.

Just heard in the kitchen

"There should be a bag of sympathy" (Chris sorting out cards )

"That sounds like a small sack of regret too."

Friday, 3 November 2017

If you have ever felt guilty.......

because you fell asleep when you were supposed to be praying, apparently the pope does it too.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Last week was the end of an era.

In February 1999 a little company called Oxford Bio-Innovation rented a suite of rooms in the newly established Cherwell Innovation Centre, turning one of them into a lab with coldroom, wash up area etc. That was the first lab in CIC and I was part of the team that sorted out the conversion, furnishing and equipping before working for that business for nearly 10 years and 2 changes of ownership.

Since then I had my own business in the centre (in the Diagnox Lab, set up by Lisa Mynheer, previously operations director of OBI) between 2009 and 2015 before I took on managing Diagnox.

Building 77 has been 'home' for a long time, and in many ways I'm really sorry to go. The Diagnox job was a good place to be in the time of shutting down my business, when I was feeling a bit bruised and like a failure from the time helping lead Heyford Park Chapel. It was quite relaxing to just sort out the mundane stuff associated with daily running of a lab, just playing janitor, and occasionally advisor to some of the businesses there. I'll really miss the team too, people I was able to love & serve a bit: that's often so much NOT a part of work because of pressure that this was refreshing, and almost validating.

It was also slightly amusing that, in true Diagnox style, Wednesday was my last day at work, but Thursday night I went back in to top up liquid nitrogen levels in the storage vessels because the other lab person was on leave. Hope he sorts things out in the future with other tenant companies or a deputy so they don't thaw.

The coatigan was a missed opportunity

This recently fashionable piece of outerwear might have instead been named the 'cardigoat', thereby making the world an happier, funnier place.

Sunday, 22 October 2017


Thanks to Ben's efforts in the last week, I've just sold the Moto Guzzi V50 that I bought a couple of years ago for Ben to use as an example when rebuilding his bike. Less stuff is not a bad thing at all.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

I would not have believed how much

...........can be fitted in a Mini Countryman.

Bike bag with Ben's enduro bike + spares & tools.
Snowboard bag with multiple snowboards
Medium-large suitcase holding clothes for snowboarding, cycling and living in

All with room for 3 adults + a rucksack as carry-on luggage.

My ghast was a bit flabbered, but it all went in, and we didn't even have to force the rear door shut.

Ben is off in the morning. Now if the ebay buyer who 'won' his BMW estate would actually get in contact to collect it that would be really helpful.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Twitter battles hate and upskirt images

I think it's interesting that when I read that title I saw a comma where none existed: at first pass it read "Twitter battles, hate and upskirt images".

Bearing in mind that it's not a site I use or even visit if at all possible, they appear to have a brand problem.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Just 5 working days to go

Before I leave one of my roles to go full time in the other.

Exit interview - done.

Writing of handover essentials for my replacement - started.

Off-colour jokes hard to resist - (insert rude pun here).


The last 3 or 4 months I've been intentionally posting science and innovation articles on Linkedin, both personally and on behalf of the lab, and we suddenly seem to have started getting enquiries, plus we've sent out 2 rental proposals today for potential customers. In the summer I wrote a competition  entry for one of our previous businesses and they won 3rd place out of about 75 entries.

It would be nice to go out on something of a high. As I observed at my exit interview, this was a strange process, because I haven't resigned from a job with an HR dept. since 1989. There's a strange feeling of detachment, as well as a pressing need to clear up & throw my rubbish away so that I can leave with a clear conscience.

Life is going to become quite complicated over the next few months.

One of our tenant companies here is also shutting down, last day in the centre for them today, and saying goodbye to someone who has become a friend, albeit somewhat awkwardly, was difficult.

But life goes on.

Friday, 13 October 2017

A good quote from CS Lewis.

“What do people mean when they say ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good.’? Have they never been to a dentist?”

Thanks to Ineke

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Having started to blog the Cretan holiday

I did not continue. In a nutshell:

It was wet & miserable the first couple of days, overcast with occasional rain the next 2 days and finally warm and pleasantly sunny the last 2 days.
Chris was ill, gradually recovering over the course of the week.
We had progressively increasing amounts of activity, finishing with a 7 kilometer walk at the end of the week, rather than the 18 kilometer Samaria gorge that we had hoped to do.
And then we went home.

