Welcome to Delta Pavonis

Dom Mooney's Website


Migration Step 2 complete

Next step done.

Stacks installed along with the BlogSpot stack. This means that the Blogger feed is now displaying on my website, at the moment it's on a separate page while I try and find a way to get a RapidBlog licence (which will allow me to export the old archive to Blogger and synchronise it all). The alternative is that I allow the original blog posts to stay on a standalone static page, which I'd rather not.

Migration Step 1 complete

This site has now been migrated from a build in Rapidweaver 5.3 to a build in Rapidweaver 7. It all went swimmingly except for the thirty minutes banging my head against the wall trying to understand why FTP didn't work. The answer was 'the firewall is blocking the new application', so quickly fixed when I realised.

Next step: implement Stacks and BlogSpot(*) to interface with Blogger. Cross fingers that the BlogSpot stack has a synchronise option for existing blogs in Rapidweaver like the old RapidBlog plugin.

(*)I'm looking at moving to these Stacks as the RapidBlog plugin is now no longer being actively developed; Loghound transferred it to Yourhead, and they aren't taking it any further. This was news to me, but it happened quite a while ago!

Yes, I am posting again

I doubt anyone has noticed, but I am posting here again. I’ve started trying to migrate the blog itself from Rapidweaver, with the hope of getting to something cross platform and usable anywhere. My initial move will be to try and get a working copy of RapidBlog so I can move the entire content across and use Blogger to host the text. I may eventually move the whole website across to Wordpress, but that will be some time away.

Even though I stopped posting I didn’t stop writing so I am slowly posting material into the archive; I guess this will go on for a few weeks. Anyone who uses the Tavern BBS Forum will recognise the Books in... posts as they are used in a thread there, in conjunction with my Goodreads account.

Review of 2018 Books

65 books read including 4 re-reads and several on graphic novels

Best novel read

Winner: The Labyrinth Index (Stross)
Runner-up: Thin Air (Morgan)
Stross pips this one by keeping me up all night with an absolute page turner. Lyonesse is not on this as I read the first two books originally at the end of 2017

Best gaming book read

Winner: The Sword, the Crown and the Unspeakable Power
Runner-up: Delta Green Handler’s Guide
SCUP wins this by underpinning my best gaming experience this year.

Notable point - I’ve read hardly any graphic novels this year.

Science Fiction (14)
  1. Autonomous (Annalee Newitz)
  2. Thin Air (Richard K. Morgan)
  3. Runcible Tales (Neal Asher)
  4. Mason’s Rats (Neal Asher)
  5. The Parasite (Neal Asher)
  6. The Expert System’s Brother (Nicolas Tchaikovski)
  7. Owning the Future: Short Stories (Neal Asher)
  8. Dogs of War (Adrian Tchaikovsky)
  9. Bridging Infinity (Ed. Jonathan Strahan)
  10. Noumenon (Marina J. Lostetter)
  11. Noumenon Infinity (Marina J. Lostetter)
  12. Lifeboat (Marina J. Lostetter)
  13. Elysium Fire (Alastair Reynolds)
  14. Ironclads (Adrian Tchaikovsky)

Urban Fantasy/Horror (7)
  1. Lies Sleeping (Ben Aaronovitch)
  2. The Labyrinth Index (Charles Stross)
  3. Witches of Lychford (Paul Cornell)
  4. The Lost Child of Lychford (Paul Cornell)
  5. A Long Day in Lychford (Paul Cornell)
  6. Wyntertide (Andrew Caldecott)
  7. Delta Green - The Way it Went Down (Dennis Detwiller)

Fantasy (9, 1 graphic novel, and 4 re-reads of Lyonesse books so 13 total)
  1. Norse Mythology (Neil Gaiman)
  2. Through the Woods (Emily Carroll)
  3. Collected Folk Tales (Alan Garner)
  4. The Letter for the King (Tonke Dragt)
  5. Alice (Christina Henry)
  6. The Red Queen (Christina Henry)
  7. Lyonesse 1: Suldrun’s Garden (Jack Vance) x2
  8. Lyonesse 2: The Green Pearl) (Jack Vance) x2
  9. Lyonesse 3: Madouc (Jack Vance) x3

Spy Novels (3)

  1. The Trinity Six (Charles Cumming)
  2. The Man Between (Charles Cumming)
  3. The Swiss Spy (Alex Gerlis)

Noir/Detective/Crime (2)
  1. Rupture (Dark Iceland #4) (Ragnar Jónasson)
  2. Whiteout (Dark Iceland #5) (Ragnar Jónasson)

Biography (1)
  1. The Princess Diarist (Carrie Fisher)

Contemporary literature (2)
  1. The Reservoir Tapes (Jon McGregor)
  2. Reservoir 13 (Jon McGregor)

Gaming (15 but misses out re-read of SCUP and lots of short books = 16)
  1. Delta Green Agent’s Handbook (Dennis Detwiller)
  2. Delta Green Handler’s Guide (Dennis Detwiller)
  3. The Forbidden Lands Player’s Guide (Beta)
  4. Forbidden Lands RPG (Fria Ligan)
  5. Forbidden Lands: Spire of Quetzel (Fria Ligan)
  6. Forbidden Lands: Raven’s Purge (Fria Ligan)
  7. The Journal of Reginald Campbell Thompson (Cthulhu Britannica)
  8. The Journal of Neve Selcibuc (Cthulhu Britannica)
  9. Tremulus (Sean Preston)
  10. The Sprawl (Hamish Cameron)
  11. The Sword, The Crown and the Unspeakable Power (Todd N. & Tom J.) x2
  12. The Cthulhu Hack (Paul Baldowski)
  13. The Dark Brood (Paul Baldowski)
  14. Cthulhu City (Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan)
  15. Dark Albion: The Rose Wars

Non-Fiction (7)
  1. A Brief History of Time (Professor Stephen Hawking)
  2. The Storm before the Storm (Mike Duncan)
  3. Surviving AI: The promise & peril of artificial intelligence (Calum Chace)
  4. Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History (Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer)
  5. Stranger Things - The Companion (Nick Blake)
  6. Notes from the Upside Down (Guy Adams)
  7. Stranger Things - The Ultimate Guide (Stephen Smith)

7 January 2019


I had an oddly cathartic day today, rebuilding the spreadsheets that underpin the management data we use for safety and environment at work. I'd inherited a mix of different systems that had grown organically over a ten year or so period.

I was strangely satisfied that I'd got to a point of order out of the chaos of duplicated effort and old school graph style. It's the kind of thing that triggers my coding head, something that I used to love, and something that I pretty much lost all the time and space to do at Unilever.

Feeling sorry for the folks I know back there, as they head into the show-and-tell dance of pedanticism that is a WCM audit. I don't miss that at all. The methodology is great, but the enforced Japanese audit style counter-productive and time destroying, especially when they are going through a period of massive change.

It's nice to have the scope to set my own agenda; of course, that comes with responsibility and accountability for the whole company.

18 October 2017

The Fletcher Memorial Home revisited

With apologies to Pink Floyd...

Take all your overgrown infants away somewhere
And build them a home, a little place of their own.
The Fletcher Memorial
Home for Incurable Tyrants and Kings.

And they can appear to themselves every day
On closed circuit T.V.
To make sure they're still real.
It's the only connection they feel.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, Trump and Pence,
Mr. Farage and Boris, Mrs. May, and Gove,
"Hello Theresa!"
Mr. Putin and party.
"Who's the beardy chap?"
The ghost of McCarthy,
The memories of Nixon.
And now, adding colour, a group of anonymous Latin-American Meat packing glitterati.

Did they expect us to treat them with any respect?
They can polish their medals and sharpen their
Smiles, and amuse themselves playing games for awhile.
Boom boom, bang bang, lie down you're dead.

Safe in the permanent gaze of a cold glass eye
With their favourite toys
They'll be good girls and boys
In the Fletcher Memorial Home for colonial
Wasters of life and limb.

28 February 2017

The Condensed Dracula Dossier


I went to my first Longcon this weekend, kindly organised by John Dodd and held at the Garrison Hotel, which is fast becoming the unofficial gaming capital of the UK (with Furnace, 7 Hills, Longcon and Shacon hosted there). I went to Longcon to defeat Dracula.

I’ve long been a fan of spy fiction (especially John le Carré and latterly I’m appreciating Charles Cumming’s work), I love films like the Bourne movies, and also a wide range of more cerebral espionage flicks like A Most Wanted Man, and I really enjoy vampires done right (for example Ultraviolet or Interview with the Vampire). This made me a natural for the Night’s Black Agent game that Steve proposed exploring the Dracula Dossier.

We started early, at the turn of the year, and between us came up with five individuals who would mesh together as somewhat challenged team; my character was a close-to-retirement SIS/MI6 spy, who had lost his way since the collapse of the Cold War. Alongside him was a former Romanian SRI assassin he’d recruited, played by Guy, a long serving MI6 digital intrusion expert mourning the death of his wife played by Nigel, an ambitious young Doctor working for MI5 (Paul), and a Special Branch pursuit driving infiltration specialist played by Julian. Steve took these characters and meshed their backgrounds into the plot, with Julian’s character being a distant female descendant of Quincy Morris and - likewise - Paul’s character Mark Seward being the descendent of the doctor from Enfield’s asylum.

We had a lot of highs and lows. Stand out moments for me were when I realised that the rest of the team were starting to take my character seriously as he tried to coordinate (he went from pretty much no trust to having the most); the utter terror we had when we visited the tomb (doh) of Lucy Westerna at night (doh) just to see if this vampire theory was right (doh) and found out that it was (doh) when she erupted from her tomb; the slow slide into self destruction that Nigel’s character went through as more and more was revealed; my character bringing Julian’s spy back from the edge when she revealed her treachery; seeing similar lines used by Guy for his hard edged but deeply hurt agent when he met his estranged wife back in Romania; the creeping realisation that we had been sanctioned by our own organisation; a moment of terror on a Bucharest bridge when Dracula killed our contact and we fled and hid in a church until dawn; the pain when Julian’s hard as nails character broke down at the orphanage she had been placed in when she was growing up and at the same time her realisation that Guy’s character had killed her mother, putting her there; and the final showdown where we successfully destroyed Dracula with a rocket launcher, a member of the team embracing damnation to atone and a variety of stakes and other weapons.