There were a few special bits, but we have concluded that because of our travels we are now a bit jaded and what was once amazing is now expected, plus the world is no longer 'innocent' when one visits as a tourist. So the palace of Knossos outside Iraklion was crowded, and areas where we could once walk were now of limits - it was a real anti-climax. Tavernas supply 'village sausage' instead of loukanika (λουκάνικο), Greek omelette instead of sfougato (σφουγγατο) and giant beans instead of  gigantes plaki (γίγαντες πλακί). There were some beautiful views along the way, so at least we're not completely spoiled, but the holiday wasn't special as I think we'd hoped.

We had a little 'excitement' on the way to the airport, with signs either defaced or removed, and the phone navigation software unable to recognise the words Chania Airport despite them actually appearing on the map, making finding the airport a little more of a final challenge than expected. Obviously we got there in the end. :-)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Welcome to sunny Crete.

I believe the rain has stopped for now.  Or not – within a minute of typing that it had begun to hammer down, notified to us by the noise of water hitting foliage.

Yesterday I was reminded of why package holidays make life easier – rock up at the airport and the tour company take over all the effort. Not that yesterday’s travel was especially difficult, and in some ways was the kind of exploration we enjoy, but Chris was feeling really unwell with a nasty cold and the early start combined with a really crappy hire car raised the challenge level. There is also something about Greek that I had forgotten, that words frequently don’t get translated the same on every occasion, so that having managed to find the sister hotel to the one we were using (Dimitrios village hotel instead of Dimitrios beach hotel) and then entering the street address, sat nave declared that the address was not known. (The difference was down to the ‘official’ address being on Apostolon street and the map address being Afpostolon).

We drove this way 30 years ago, when Chris was pregnant with Ben.

I recall the drive quite well. Mostly it was beside the sea on a smallish road that sometimes had bits of dual carriageway, and we were able to drive right up to the town of Rethymno (or Rethymnon – as it used to be, names being updated round here). Now the coastline has been covered in hotels, shops and apartments, and the occasional ruined house was evidence of how things used to be. The roads between these buildings are tiny, narrow affairs that look like driveways or garage entrances, and when the satnav tried to take us down the first one I drove right past, thinking there was no road there.

Arrival eventually happened, and we slithered across slick marble floors to check in.

“Please sit over there just 2 minutes”

That was from the hotel receptionist, on seeing our reservation paperwork. Someone else was called, phone calls were made, another “2 minutes please wait” request made, and eventually a still smiling and cheerful receptionist showed us to our room.

The hotel was clearly once self-catering apartments as shown by the kitchenette in our room, but presumably a change in the tourism market made them go all inclusive, which is the package we have with them.

The room itself is the opposite of the one we had in Turkey last year – spacious and light (instead of small and dark, well designed) but with odd arrangements (wash basin in the main room, little wardrobe space, mirror + hair drier just a couple of feet in front of a pillar, tiny bathroom).  We got our bags in and then I hunted down a parking space, fortunately just round the corner by the sea front.

Chris went to bed with her cold, and I unpacked. Thrilling. ;-)

Dinner was the typical buffet thing, and pleasant enough, even though the dining area was crowded, and the first table we were allocated was taken by someone else while we got food. It’s a little odd to have wine and beer on tap for the taking, but the days of feeling like a kid in a sweetshop have long gone, and we just eat & drink what we would normally have as much as availability allows before hitting the slightly firm sack.

And it was night and it was morning, the second day.

We must have been tired yesterday, because we were in bed for 10 hours, and Chris had already slept some during the early evening.

So as alluded to in the introduction to this piece, today is another day with rain. It’s not cold – about 20’C – but it is a little humid and everything is damp outside. Given the nature of the hotel it’s tempting to explore the limits of the ‘all inclusiveness’ but instead we’ll probably head out for a moist walk along the sea front.

Monday, 9 October 2017

The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word Biocoal?

For me, it was compressed poo.

On investigation, first impressions are, in fact, correct.