We played for around 12 hours the first day and at least another six the next. We used a whiteboard (on two sides, one for the official investigation into terrorism and one for the investigation into vampires), and a cork board with pictures showing the network of conspirators. We used the glass windows around the veranda to show key documents; reports, contacts, cover and key abilities. It felt like and operation room and we found ourselves playing by candlelight at the end of the first day’s play.

It was a fantastic experience, showing what a great GM and a committed group of players can achieve together with time, commitment and effort. This will be a long term gaming memory for me, a big high up there with my Irish Rover Beat to Quarters experience that Neil Gow was instrumental in delivering one Furnace some years ago!

12 July 2016

Farewell, Sir Terry, 66 years is too short

Terry Pratchett Books

It's strange how some things hit you. I've known that we will lose Sir Terry Pratchett prematurely since 2007, but wasn't expecting to hear the announcement today when I was driving home.

His books have always been a staple of my life since I started secondary school in 1983, when The Colour of Magic was first published. I can remember reading the adventures of Rincewind the Wizard with glee, and eagerly devouring the next book when it came out. A family tradition was born; every Christmas, my mother and father would always buy me the paperback of the latest Terry Pratchett, along with the annual Tolkien Calendar and probably a Satsuma and a Terry's Chocolate Orange.

At University, his books were my escape from examinations, and I tended to rip through the whole series (back when it was considerably shorter in the early nineties) as light relief and a touch of procrastination. His humour slowly shifted and became more subtle rather than slapstick, but I still found my sides splitting with laughter at unexpected moments.

Now I've children, my rate of reading has massively slowed, and I'm overdue a complete re-read of his books by several years. But the Christmas tradition continued, with a new book each year. Except now he's gone, and a little bit of my childhood with him.

Farewell, Sir Terry. You'll always be remembered through your books and the joy they have brought. But tonight, I will feel sad and raise a drink to you, as you pass into memory with a tall darkly hooded figure with a scythe, a horse, a strange twinkle of starlight in his eye sockets, and A LIKING FOR CAPITAL LETTERS.

Happy New Year

Just a quick post to wish you all a happy, prosperous and healthy New Year from the Mooney household, now we’re calming down from a complicated Christmas and New Year Period.

(You may still see a few posts appear in 2014, as I recover material from the archive that I never actually posted!).

Hamburg Photoset

Hamburg: Bridge framing

I mentioned Hamburg before. These are my photos from the two weeks I spent there:

Coming out of the Swamp

It’s been a hard six months at work. Started off well, with me refocussing following handing over the maternity cover role that I had done for most of 2013. It even became inspirational, as I spent two weeks away in Hamburg on a training course which defined a programme for safety management that I fundamentally believe in and can see the opportunity to reduce the number of people who get hurt substantially. It’s perhaps the way to break through the plateau that our performance has been at for the last few years.

And then reality started to bite. There was the small matter of the COMAH report to complete (see
Milestone Revisited for more details) which consumed a huge amount of time and effort, and on top of that the revised lean manufacturing programme for the factory. Now, about a decade ago I was trained in the JIPM’s TPM process, a child of the Toyota Production System, and I fundamentally believe in the rigour and logic that such a system requires. My company has now adopted a new, improved, focussed evolution of this system that promises a substantial, sustained reduction in cost combined with substantial performance improvements. Now, this is fantastic, music to my ears, but it has been a completely demoralising and exhausting process.

The level of rigour is substantially higher, and there is a huge pressure on time. The system is new, and the core company processes and procedures aren’t fully aligned. Officially they are, but they’re working out the bugs and contradictions at the moment, and the goalposts are moving as we play the game. Indeed, I commented to a colleague that it felt like we used to play football, and have now moved to play rugby, only to find out that while we’ve been learning Union we’re actually playing League. As a result, it’s hard, and I’ve taken too much home that should have stayed in the office. Over the last month we’ve had two harrowing audits, and are now picking up the pieces to move things back to a more normal footing. The plus side is that we are in a better position than we were before!

Jill and the boys have been fantastic, and very patient with me, and I owe them a big thank-you.

Anyway, tonight I’ve been sorting out photos that I’ve taken for people so I can share them, clearing my personal email account and generally getting things done. This follows an afternoon where Jill and I got on with essential maintenance in the garden. Slowly, normality is returning...

Harlech Castle

Harlech: Castle Explorers

Harlech: Cheeky at the Castle Gate


Ice Cream Monday

Helmsley: Delicious Ice Cream
Album link:

Milestone revisited

Today was one of those days that feel good, as my team and I completed a significant amount of work, and handed it into the regulator responsible. I don’t talk work very often here, but I’m kind of proud of this, so indulge me.

Those of you that know me well, know that while I am an engineer by training I work in health and safety at a high hazard site governed by the Seveso II directive (implemented in the UK as the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999, as amended) usually called
COMAH. This is a piece of European legislation, designed to minimise the risks to society from the consequences of major accidents and threats to environment.

It came about from major incidents at
Flixborough in the UK (large fire and explosion) and Seveso in Italy (Toxic release). It’s not “health and safety gone mad”, as David Cameron and his chums are so fond of ranting on about, but a very serious attempt to protect people and the environment from harm. A recent example of this in the UK was the fire and explosion at Buncefield in 2005, estimated as being the largest fire in Europe since the Second World War. The regulations consider flammability, toxicity and eco-toxicity (potential harm to the environment), and are governed by the Competent Authority (HSE and the various versions of Environment Agency across the UK).

Anyway, the site that I work at became a site covered by the higher requirements of COMAH – an 'upper tier' site – back in 2009, due a planned increase in the levels of 'dangerous substances' under the directive. Becoming upper tier requires you to have on and off-site emergency plans, and to produce a safety report that demonstrates that you meet the stringent requirements of the legislation to take 'all measures necessary' to prevent a major incident. This is more demanding than the usual UK requirement from the
Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 places on an employer. That duty is defined as 'so far as is reasonably practicable', whereas COMAH has the duty of 'as low as is reasonably practicable', a significant advance. But when you are dealing with events that can have a significant affect on society, this makes sense.

Every five years, you have to resubmit the safety report, and that's the milestone we achieved today. Having led the production of the report initially, I can confirm that doing it a second time is no easier. It was a great feeling when we handed it in at the HSE offices in Leeds today, six months, 733 pages and 230,000 words of detailed quantative and qualitative risk assessment later. I was proud of the way that my team had pulled together to make this happen.

Now I guess that it's back to reality!

Children are Strange

I do find it bizarre that all through the week we have to drag the seven year old out of bed to go to school, yet at the weekend I get up to find that he has been downstairs playing since around 7am.

He tells me that it is because “there’s lots to do”.

Back again

Not that I’ve ever really been away.

Apologies for the silence here, but the last 12 months ending up quite fraught with a large number of complications from work that meant that updating this blog was one of the things that got dropped. That’s not to say that I didn’t write stuff - rather, it never got to the point of being uploaded. Some of that will appear going forward.

Wedding +10

Esquires, Ambleside

I'm writing this in Esquires coffee shop in Ambleside in the Lake District. Jill and I have been away on a child-free weekend (with my parents looking after the little tykes), staying at very nice hotel with a spa to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. It's been a while since we last got time together like this, and every time we do I end up thinking that we must do this more often. I guess the living 100 miles away from family takes its toll here. Anyway, perhaps I should make a resolution to try and do this every few months, as its great to be away as a couple.

Ambleside Salutation - pretty at night
The very nice hotel

Jill is at the hotel, pampering herself with a 'treatment', whilst I've been wandering through Ambleside, browsing at shops and generally chilling out. The hotel has been excellent (Best Western Ambleside Salutation), living up the recommendation from the Wetherby Methodist Church 'Bootbashers' society. Rooms were good, with a decent swimming pool, hot tubs and steam room.We didn't sample the food beyond breakfast, mainly as we had other places we wanted to be.

Zeffirellis at Ambleside
Zeffirellis - Perfection?

Friday night saw a lovely Italian meal at Zeffirelli's Jazz Bar, following by a showing of The Hobbit. That was great too, but we left with a headache from the 3D. I'm tempted to arrange another showing to see it in 2D, as I think that the film will look better. Although the shots were lovely, I can't help but think that some of them suffered from being 3D, as they moved too fast to allow the eye to linger and appreciate the spectacle. As a big Tolkien fan, I was more than happy with the way that the film had been treated, but I do wonder how they will manage to stretch it to another two films.

Lines from the past
Lots more on the set from Ambleside at Flickr

Saturday started lazily, with a breakfast nearly as late as we could achieve, and then we went for a wander around town. Bizarrely, we spent a good chunk of time wandering around the parish church grounds and graveyard. Like a muppet, I had forgotten to bring my camera, so I was using my iPhone. The light was just right for black and white, with not enough contrast for colour so I used the Hipstamatic app (my favourite iPhone camera app); I'm pretty pleased with the results, but I was reminded how power demanding the post-processing is, with nearly half my battery going.

Looking through #2
OK, some in colour too, deliberately to saturate blue & green. You can see more on the set from Ambleside at Flickr

It's funny how looking at all the grave inscriptions makes you feel more in touch with what has happened in a community. I guess it's the little things that it draws out, the human day-to-day triumphs and falls.

Jilly, 10 years on

We chilled out at the spa when we got back to the hotel, and celebrated back out our room with a very nice bottle of Champagne that my parents had given us. Then we headed out to Doi Imtanon (which sounds like a place in Middle Earth) Thai restaurant for dinner. The service was great, and I must confess that we probably over indulged in wine because we found a nice bottle of Shiraz-Cabernet from the same Vineyard (Wakefield, South Australia) that had supplied the wine for our wedding breakfast.

Wakefield Wine
Same vineyard and very close to the wine from our Wedding breakfast, glug.

Fortunately, I was much less delicate this morning than I expected, so am feeling quite chilled out. We were going to try and watch 'the life of Pi' this afternoon, but have decided against it so we aren't back too late, as reality intrudes again tomorrow with a return to work and school. It's been lovely getting time with Jill without other pressures, and I'm fortunate to have such a wonderful wife.

Shattered Dreams

I hate the Jimmy Saville revelations, with a passion. In revealing how he behaved and shattered the lives of people who trusted him and looked up to him, he shatters memories and illusions of goodness to others that were part of my childhood, making the world a worse place. Part of me wishes that this had never come out, but then what justice would the victims have if it was forever buried? Every part of the good works that Saville was involved in is now tainted, and what legacy he left is turned to corruption and abuse.

Plus it allows the BBC to obsess about its favourite subject, the BBC.

Gratuitous Pics

A short selection of recent uploads to Flickr…



Port Sunlight - Fountain

Port Sunlight Boating

Captain Rex and his new Recruit

Riding with Poppy


Fire Hazard?

Birthday Tea!

Hearing but not Listening

I find it amazing how people can be told about the consequences of an act repeatedly, but seem shocked and upset when they do it anyway and have to face the music. Behaviour I expect from children, not leaders. Isn't human nature wonderful?

So Quick

As we headed out to Wetherby this morning, I noticed that Nathan has done one of those growth spurts that kids have again. Suddenly he's become taller, longer and leaner. I suspect that the hair cut yesterday has brought it all out, but then again it's only four months until he's six years old and he's now in his second year at primary school.

Aidan is also sprouting well, a very different little boy to his big brother. He'll be two in January! He tends to think things through more before he acts, and is incredibly stubborn once his mind is set on something. He doesn't lose heart very quickly either, refusing to be defeated. His coordination is great for a small child, with very accurate throws and kicks (as my nose has felt on several occasions).

Random Holiday Musings

Hope Cove, Early Evening
Hope Cove, South Hams, Devon

I always plan to write a blog entry after I've been on holiday, or even during the holiday. Well, this year I've decided to create a blog by capturing random thoughts and observations over the fortnight. There may be some jumps in continuity, and perhaps a lack of coherence, but I guess it's worth a go. The big challenge will be moving it from my iPad to the blog; I really need to look at Tumblr or Wordpress for my website's blog entries.

We took Aidan and Nathan to the beach in Inner Hope the second day that we arrived, which was popular. Two things stood out. Firstly, Aidan was absolutely fearless about the sea and not bothered that it was cold. He's a few months older than Nathan was the first time we came here, and its later in the year, but he went quite deep and two duckings from tripping didn't phase him. I can see that we're going to have to watch him.

Secondly, Nathan actually got stuck in digging when we started on a canal. In previous years I've had to do all the labouring, but he was big enough to use a large spade and that made quite a difference. I also found what would be better described as a mini-spade, or perhaps trenching tool. Metal bladed, wooden shafted but still only just bigger than a large child's spade, it promises to make things a little easier.


Truly Wonderful
I've just finished Jo Walton's superb book Among Others. Set in 1979/1980, it tells the tale of a fifteen year-old twin who has suffered a trauma, loves SF and Fantasy with a passion, and just might be able to do magic. By magic, I mean the old Celtic magics of subtle influence rather than Harry Potter or Dungeon & Dragons style *Magic Missiles*.

If you like SF and Fantasy, and can appreciate growing up in that period (which I guess puts you becoming a teenager somewhen between 1975 and 1985, or maybe more), then this book will bring back nostalgia for the first time that you discovered other authors or people who shared your passion for the genre. Brilliant stuff, and possibly my best read of the year so far.

Pennywell Farm

If you're ever looking for something to do with kids in easy reach of the A38, Pennywell Farm is worth considering. Entry isn't extortionate, nor the food prices (but bear in mind my last experience was Olympics London). It's a petting farm, and has a ride on a train, a tractor ride and a number of other things included in the price (the only extras we saw were pony rides and cash for powered go kart slots). There are lots of small slides, trampolines, picnic tables etc. scattered around, and a wide variety of animals and activities.

Aidan also learned a valuable lesson about why you don't stick fingers into hen cages, ignoring mummy and daddy. He still has all ten fingers and thumbs.

Best Laid Plans

Jill and the boys both in bed asleep by 9pm tonight (13/8). Perfect time to sort out the layout work that I'd wanted to resolve this holiday. Unfortunately, whilst the wireless is up, the internet connection is very much down. Best read a book then!

I was far too late to bed last night as I got hooked completely by Hugh Howey's *Wool* sequence, which has been released as an omnibus edition on Kindle. It's set in a silo where survivors of a forgotten apocalypse live on, a subtly dystopian society and right up my street after some of the writing that I've done for Wordplay recently. Criminals are sentenced to *cleaning*, made to go out into the toxic wasteland and clean the sensor sets. The title of the sequence is multilayered and not as odd as it may seem at first. I wholeheartedly recommend this, but you may find yourself suffering from the 'one more chapter' problem.

The Other Face
Devon is showing its other face today, with constant rain. Admittedly, it's warm rain, but the beach is out unless we break out the tent and the wetsuits. Jill and Nathan have popped out to Salcombe to look for a present and also do a recce on the swimming pool. Aidan and I just had fun.

Dungeon World
Enjoyed reading the pre-release (and pre-proofing) copy of Dungeon World which I received courtesy of backing the Kickstarter campaign. Loved what I read, but ended up proofing it as it was a PDF and on my iPad. Send it off to the authors, who were happy for the feedback. I'm really looking forward to this being released as it really catches the essence of old school D&D with a modern twist, in a far less crunchy way than Burning Wheel and the more direct D&D derivatives.

Proofing tools
Speaking of proofing, iAnnotate from Branchfire, combined with a Cosmonaut Stylus from Studio Neat, is a great way to proof PDFs on the iPad. The stylus feels like a highlighter and is very accurate, and iAnnotate handles basic PDF annotation really well. I recommend both.

On the Trains
We had our third visit to the South Devon Railway this week, and our second to the Rare Breeds Farm at Totnes (which is at the far end of the line from the start at Buckfastleigh). Both the boys enjoyed this, and Aidan started to show a very independent streak, wanting to walk and go and explore things himself. He was fascinated by ducks, saying "Oh look, duck!" and chasing one of the flocks around their enclosure giggling and going "qwak qwak" at them. He liked the train as well, maybe not quite as much as his brother.

The Farm also has a collection of rescued owls, which fascinated Nathan and gave me flashbacks to the owlet that fell the ground in the garden of the cottage that I stayed at in Devon when I was a child. Naturally, we called him "Plop" after the story The Owl that was Afraid of the Dark.

Tucker's Maltings
Rain was forecast again today, so we looked for another expedition. We wanted somewhere we could be under cover, so settled upon a visit to a working Maltings in Newton Abbot. Of course, when we arrived, the sun came out and was cracking the flags. The site was over a hundred years old, and catered really well for visitors, even 5 year olds like Nathan.

It was very much the industrial process of a century ago, still viable and working. And we got to sample the local brew at the end, which was nice. Nathan was most disappointed that he didn't get beer too! I even managed to put my safety professional head to one side during the visit, which was well organised and the hour passed very quickly. Aidan was less fascinated, but loved the museum at the end where he could run around and touch things.

Afterwards, we had a picnic in the park opposite - not a particularly attractive park, but fresh air and some much needed food to keep the boys quiet.

Are we nearly there yet?
The picnic didn't keep them quiet. Every car journey has been somewhat stressful, ranging from Nathan's question time ("What is there bad like black holes?", "What will happen when the sun dies?", "Mummy, is God dead?", and more) through to manic playing, giggles and squabbles on the back seat. That's the parenting experience, I guess. It's due to turn back to sunny tomorrow, so hopefully we'll be able to get them to burn off some energy on the beach!

My Kind of Traitor
I've started the latest John le Carré novel Our Kind of Traitor, which is deliciously sharp so far, continuing the return to form he has had since Absolute Friends. Something to thank the politics of George W Bush for, I guess, as he fired up le Carré's passion and anger again.

The only dark side I can see came from reading the bio, which made me realise the the author is now 80 and wonder how many more great novels are left for him to write. Many, I hope.

Updated - finished now, and I can recommend it. In common with most of le Carré's work, please don't ready if you expect a happy, Disney-fairy-tale ending.

Grand Day Out

Not quite all day, but most of the afternoon was spent on the beach at Inner Hope, building sandcastles, engineering the surface water outflow route on the sand to create moats and lakes, jumping waves and exploring rock pools. Back home with two exhausted boys, sun-kissed and happy. An incredibly cheap day too, compared to those when it rains!

It was Aidan's first proper day on a beach when he really knew what he was doing. He dug holes, threw sand, paddled in the pools and sea and ran around very excited. He was shattered at bed time!


Missing Opportunities
I think that major publishers don't get digital, and some small press publishers don't see the allure of print. Two examples from this evening follow:

1) Caught up with the Saturday edition of the Guardian, which has an interview with one of my favourite authors (from a young age), Alan Garner. Apparently, he has a new book coming out - always a great thing - called Boneland, which is an adult aimed sequel to his superb Weirdstone of Brisingamen and Moon of Gomrath. Those books have a special place in my heart as they lit up the Cheshire countryside of my youth, and made Alderley Edge an even more special place for me.

So, I go onto Amazon and pre-order the Kindle edition for release on 30 August. All excited, and knowing my Garner books are currently in storage while the extension goes on, I decide to buy Kindle versions of the first two books. These aren't available, and neither are any others in Garner's back catalogue. The publisher has just failed to make two or more novel sales that duplicate paper copies I already have. Isn't it foreseeable that people may want to buy the first two books electronically as well?!