Where there's muck there's brass - and calories - as the phrase has it.

Monday, 25 September 2017

You may not be able to say "Ruddy Duck" 10 times quickly

But they can have some most surprising attributes, especially when females are scare and the competition is strong.

I'm not sure whether this is rude, fascinating science, puerile, extremely funny or just a poorly understood bit of developmental biology. Possibly all of them.

Some thoughts about upbringing and preference.

Funny how stuff lands on your mental desk sometimes.

I recently read this article about impressing on children the pattern they will adopt as adults. Of course the article was written in a negative sense about how wrong it is that children are being imprinted with their cultural patterns. Obvious, innit?

We live in an age where there is a lack of leadership, of clarity, where self-will is the law and personal freedom of expression in any and every way must not - may not - be denied.

What if this patterning is beneficial to the majority of children and subsequent adults. Suppose instead of a gender straitjacket, one helps girls to be normal healthy heterosexual girls and the boys to be normal healthy heterosexual boys. You help them recognise the strengths and weaknesses that characterise both their sexes in general and their bodies and minds in particular, you work with them to develop them to the best of their potential?

Would this lead to them growing up distorted and reduced or would it give them reassurance in knowing who and what they were? I rather think it would reduce much of the uncertainty and also the pressure to try all kinds of things, and enable them to be happier, more secure. Sexuality and gender is somewhat plastic in most people, and we are attracted to what we are told is attractive.

What about those who don't fit?

I still think they would be happier, particularly if given opportunity to be guided in their exploration and understanding of who they are, by people who wanted them to be the best they could be. In all ways.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

But are you a mouse or a man?

A recent article in New Scientist suggests that in male mouse brains there is a link between aggression and sexual behaviour - these behaviours are controlled by the same section of the hypothalamus - while for females there is no such link. While it's a big jump to extrapolate from this research to humans, these parts of the brain are often quite conserved.

From an observed social perspective, humans seem to often behave as though sex and violence are connected in the male as frequently portrayed in films and books, while traditionally sex has had a passive approach from females. Of course there are many exceptions to this, and it's hard to image a marriage being long and happy where violence and sex were irrevocably linked: one would hope that people were not completely at the mercy of their basic lusts and desires. Likewise one occasionally comes across stories of women where these behaviours seem linked, but much more rarely.

Why bother to comment at all?

There has been scholarly work done to demonstrate that male and female brains are no different, yet here is something that suggests otherwise, subject to further investigation. This obviously has overlap into sexual preference and gender too, but that's another blog post. To me, it seems that the differences between men and women, are many and various, and much more than 'just' about the controlling brain. While there's a feminist approach to women in society that seems to suggest they are really the superior side of homo sapiens, repressed by stronger but inferior males, it seems far more likely that the 2 halves of the species are complementary.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Eugene Peterson The Jesus Way

So I've embarked upon reading another Christian book.

EP described consumer church as antichrist church in the introduction. Which, as I've just realised, is interesting for someone who authored what I always thought was THE consumer translation of the bible (I appreciate that may not have been the intent).

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Why shoot urbex*

This short video gives one perspective.

Personally I like the feeling of going somewhere abandoned, and it certainly takes me back to being a kid in London, growing up with all kinds of places and facilities that had fallen out of use and could be used as playgrounds (providing one did not get caught). I've done a little urbex work over the last year, as can be seen on my flickr pages.

*Urban exploration, if that's not obvious.

Link to flickr album:

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Ever wonder what 'reading mode' was for?

Over the last year or 2 I've seen a 'reading mode' mentioned as a new browser feature, that clears away clutter & just presents the user with the page content. Now I normally run ad-blockers on my own computers, and usually my pages are uncluttered with moving, flashing, irritating content and I've been wondering who would actually care about such a feature.

So about 3 months ago my 'own' laptop arrived, provided by Oxford Innovation using their standard build. No ad blockers by default, and I'd decided to leave it that way.

Suddenly I get reading mode.