I had a similar experience with M. John Harrison's Empty Space, the third and concluding book in his Kefahuchi Tract Trilogy). Third book is out electronically, but the first two? Again, this would have been duplicate sales for the publishers.

[Update 9/9/2012 - the second book in Harrison’s trilogy, Nova Swing, is now due out on Kindle at the end of September. Hopefully the first will follow.]

2) Smaller press. I'm reading Graham Walmsley's excellent Stealing Cthulhu, an inspiring revisitation of Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. Half-way through, I think "it'd be nice to get a copy of Ken Hite's excellent Tour de Lovecraft, which summarises and critiques the original HPL texts. Head to RPGNow, and discover there's no print edition (to complement the PDF I have) available via the Lightning Source POD link. Likewise, nothing on the publisher's site as it is now out of print. Disappointing, as it would be a nice compliment to Walmsley's book. I can get it Kindle… The thing is, it was produced in an age when not having the POD version is completely crazy.

Great day on the beach yesterday with oodles of sand engineering creating a plethora of castles, lakes and canals. Also had fun with Nathan 'wave jumping'; I hold his hand, he jumps, often with a helping hand from me, sometimes with waves bigger than his head. He gets very excited by this. I did have to take him back in though when he started shivering, no matter his denials that he was okay! He'd tried a body board the day before, even hough he was obviously scared by the idea, and loved it.

Aidan excelled himself by falling asleep, mid-lunch, on top of Jill for an hour and a half's nap!

Rain, rain come again

Loading the car to go was a somewhat damp experience as the heavens opened for the hour and a half that I was packing. As usual, we seem to have more for the return journey than the way here. Anyway, we're away and I'm writing this at the Beachcomber Café at Hope Cove (linked to the Hope and Anchor) where we are spoiling ourselves with a full English before we embark on the seven hour drive(*).

(*) Actually 10 hour in the end due to weather and traffic

Nathan's best bits
Nathan tells me that he "liked the beach because it was really nice and there was lots of shells and there was big waves that you could jump in. Sometimes I needed Daddy if the waves were too big. I liked it a lot because it was the best thing in the world".

A success, I think!

Jill's best bits
Jill's answer to the what was your best bit of the holiday was "The beach, Overbecks and the South Devon Railway, especially the salad at the Rare Breeds Farm".

Aidan's best bits
The beach, and sleeping in a grown up bed.

Temples of Science & Evolution

Temple of EVOLUTION!
Temple of Evolution: Natural History Museum

One of the great things about London for the visitor - and I guess for the locals - is the wide and excellent variety of Museums and places to visit. As this was Nathan's first trip to the Big Smoke, we decided to take him to two of the biggest; the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

Both have the things that will interest a five year-old boy *and* his parents, but overall our experience was that the Science Museum wins for overall excitement. Space rocket, lunar landers, cars, planes, bubbles, old technology, the Red Arrows and more won the heart of Nathan over the Dinosaurs, Creep Crawlies and Amphibians. Admittedly, he loved it all, but the Science Museum was the clear winner in the running from display-to-display and actually listening to videos and audio material stake. I also lost Jill & Nathan for thirty minutes after they got detoured into the Launchpad activity area when they had supposedly nipped quickly to the toilets!

The Natural History Museum (NHM hereafter) was also a bit more blatant in its commercial operations, with a wincingly expensive café and in-your-face promotion of dinosaur toys as part of the displays (cleverly wrapped up as 'dinosaurs in modern culture') which just happened to available immediately opposite the gallery exit. The Science Museum wasn't quite as blatant, although a can of soft drink was still £1.80 against the £2.00 in the NHM.

I went into an adult aimed temporary exhibit in both Museums; at the NHM it was 'Scott's Last Expedition', which cost £9 to go into. This was excellent, recounting the last, fatal, journey of Captain RF Scott and his men as they arrived second to Amundsen at the South Pole. There were a good variety of artifacts and interesting displays, giving a good understanding of the logistical and scientific achievements of the expedition. One thing that was apparent was the different focus applied by Amundsen and Scott. Amundsen was completely focussed on achieving the pole, whereas Scott had a huge scientific agenda as well. It's particularly painful when you realise just how close Scott's party got to the supplies and safety of 'One Ton' camp. I really enjoyed the Exhibition and would recommend it if you can get to London before it ends at the start of September.

Temple of SCIENCE!
Temple of Science: The Science Museum

In the Science Museum, I visited 'Codebreaker', an exhibition on the life and influence of Alan Turing, WW2 cryptographer, computer pioneer and philosopher. Free to enter, there was less to see than "Scott's Last Exhibition", but it was interesting material. I've read a fair amount on the Engima codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park, so that was a familiar story, but the early computing and morphology work was new to me. There was also a classic engineering example, with a section of the failed Comet airliner displayed. Apparently, the Pilot ACE computer designed by Turing was key in carrying out the calculations that demonstrated that the cause was fatigue cracking of the square windows. Again, and especially at the price, worth a visit.

All in all, we had great days both times we visited and it is fair to say that we could easily have spent all-day at both venues rather than the four-to-six hours that we were there at each.

Interestingly, Nathan actually gives the NHM '3 thumbs up' and the Science Museum '2 thumbs up' on the grounds that he felt the NHM had more stuff (but we only did two floors at the Science Museum). However, for all the NHM is the winner in the questions afterwards, the Science Museum was definitely the one that fascinated him most on the day. Intriguing.

Thank you, Danny Boyle

Sabre Final (Team)
Olympics - our view of the games when we went down!

The 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony was an act of genius that restored the chance to be proud of this countries' heritage, a chance that was cruelly ripped from us when the celebrations of winning the games were cut short by the atrocities of 7/7 (*)

The opening ceremony brought back all those emotions of pride in our heritage, of the way that the UK has influenced and led the world from the industrial revolution, to universal health-care and the birth of the world wide web and more.

Yes, there were moments of irreverent humour as well as the pomp and circumstance, but that just captures the national psyche accurately.

Initial viewing figures (which don't include iPlayer and streaming usually) suggest 26.9 million watched the opening ceremony in the UK. As it was alleged to have cost £27 million, that's the best pound I've spent in a long time! A hat tip to one of the government ministers I usually excoriate, Jeremy Hunt, for the vision to increase the budget even when the outcome may not have played best with some of his colleagues.

(*) If reports are true, NBC cut the 7/7 memorial in the US showing of the opening ceremony. If so, they have nothing but my contempt. Imagine if the UK had done the same about 9/11 and the pain that America feels about that atrocity?

A fortnight later, the closing ceremony was a classic example of over-promising and under-delivering. Too many suggestions of the greats of British rock and pop being involved were hinted and suggested into the media and not delivered upon. For me, it only came to life with Eric Idle's performance of 'Always look on the bright side of life' - which was genius - and had a few more high points that followed; the Royal Ballet performance, Rio, and 'The Who' at the end.

Queen were great right up to the point that Jessie J arrived, with Brian May reminding us why he is the best astronomer playing guitar in the world. There's nothing wrong with Jessie J as such, it just felt that her performance style in Freddie Mercury's place trampled over everything that Queen had been (**). In fact, Jessie J had delivered a performance earlier which – either accidentally or deliberately – skewered the ethos of the Olympic Movement's organisers: "It's all about the Money". In saying this, I talk of the International Olympic Committee whose corruption has become a matter of legend. I know that the song was a big hit, so I'm not certain if it was a sly dig, or just coincidence! Likewise, the Indian dancing in Eric Idle's performance makes me wonder if it had been added after the PM's recent contemptuous remarks.

Anyway, I'm certain that the closing ceremony - rather than being the "after party to end all after-parties" - is an event that is destined to be forgotten, unlike the opening ceremony. I have the soundtrack of the latter and love it, but haven't the slightest intent of buying the latter!

(**)Arguably something that the rest of the band members have been doing for years.

Final thoughts
The participants in the Olympics have my utmost respect, except for those that tried gaming results or doping to win. Their dedication and effort made the games.

Against all predictions, the LOCOG delivered a superb games for the athletes and the spectators. It felt incredibly welcoming and extremely well organised. It helped me feel proud to be British, despite our political classes.

The Armed Forces also deserve respect for the way they stepped up and covered for the ineptness of G4S, who look like they're back to the same reputation that they had when they were plain old 'Group 4'. It was great to see so many of our uniformed services making sure that the nation looked great and not feeling intimidating at all. I still remember us saying hello to two police-officers that had been seconded from West Yorkshire to find that one of them polices Wetherby, showing how the whole nation has pulled together to deliver this!

So now the Para-Olympic Games are approaching, which I hope will be at least as good.

Danny Boyle set the scene for the Olympics and ignited the nation's passion and pride for the games and itself. He - and Team GB - gave us reasons for hope and patriotism, and touched more of the heart of this this nation than Cameron, Clegg, and Miliband can ever hope to achieve.

I'll stop gushing now.

Continuum and the Brave Little Boy

So, I'm off to Continuum for the weekend after a hiatus of four years. I'm both excited and full of trepidation. Excited as I'll catch up with friends that I haven't seen in some cases for four years or more, and full of trepidation that the kids will mess around to the point that Jill will want me to come home early, or will be very fraught with the fact that I've been away. I had hoped that we could somehow turn the weekend into some kind of mini-break but it just didn't work out.

I've got three games ready to run, and over a hundred books and games to put into the Bring and Buy sale. Hopefully, most of them will go to save me the pain of putting them onto eBay. I'm booked into another game, Mark Galeotti's *Wordplay: 1510* 'clock punk' scenario, and the rest of the time is open to do as I will.

Nathan and his scooter wounds

Preparation got a bit stressed last night when Nathan came off his new scooter and managed to embed a lot of gravel within his hand. He was not happy with Jill or I trying to take it out so a trip to A&E at Harrogate ensued, with us getting to bed around 1am in the end. It blew the whole evening out, but I did have a nice time with him 'being brave' and playing pretty much every game on my iPad. He's subsequently been wearing his bandage as a proud war wound!

Anyway, I'll try and post some more updates but I'm not going to guarantee anything!

A Good Day

It's surprising just how fast the day goes when it is packed full of things to do. It started early, with Aidan waking in the early hours as it was so hot, and ending up in bed with me to try and settle him while Jill grabbed some sleep on Nathan's lower bunk. By 7am, Aidan was wide awake again (having been very restless ever since he came in to me) and bouncing on me, demanding that I read him a story (he's very attached to Thomas the Tank Engine at the moment) and generally be fun.

Fortunately, Jill woke up and started to entertain him (and soon after Nathan) and I got a chance to get a little sleep back.

We headed down into Wetherby, as we had a few errands to run. Nathan and Aidan both needed some sandals sorting out - Nathan's being a change from those bought the night before as they were too big without socks. (See, that's why socks and sandals have an uncool meme). I spent an hour or so buying the essentials, then caught up with the shoe shopping party who were still in the shop. There'd been a huge queue; the shop assistant said that they had been mad busy all week since the sun decided to arrive in force!

We rushed home, and went separate ways. I took Nathan to a birthday party, and Jill took Aidan swimming to Waterbabies (which he enjoys even if he can be a little too laid back with his thumb in while swimming)!

The party involved a soft play area, and then party food and games, while the mums and dads tried to relax and at the same time watched the kids like hawks to make sure they behaved! It was Star Wars themed, so Nathan really liked that.

I'd hoped to stop off at the Muse Bar in Wetherby on the way home for a cold alcohol-free Erdinger, and Nathan was angling for a pint of lemonade with ice (it's the latter he was really hankering for), but it was mostly shut due to a wedding. Instead, we went to the supermarket and bought supplies, avoiding the need to explain to Jill.

On arriving home, it was 'gentlemen, start your barbecues' as Jill had bought supplies. I cooked without burning (and can recommend Debbie & Andrews 97% sausages as the lack of fat makes them cook well!) and Nathan was really happy as he'd requested the BBQ. Unfortunately, while I was cooking he managed to crash off his push scooter, racing the lad next door, as he hit a stone. Big graze to the arm, very upset little boy, and lots of TLC needed.

As I write this, Aidan is asleep, and Jill & Nathan are watching Eurovision. All in all, it's been a good day, a normal day.

Meanwhile, the house extension continues...

The rant I mentioned

At the start of May, I mentioned in a post that I had a rant that I intended to post. I’m not going to post it now. Things have moved on somewhat.

The rant was about the bigoted and discriminatory campaign that the “Coalition for Marriage” has been running opposed to the present consultation on the marriage laws in this country. It systematically shredded the campaign’s reluctance to present any evidence despite claiming to have a substantive and extensive selection at its fingertips. This has changed a little recently, as they have posted some supporting documents. Having read through these, I do find it amusing that in some cases they are relying on evidence as far back as 1866 to make their point, but I accept they have now built a more substantive argument.

It’s an argument that I can’t in any way agree with. The present “civil partnership” definition was a fudge put in place by the last Labour government to avoid causing offence. Well-meaning, but fundamentally discriminatory. Exactly the same case could be made for extending the provisions of civil partnerships to include heterosexual couples as can be made for extending marriage to homosexual couples.

I find it offensive that, until recently, C4M was relying on a petition to demonstrate its case rather than participating in the open - and formal - consultation process being run by the Home Office. They are now advocating that the supporters only answer the 2 questions that they feel are most relevant, rather than actively supporting the process.

Letting homosexual couples marry isn’t going to end the world.

It isn’t going to undermine the fabric of civil society.

It doesn’t have any bearing upon the religious and their rights to hold their own views and practices.

It affects a specific part of civil law that will allow 2 people who love each other to marry and have the same recognition for their relationship as the rest of society.

If you feel strongly, either way, then you can find the consultation online here:
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/equal-civil-marriage/ I encourage you to take the time to fill it in before it closes on 14 June.

Rain stopped PLAY

We decided to take the boys out for the bank holiday as a treat and headed off to 'Play!' at Harewood House. This was a child-friendly event, with a Lego stand and lots of rides and play-buses etc. Ideally stuff for a bank holiday weekend to keep the kids entertained, really.

It was expensive (with £10 per adult entry), but we had fun in the Lego room. Then, as we had lunch the weather changed to cold, icy rain, so we decided to head home.

On reflection, I don't think I'd rush to go to this again - the Lego was nice, but nothing special. A trip to the Discovery Centre at the Trafford Centre would have probably made more sense. Most of the activities – the fun bus, the train, and the carts - had extra charges beyond the entry at Harewood, which I think was a bit cheeky.

Anyway, having got home, Jill & Aidan are napping, and Nathan is chilling out...

Bedtime Reading

We've had a bit of a break from the usual bedtime stories that Nathan has over the last 3 weeks as we've been reading “the Hobbit” night by night. It was actually at his request but I guess that's really my fault. About 6 months ago he wouldn't sleep, so I was asked to read him a story to try and get him to settle. The only problem was that we didn't have any of the books he liked to hand. So I gave him an oral version of the Hobbit as he lay in bed and ever since then he's asked me to tell them about Smaug the Dragon and Bilbo Baggins.

It's been great fun, and he's only been scared once. He asked me to stop doing Smaug voice when Bilbo met the Dragon. Anyway we should have finished it tonight but he fell asleep 3 pages from the end, just before the hobbit returns to Bag End to find all his personal effects being auctioned off by his over-eager relatives!


Jill and I were struggling to decide what story to try next and we're now tempted by the classic "Swallows and Amazons" as he loves the Lake District.

Produced with Dragon Dictate 2.5


Nathan has had a busy few weeks, starting with successfully swimming 5 m on his own to get his national swimming award and move up to the Orange group from the Red. He's really confident, very different to a lot of the children in his group who are older and bigger than he is. That's probably the Water-babies sessions he went to from an early age showing.

On our bikes 1

Even more impressively, he is gaining more and more confidence on his bike ever since we got the new, bigger, faster and yellower model. The other weekend Jill asked me to take him out to burn off some energy and get him out of her hair. I decided a bike ride was a really good idea. He was very excited and worked really hard. We went out on the Harland Way, a national cycle route that runs behind our house, in the direction of Spofforth village. I kept on asking him if he wanted to stop but he always said no. In the end we went all the way to Spofforth and back again. There is a great little pub at the end of the cycle path, but I didn't think it was appropriate to go and buy him a celebratory pint, even of lemonade. He was ever so proud when he told his mum that he'd managed to cycle for 5 miles in total. He keeps asking me when we can go for a "longer"cycle ride so he can have a “bigger number”

Hip Dude

Aidan is also doing well, in both his speech and walking. He is now standing freely and doing little walks when he thinks we are not looking and otherwise surfing around the room using the furniture for support"
There are very clear names and phrases coming out now which can be startling on occasion.

"Hello Der", is a favourite!

“I did dat", is another that he takes great delight in, especially if he's being a bit naughty!

And scarily, “what dat?", is getting increasingly common.

Produced with Dragon Dictate 2.5

What happened to February?

You may wonder why no posts in February besides this?

It’s quite simple - I wrote a substantial rant and managed to delete 3/4 of it, and then reality bit hard with my NEBOSH Diploma, which has eaten a lot of time. Normal service will resume.

300 years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds

This video is a really good overview on why burning toxic dinosaur residue to produce toxic dinosaur gases (so I stole that from The Infinite Monkey Cage) can be bad for us. It’s worth five minutes of your time. It presents what’s one of the biggest threats(*) to humanity at the moment, one that most politicians seem to be completely detached from the science and realities of the issues.

Tip of the hat to James Robey for spotting this and posting on his Facebook.

(*)The other big ones being a ‘flu pandemic – especially as we’ve engineered extremely lethal avian ‘flu variants in labs – and a big coronal mass ejection taking down the electrical infrastructure in the developed world (more likely in 2013 when the solar cycle peaks).

But, unlike something like a Yellowstone Supervolcanic Event, these are all things that we can do something about, if only we have the will and the vision.

Oh, and a Happy New Year to you all! Winking

Turning 40

Birthday meal at the Muse
Birthday Meal at the Muse - I stress it was my 40th, not these two!

This is a blog entry I have been meaning to write for a while, but I kept putting it off. I’m not certain if that means that I’m in denial about the ageing process, or if it just means that I have been silly mad busy over the last two months. I’ll stick with the latter for now. I know that a 40th was the first significant birthday of my parents that I remember!

Significant birthdays become a problem for me, ever since my 30th. Being born on September 11 means that you share the birthday with one of the worst terrorist atrocities ever committed. As I was born in 1971, it means that Al Qaeda’s attack on the twin towers will always have a significant anniversary when I have a significant birthday. 9/11 will always cast a shadow.

Putting that aside, it is fair to say that both my 30th and 40th birthdays were great fun, in no small measure because of Jill. She’s great at plotting and scheming very memorable events. My 40th celebrations were spread over a full month, and the final event was a complete surprise.

One of my pics of the couple

My parents came over to visit a few days before my birthday as my birthday-weekend had become quite complicated due to the fact that some close friends were getting married on Saturday the 10th (Hi Katrina and Tom!) and I had agreed to be the photographer for them. This ruled out any idea of a weekend away from home. The weather was fantastic, and we had a great time. There was a creché for the children during the wedding breakfast so we had somewhere that Nathan and Aidan could stay while I took pictures. Jill had also arranged the wedding cake through her sister Paula, who is superb at such things. Of course, that is to be expected as Paula is a chef in her day job. A great day, with a wonderful couple.