It converts Tech Radar's hideous monstrosity of a review site buried in flashing adverts and unexpectedly playing videos into something pleasantly readable without ghastly distractions. TR has been one of my go-to review sites in the past, but without ad blockers the useful content gets buried in pulsating visual faeces and it's simply horrible to view. It was so bad that I'd often prefer not to bother unless I was feeling especially focussed and robust that day.

Perhaps this is the browser designer's answer to adverts? It made me feel like I had my browser back.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

And when you write software, everything can look like a technology problem.

I saw and liked this quote because it's kind-of true:

“There’s an intrinsic incompatibility between the internet and nation states,” says Santiago Siri, one of Democracy Earth’s co-founders. “If we’re going to think about digital governance, we need to think in a borderless, global way.”

People connect across frontiers, cultures, ethnicities, religions and age differences. I can't tell if you're gay, straight or trans unless you choose to tell me when you're on a forum. I have no idea if a comment on a blog came from a Goan, Eskimo, Catalan or Tutsi unless there's additional information provided. And we can - sometimes even do - talk freely to each other.

So starting from the point of the quote, it seems that some clever people are trying to put together a voting system that can cross borders and even political parties.

And that's great.

But it completely ignores human nature, which not only revels in diversity, but is still affected by all the differences I've mentioned PLUS by various levels of honesty and of a desire to control others.

My first thought when reading the articles was about how quickly and easily votes could be bought by those with hard cash or actual bitcoins*. How a transparent system like this was bound to very very quickly fail because human nature is corrupt and greedy, careless and arrogant. Yes, there are many thoughtful, loving, kind, gentle, honest and careful people out there, but there's also a lot of stupid, greedy, careless, hard-hearted or even just plain poor or easily misled people out there too. 

You can connect people across borders, cultures and all the rest, but they will still be people, susceptible to all the things to which people fall prey. Any any voting system they use will be susceptible too.

*I first came across bitcoins in around 2010, through the Diaspora network, and had no real idea what they were. The guy running a particular server through which we connected had a computer fail and was asking for donations in bitcoins to help him buy new parts, presumably because of the anonymity aspect/alternative culture of the currency. I slightly wish I'd bought a couple then, but y'know how 20:20 hindsight goes.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Local rogues gallery

Well, maybe not quite. As part of the millenium celebrations I was asked to photograph every household in the village. The pictures seem to have been scanned, and are now all available on the Somerton village website. It was an interesting project, and I managed to get almost everyone.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Lord of the flies - but with women?

The times, they are a'changing.

Apparently there may be plans to film an all-female version of LotF, but the idea is being poo-pooed with the suggestion that women would naturally just band together & look after each other.

Naturally this produced a number of thoughts fairly spontaneously, not least that western millenial males often behave like women too, and would be much less likely to create such a toxic microcosm. And building on the millenials theme, when I was at school there was a distinct minority of girls that would have fitted in to the story just fine, with some being physically violent and others quite poisonous in the way they tried to manipulate others. Finally this is a story about children, rather than adults, and children do still often get themselves in a social pickle.

But y'know, everyone has to have something to be offended about in the news. ;-)

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Heard in the office

If you get it wrong then put snopake on your boobs.

From an earlier, more innocent age.

But is this a loss?

Terry Pratchett had up to 10 unfinished books left on a hard drive - now apparently crushed according to the BBC.

I've not read a novel in ages, but Ben had "Raising Steam" from the library to keep him company while recovering from his op recently, & I've been reading it now he's finished it.

Disappointing is a good word.

Basically it just seems to lack imagination: lets bring 19th century technology to the magical discworld. Also let Dwarves = Islamic fundamentalists, but let them just be cardboard cut-out characters, written from a deliberately myopic understanding of people.

Pardon the pun, but all the magic that was present in The Colour Of Magic has by now been thoroughly drained to create a society that kind of looks like ours, but one which can be used to protest about what's wrong with the world and where a main character falls dully and predictably in love. It's boringly moralising, despite trying to raise a sense of outrage at the mistreatment of (fictional) goblins, predictable and not much fun.

The more the Discworld has been developed, the less exciting and novel it has become. I'm not sorry there won't be any more novels from 'beyond the grave' (that's a phrase that should resonate with Pratchett fans) though if a different writer had been at the helm then perhaps they would have been more enjoyable.