Paula and her fiancé Mark had decided to use the trip to Yorkshire to have a small break and they offered to take Nathan with them for a treat. So he disappeared off on Saturday night, leaving Jill, myself and Aidan to our own devices. As a result, the day of my birthday was quite lazy. We had a very relaxed meal at a local bar restaurant called ‘the Muse’. Aidan was very entertaining as he kept on trying to steal my beer. It’s a habit he shares with his older brother. We had cake and party tea when Paula and Mark returned to Wetherby.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I got a wonderful gadget from my birthday, an Amazon Kindle, from my parents. I love reading, always have, hopefully always will and this is really to carry a lot of books out around at once. It’s perfect for holidays especially with sunshine. The Kindle app on the iPad is good, but doesn’t really work in bright light. However it definitely has the edge in the darkness thanks to the backlighting. The only thing the Kindle is missing is the tactile experience of the book as an artefact.

Jill’s presents to me were experiences rather than gadgets, books or other media. The first was a couple weeks later with a visit to Centre Parcs at Sherwood where we met up with some old university friends of mine; Ceri, Nick and their Daughter Nia, and Jon & Becky.

We went there for a long weekend as there is plenty to entertain the kids. Highlights included my birthday meal as Jill had booked it like a children’s party but with the option of cocktails (Mojitos!), a badminton match between Jon and myself, and a fantastic afternoon at the spa for Jill and I to relax and chill out without the boys. All in all, we had a brilliant time.

The final surprise was possibly the most memorable as I wasn’t expecting it at all. I’ve long been a fan of John le Carré, and Jill had outdone herself by having the small local cinema in Wetherby for a private showing of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”. By “private” I mean the two of us and some close friends. This included my parents and some family friends who had travelled across from Cheshire, plus people from work, the church, and gaming. It was a wonderful experience. The cinema is pretty small and it is of an old-style. But, in reality, it was perfect. The people running the Wetherby Cinema were very welcoming, and even gave us an option of whether we wanted an interval or to run straight through. Unsurprisingly, we opted for an interval with ice creams.

It was a fantastic end to my 40th birthday celebrations and a memory I’ll cherish for a long time. I’m blessed with a wonderful wife, lovely kids, a great family and generous friends. Thank you, one and all. (*)

(*)And, in the light of the weekend’s news of the death of a family friend far too young from cancer, this means more to me than ever.

Kindling my Reading

I was very lucky for my 40th (more about this to follow) and was given a Kindle by my parents, and some lovely skins and covers by my sister, not to mention lots of Amazon vouchers by a wide variety of people. Whilst I still have a fetish for paper, it’s a great device to read on and reading on is what I have been doing. Here are nutshell reviews of the first five books that I’ve read:

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Mohsin Hamid)
I heard parts of this and the interesting discussion on it on Radio 4's Book Club and it seemed intriguing. It's effectively a monologue, as you only have the words of the protagonist. It isn't necessarily the most realistic tale, but it sucks you in. Effectively, it's the tale of a Pakistani man who starts by embracing the American dream, but then is slowly repelled by it post 9/11. Well written and a page turner as the protagonist's life and background are unfolded during a meal and a walk with an American stranger.

The Coming Convergence (Stanley Schmidt)
Non-fiction looking how interaction between different rivers of technological development leads to huge changes. Part of background reading for

Rule 34 (Charles Stross)
Stross' latest near future police tale (effectively revisiting the same vibe as the earlier
Halting State) set in Edinburgh with a murder investigation. Good stuff - I'll say no more lest I ruin it. You can google 'rule 34' to get a hint at what underpins the plot. Or you can read the first three chapters on Stross' blog.

Zero History (Wiliiam Gibson)
Gibson wraps up the ideas he's played with in
Pattern Recognition and Spook Country in another really strong near future thriller. Great stuff as you can savour every word. It has forced me start to re-read Pattern Recognition as it's too long since I last read it.

Hull Zero Three (Greg Bear)
A tale set in deep space onboard a slower-than-light starship. The protagonist wakes to a world of cold and horror with limited memories. His journey is significant to the future of the ships as he rediscovers who and what the mission was and what has effected it. Very good stuff.

Aidan's First Bike Ride

First Bike Ride
Happy Chap

We went out on the bikes this afternoon. In my case, it was pretty much the first time this year, which is shocking when I look back to how much I was out with Nathan last year. Once I’d done the maintenance on Jill’s and my bikes (tyres, brakes, oiling the gearing) we reattached the baby seat and tried Aidan in it. He fitted well, and wasn’t bouncing around. Nathan was taking his bike out too, stabilisers and all.

Where's Mummy?
Pausing for breath, Nathan looks back for his mum.

We set off, and ended up on the Harland Way, the old ‘Beeching-ed’ rail line from Wetherby to Harrogate. Aidan was happy as Larry, but Nathan was moaning a little about his legs needing a rest. Nathan was also pretty hard to distract from blackberries in the hedges.

Here she is!
Jill arrives, having had to shove Nathan up the hill!

Nathan decided that we needed to turn right onto the bridleway heading east, which Jill and I agreed to as we’d never gone that way before. Nathan struggled with the drag from the stabilisers in the grass on the slope up, and Jill bore the brunt of giving him a shove when needed. We got to see the housing estate from a completely different angle, which really showed how it nestled between woods and farmer’s fields on three sides.

Both the boys were shattered when they got home – Aidan actually head-butted me as he fell asleep – as the mile and a half were a quite a distance. Certainly, it’s the furthest Nathan has been under his own steam on the bike.

Spofforth Castle
Spofforth Castle

It’s fair to say that this was the second ‘thing that we haven’t done in the last 9 years’. On Friday, after I dropped Aidan at the nursery I headed home with Nathan, but we took a detour and stopped at the Swings and then at the Castle (really the ruin of a fortified manor house) in Spofforth. Nathan loved exploring it, and then got really excited when a whole string of tractors went past.

It was Nathan’s last chance for a special day without Aidan around before Nathan went to school, so he had a fantastic afternoon with Jill who took him out to a farm and café near Bolton Abbey, plus an ice cream place while I stayed home, did work and picked up Aidan from his first proper day at nursery. He’s doing one day a week now to get him used to it for when Jill goes back to work.

Newby Hall Pictures

Some pictures from Newby Hall yesterday:

Newby Hall - trains are interesting.
Aidan & I.

On the train at Newby Hall
Nathan & Jill

Growing Up so Fast

Mountaineering on the Climbing Frame
Big Little Boy - climbing earlier this weekend

Jill, Nathan, Aidan and I had a lovely day out today at Newby Hall. We pottered about the grounds, enjoyed the model ride-on railway, had ice-creams, munched scones, had a picnic and a good explore without ever entering the house. Jill & Nathan even went on a boat ride on the River Ure whilst I enjoyed a quiet thirty minutes on the bank-side reading while Aidan napped. It was a wonderful afternoon; nothing earth-shattering, but great family stuff.

Exhausted after a big walk
Shattered after a long walk on Sunday

It was on the way home that it hit home that everything is about to change again, and so soon after the adjustment that Aidan's arrival brought this year. My big little boy is going to start school in a fortnight and leave the nursery where he has had 3 delightful years. It makes me feel nervous and excited at the same time. He's ready for it, but am I? It certainly makes you more aware of your own mortality.

Or maybe that's my forthcoming Fortieth birthday?

Meanwhile, Aidan is now sitting up unassisted, rolling over and around the room, and getting ever-so close to crawling. More change.

Misdiagnosis & Treatment

Burnt pos box that was facing the fire at Reeves Corner during the Croydon Riots
(cc)2011 Laura Anne Chamberlain, on Flickr, some rights reserved

If you live in, or come from, the UK, the last week has been pretty harrowing with rioting and looting spreading from London out to other cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol. I found myself glued to the BBC News channel, Twitter and Facebook until after 2am in the morning on the worst night, unable to stop watching as the armies of disillusioned idiots trashed their communities in an orgy of disorder and destruction.

The Police were slow in responding and putting enough people on the street to contain and deal with the problem, but worked damn hard to resolve the issue. I've seen multiple messages from people who have relatives and loved ones who were pulling 20 hour shifts while they tried to get a grip. Generally, the provinces seemed to get control faster than the Met did in London, but perhaps that's because they were forewarned and had far less media focus.

The politicians made up for their failure to realise the significance of the events with their macho posturing when they returned from holiday, and tried to shift the blame away to the police. They also tried to claim that the successful shift in tactics was driven by them, rather than the police, a position that they have subsequently had to backtrack from. Now they've moved into a combination of moral pontification and hanging judge-like behaviour as they want to be seen to 'be doing something'. This is quite repellent, as many of the individuals preaching would have been to have considered as committing fraud had they handled their expenses in the way that they did in organisations outside Parliament.

I find the focus on increasing police powers to deal with such events disturbing, especially as the trouble was controlled using no additional powers but rather by providing the manpower and focus that was needed. Social media was being blamed, especially Twitter and Blackberry Messenger. Strange, as most of the traffic I was seeing was condemning the violence. It's a medium of communication, rather than a cause, and there are other routes that could be used such as SMS, email or private BBS if people wanted to bypass these methods. Interestingly, ordinary people using Twitter were very visible in coordinating the community in clean up operations.

We seem to be forgetting that 20% of under-24s[1] are unemployed and many others forced to stay in education – which has been made more expensive over the last few years – as there is no route into gainful employment in the current economic climate. We have a situation were we are creating a generation with little hope; perhaps even a generation who cannot see a way to equal, let alone match their parent's standards of living. It's a European-wide problem [2] which will no doubt haunt us.

None of this excuses the chaos we saw earlier in the week, not at all, but it does say that perhaps our political masters need to be thinking how they address the underlying disease at the same time as they deal with the symptoms. They may also want to reconsider the wisdom of the way that they are making cuts to some of the services that deal with these areas.

The courts are making examples of those caught, with magistrates regularly sending convicted individuals to the Crown Court for sentencing. This, I feel, is right. However, I'd rather be seeing a combination of custodial and community service in the punishment meted out, rather than just custodial. This gives a chance to the individuals to pay back the damage they have caused to the communities that suffered as a result of their actions.

It's an awful mess, and I worry that the temptation to deal with it in a knee-jerk manner will result in the underlying problem not being resolved and returning to haunt us again. Fundamentally, I don't think new powers are needed but rather a better resolution of underlying issues and flash points. Not a good week, for anyone.

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jul/22/youth-employment-rate-lowest
[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/8564500/Interactive-graphic-Youth-unemployment-in-Europe.html

Great Yorkshire Show

We had a lovely day out today at the Great Yorkshire Show on the outskirts of Harrogate. Nominally an agricultural show, it has long expanded to include a celebration of the best of everything from Yorkshire and beyond, and in doing so it has become the biggest such show in the UK. Along the way it avoided the fate of the Royal Show, which failed to adapt to the changing world and has since disappeared.

Of course, with a tractor-mad four year old, this was always going to be a good day provided we could manage his excitement and tiredness. Nathan had a brilliant day, visiting every stand that sold tractors and pretty much every tractor toy in the show. He went on the big show ground wheel ride which gave a view of the whole place, something he used to plan his visit to the tractors, identifying which ones he wanted to see first.

We visited some of the food stands, the Black Sheep Ale Tent and the ever entertaining Sheep Show (in reality Sheep Show III). It was a lovely family day.

Aidan seemed to be happy too, but he appears to have his first cold, the poor mite.

The journey home (usually takes ten minutes) took an hour, thanks to the traffic, but we didn't notice it in part because Jill was entertaining me with comments on a Facebook comment war that had broken out on one of her friend's walls. It was a classic case of someone arrogantly and stupidly making a sweeping statement on something that would affect maybe 90% of their audience, and then not knowing when to let it go and kill the thread.

All in all, a lovely day!


I realise I haven’t posted for a while, but holiday and exams intervened. I’ll post some more as time permits to fill in the gaps.

Brothers in Arms


I love this picture of Nathan and Aidan. Sure, the resolution is poor (the iPhone 3GS camera struggles in lower light) but, as the saying goes, the best camera is the one that you have to hand. The expressions are delightful: it almost looks like Aidan is bigger than Nathan!

They're both very different characters: if anything, Aidan is more relaxed and chilled out than Nathan. He does amuse me no end when he sees Nathan messing around and gives him a look as if to say, "You're so full of it", amd shakes his head. Aidan also sings when he's had milk and is happy and doesn't want to go to sleep! The nicest thing is the way that Nathan is really protective of his 'little brother' and also comes up to him and says things like, "Who's a cheeky little fella?!”

Of course, it's dreadful when they both decide that they can't sleep and tag team us, but let's not mention that!

That's Going to Hurt in the Morning [updated]

Rainbow over the Millennium Field in Wetherby
Rainbow over the Millennium Field in Wetherby while I walked down to the Leisure Centre.

I just went swimming seriously for the first time in a couple of years. By seriously, I mean that I was there to do lengths of the pool for exercise rather than being a launching platform and co-conspirator for a four year old boy.

To add to the fun, I walked there and back as well gaining an extra 2,000 steps for my Global Corporate Challenge(*) Pedometer. Hurrah! I did 20 lengths in two 10 length blocks, plus another couple winding down. Not as far as I used to, but I worked hard and decided not to overdo it. Anyway, half a kilometre isn't bad for a first go(**).

I've got that good achey feeling around my joints now, with muscles that haven't been used in a while reminding me that they're there. I'm sure it's going to hurt tomorrow, but for now the buzz is enough.

All of us went swimming today: Jill & Aidan also did Water Babies and Nathan went to Knaresborough for his lessons.

(*) This is my third year participating in the GCC, which is a health promotion set up that work gets involved in. It's driven about walking 10,000 steps a day (you also get credits for swimming and cycling) and raising your health awareness. Last year, I managed an average over 11,000 steps a day – not bad for a desk jockey – which was about a thousand up on the year before that. I'll be happy if I get above 11,000 this year. Nearly two weeks in and not quite where I want to be yet. But there's time to pull it up yet!

(**) 15,937 steps today if you wanted to know!

Update: It did hurt. Ouch.

Think I'm happy about this


Poll comparing Guardian reader and Daily Mail reader responses (via Ben Goldacre on Twitter). If you fancy trying it yourself, click through the link here.

Gratuitous Pictures

Working on that Smile
Gratuitous Cute Baby photo to lure you in. Hello from Aidan.

I’ve uploaded a whole load of new pictures to Flickr this weekend ranging from family pictures, to baby pictures, to the last flying Vulcan. Hope you like them. Click the links to get to the Flickr pages.

70th: Balloons and the Boy
70th Party Preparation

Nathan and Vulcan XH588
Nathan Poses for his picture by XH558

XH558 Vulcan Glamour shot
XH558 in all her glory in the sunshine


The Survivors, Week 6
The Surviving Half Dozen and the MEWP

I've a bittersweet feeling today, arising from the completion of the study elements of my NEBOSH Diploma. Six weeks of classroom teaching and a three hour exam gone, two more three hour exams to follow, plus the ominous 10,000 word dissertation. A full dozen of us started, but we were half that number by the end. Two changed course groups because of illness, one changed to an M.Sc in the same subject, and the rest of the group fell by the wayside.

It's been an intense course, with substantial homework on the study weeks making a balance between home and study hard to achieve. There's also a huge element of learning the specific way that the answers are wanted to be structured in, a technique which differs between the first Unit Exam (Law, in case you were wondering) and the second two Units (practical applications). In short, it's not an easy ride and I'm not surprised at the the numbers who drop out. You've got to want to be there and get the result to enjoy it.

I've made friends, and good professional contacts, for the future, and it felt strange to realise that this is probably the last time we'll all be together except of the exams themselves. It's been great challenging myself academically for the first time in ages, but incredibly tiring as well. I need to keep the focus and motivation together now for the next six weeks, which should see me through the exams themselves.

Two Kids on the Block

On my tractor John Deere
Me and my Tractor John Deere

We went for a walk ‘around the block’ last night at Nathan’s request. Both the Boys did cute very well.

Smiling for the camera
Big Smile for the Camera

When the Balloon went Down...

Balloon Landing at Kirk Deighton

I had a fun morning this week as I took Nathan to Nursery. We spotted a hot air balloon in the distance as we set off from home in the car on Friday, resplendent in markings boasting about its sexuality. It was a bit of a game keeping it in sight for Nathan as we did the long route around town to get to the Nursery. As we got closer, the balloon got bigger and we realised that it was coming down into the cricket field across the road from our destination.

You can imagine Nathan's excitement as he rushed in to tell all his friends, something that contagiously spread as they all headed out into the garden to see the balloon. I slipped off at that point, grabbing a few pictures on the way out. Needless to say, it was a highlight of the day for Nathan!

Time Warp

That’s just like me this morning!
(Image (cc) by hobvias sudoneighm. Click through to Flickr for full attribution.)

It was a broken night last night, with Aidan being restless, and then me being dragged in to Nathan’s room as he was ‘cold and lonely’. Jill came in just after 7:00, sounding really cross my alarm had gone off. I was embarrassed, thinking that I’d put it on by accident on auto-pilot before bed. Nathan and I got up and had our usual Saturday regime of watching CBeebies, playing games and breakfast on the sofa. Cursed the bank for SMSing me with my account details which should have come on Friday morning.

All went swimmingly until 9:00 when a confused Jill came in and asked me what I was doing here and why hadn’t I gone to work. She was worried that she’d lost a day. But the stupidity was mine, I’d got it in my head that it was Saturday, not the Friday it really was, probably from a dream the night before. Doh!

Suffice it to say a somewhat sheepish and bemused Dom arrived at work about 45 mins later having dropped a confused Nathan at Nursery. Sleep loss is bad, children. Don’t make Daddy dafter than he is already!

All Aboard, it's Sunday

Family at the NRM York
A Day Out!

It was an impulse decision which turned into a nice day out. The sun was shining and Nathan was champing at the bit to go out to play. I realised that we needed to do something to divert his energies when I saw the carnage he wreaked with his sit-on digger in ten minutes in the garden. The one big question was whether we could do anything as Jill had suffered a particularly disturbed night as Aidan was very restless.

NRM York: Streamline through the Bridge Arc
The Streamline Display at the NRM York

Fortunately, Jill was up for it, and we set off in the car to a 'surprise' destination; the National Railway Museum in York. Nathan had been there once before, in the New Year of 2010. We kept our destination secret all the way, asking him to guess during the half-hour travelling. When we arrived at the car park he soon realised where he was, but I really think that he couldn't make his mind up where he wanted to be looking, as there was a train passing and a hot air balloon in the sky.

NRM York: On the Bridge
On the Bridge

More of the museum was open than when we went last time, and we had a great time wandering around (and Nathan a great time charging around calling out "Look Mummy, Look Daddy") and enjoying the industrial heritage. I had a good play with the Hipstamatic App on my iPhone, which is fast becoming one of my favourites as it simulates old films and lenses, producing some really attractive images. You can get prints too, but that's another story.

NRM York: The Car
Funky Hipstamatic Pic

The main disappointment was that the Mallard was at Shilden, something that Nathan realised the moment he arrived ('Where's Spencer?'), but it didn't detract from the day. We were there for perhaps 3 hours, during which Aidan slept. He's quite a big boy now - 10lbs 10oz at the weigh in the following Tuesday. Not bad from a 6lb 15oz start 7 weeks ago.

Getting Big Now

We finished off the visit with tea and cake on the platform. Well, you have to, don't you?!

A great end to a good weekend, which also featured swimming – where Nathan was working on his diving – and an impulse visit to see Tom, Kat and their children Alice and William, as we got a text from them as we were leaving swimming in Harrogate and heading past their house!

Labelling the Geek

Was it Star Trek or Star Wars that did it? Or was it my father's love of science fiction, something that we share until this day? I can still remember the joy of reading Azimov's Foundation and EE 'Doc' Smith's Lensmen novels from his bookshelf, and the discovery of Andre Norton at the local library (the still awesome Sargasso of Space). Anyway, somewhere along the way in the late 1970s I slipped into the role of a geek.

According to the dictionary on my MacBook, that makes me either an unfashionable or socially inept person, or a carnival performer who does wild and disgusting acts. I'm assuming it's the first definition that a school friend who recently recently recontacted me through Facebook meant when she reminisced that I was 'the geek with the briefcase who played Dungeons & Dragons'. I can only say that it's a fair cop; yes, I played D&D, but don't hold it against me as my true gaming love was the science fiction of Traveller with a dash of the dark Lovecraftian Horror of Call of Cthulhu. I played D&D, but I didn't inhale. (There you are. Exposure of inter-geek contempt and rivalry. Although, there can be something cathartic about a good dungeon bash.)

The geekiness was probably accentuated by the somewhat bowl-like haircut and NHS glasses (remember kids, not all the command economy ideas of the old pre-Thatcher NHS were good things) plus the fact I was fascinated by computers. Can you remember your first? I can mine. It was a Commodore Pet at a retreat weekend away run by the local church. A passion was born then, as I looked at the small green screen VDU and played some games, and made some small attempts at programming. This passion was sustained by the computer that my parents bought me as a present.

I was fortunate that my father worked in computing and knew people and understood the obsession that was growing. Unlike my friends who were all getting ZX-81s, I had a Video Genie. That's a TRS-80 clone machine. Built in cassette deck for data transfer. 32k of RAM. A proper keyboard. BASIC built in. I learned to program, even to the point of creating a 'spin the bottle' program after two of my friends got accused of cheating one summer holiday. Kids, eh? The obsession was fed by the BBC Model B's at school (and the awesome Elite, never bettered). Work experience had me reading the MS-DOS manuals from an IBM-PC XT thanks to ICI. Definitely geeky.

The computing obsession has tamed in some ways; although I like knowing how things work, I much prefer an interface like the Mac's where you can just do stuff and not hack. Windows 3.1 and NT3 put me in that state of mind. I used an Atari ST with monochrome monitor through University (aka a Mac wannabee), moving to my first Apple in 1996 when I graduated. I still love Science Fiction (although it's not all I read in the slightest) and although I don't play anywhere as near as much as I used to at school (5 days a week!), I still love roleplaying games and have written and published stuff for them.

The funny thing is, the world seems to have embraced geekdom. All around are smartphones and social networking. The internet and mobile technology has changed the world. The cloud is pervasive with Google, Dropbox and their ilk. I was surprised to realise how much I rely on the cloud when I recently hardened my Google password and had to re-input it left, right and centre because of the number of applications linked to it. I run 2 computers, a smartphone and a tablet and they all synchronise their data via the cloud, and I'm leaning towards dropping applications that don't do this and need manual syncing. Science fiction tropes dominate the media and popular culture. Everything, everywhere, on multiple platforms.

Are we all geeks now? I suspect that my main difference from some of those who wouldn't use the label is that I understand it a little better and use slightly different features to them.

Or are we all living in a science fiction future subtly different to the dreams of the 1970s? Either way, I've no problem with the label of being a 'geek'. I think it's something you need to embrace the world we live in. You’re living with my memes.


Lovely pose!

I like this new picture of Aidan, possibly as he’s showing more of the Mooney side of his looks than in a lot of the other pictures. There’s also the matter of a nice smile. If anything, he’s becoming much more fun to take pictures of because of the every changing facial expressions.

Jill managed to escape to the hairdressers today for the first time in a long time, and seems generally cheery as a result. Aidan charmed all the hairdressers.

Nathan had a fantastic day as he got to meet up with Tolly (Ptolemy), who was one of his best friends at Nursery. Tolly has moved on to primary school (back in September) and is on half term. They had a fun day involving running around, making noises, playing diggers and cranes, and falling over in the mud. I’m quite jealous! You could tell it was a good day as Nathan fell asleep in the car after I picked him up. He’s not done that for a while!

My high points were a shortened meeting and a cancelled meeting that let me get on with a number of things that needed doing.

A Colony Transporter in the BBC’s Outcasts

Oh, and Outcasts, which continued on an improving curve tonight. Shame it goes graveyard slot from now on as the BBC has given up on it. I’m loving it, but accept that it might not be everyone’s cup of hot beverage.

A Slight Case of Overpackaging?
Morrisons’ idea of going green.

The packaging above annoyed me. Does a coconut really need to be stretchwrapped onto a polystyrene tray? A slight case of over-packaging, I think.

I'm Back!


As promised, the new pictures have been added to my Flickr photostream.

Umm, Snow?

Snow Keeps Falling
The view out this morning! (Hipstamatic)

I’m not impressed that the snow has decided to return. Nathan is, conversely, quite excited. Then again, he doesn’t have to drive to his swimming today, just ride in the back and shout directions at Daddy. Fortunately the snow tyres are still on my car, although the 2”+ of snow that has fallen so far will need to be cleared before we go anywhere!

Flight Controller Nathan Lightyear Glamour Pose
Happy Days at Air Traffic Control Wetherby. (Hipstamatic)

As Jill and Aidan were otherwise occupied (sleeping then feeding), Nathan and I spent the morning playing. In this picture we have Flight Controller Nathan Lightyear, Crash, Bang and Wallop. He loves the Flight Control game (available on iOS and MacOS and maybe more) but sometimes forgets that the objective is to land as many plans as possible rather than to crash as many plans as possible.

For those of you with withdrawal symptoms, more pictures with Aidan later this weekend, as we now have some that are suitable to share!

Prescott says 'Poisonous', I say 'Piffle'.

Prescott AV Poster
Original image is cc(BA) by Steve Punter - http://flic.kr/p/YwQyC

I don’t especially like John Prescott, and when I heard his ‘poisonous’ rant about AV I decided to do this for a bit of fun. He’s proud that he’s the reason that the 1997 collaborative approach with the LibDems was sunk. (“You're a ****ing Liberal. We've got a majority of 160 - what do we want you for?” )

I’ve used AV, and its simple. And it should remove situations where 60% of the local populace didn’t vote for their local MP. It may even encourage more people to vote who’ve become disillusioned that their voice doesn’t matter. And that can only be a good thing for the UK as a society

I may well do a few more posters like this of other big beasts for fun. Winking



The picture above really summarises my day, a blur of meetings, workshops and telephone calls, all mixed up in shades of greyscale.

Tonight, Nathan is struggling to sleep – I’ve been in with him 5 times already – whereas Aidan is being a sweetie. I’m wondering which stars and galaxies need to align to get a night when I get to bed before 0130 hrs and don’t get disturbed. Sigh.

Is it February already?

Nathan at the Swings, picture using Hipstamatic

The last week or so has been pretty busy to the extent that, although I managed to get the photos on Flickr reasonably up to date, I didn't manage to get the time to put anything meaningful together for the blog. The reason for this was my fourth week (out of six) on my NEBOSH Diploma. It's always been an intense week, as it involves getting to Leeds on the bus (an hour each way) and a raft of homework questions when I get home, but I've always been able to rely on Jill taking Nathan to and from nursery, something that hasn't been possible this time because of the after-effects of the c-section.

The only way around it was for me to drive and drop Nathan off at nursery (aiming to be there just after they open at 0730hrs) and then join the rat race of traffic into Leeds City Centre. This worked well most days, except the one where Nathan decided that a go-slow was the order of the day.

Week 3 #10
Cutie, posing.

Week 3 #9
In my DJ, bouncing. Thanks to Tom & Kat for the romper suit so he can be so stylish!

Jill and Aidan continue to do well, with Aidan continuing to grow faster than his older brother did. He's already heavier than Nathan was at seven weeks. The only dark cloud on the horizon is the fact that he has developed acid reflux like Nathan; however, we're fortunate in the fact that we could recognise the symptoms this time and the Baby Gaviscon he's been prescribed as a result seems to be doing the trick. I've even got to feed him a few times with milk that Jill's expressed with her new Medela Swing pump, which is much better than the manual one that she had last time. Doing that has definitely moved me from the category of 'not being likely to give me food' in Aidan's eyes, which makes him much more amenable to me holding him.

4Up Combined #2
Look, I can hold him without complaints that he has no food!

We've just completed the fourth week at the new Waterbabies sessions. Unfortunately, we missed the first block due to a combination of illness and the baby's arrival, but we've signed up for a final term, which will be Nathan's last due to his age. The new teacher has been superb, much better than the old one, and Nathan has come on in leaps and bounds (sometimes quite literally!) and has started to get much more comfortable again at jumping in, splashing and has also done a little free swimming between me and the wall. It's a shame that we have to change location again; I just hope that the next teacher is as good. I've been really enjoying being in the water with him; we used to love going for a swim when I was off on a Monday with him and this is just the same.

Nathan continues to be obsessed with 'Octonauts', a programme on CBeebies that a lot of the kids his age seem to love. It's quite fun with a group of different animals living underwater in the 'octopod' carrying out science and rescues. It certainly beats the annoying (and dubious) ZingZillas and the weird hippy Waybuloo. If Nathan gets unsure when we're swimming, I start to pretend that he's an octonaut, calling him by the name of his favourite character. You can see his chest puff up when that happens and he generally gets stuck into whatever he wasn't sure about.


I've also, slowly, been re-reading Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution sequence of novels, finishing the penultimate one – The Cassini Division – tonight before I wrote this. The novel is pretty gritty SF but does a well executed jump to the epic towards the end without losing the character focus that made it so endearing. I'd recommend the books if you haven't encountered them before and mentioned them in an earlier post.

I also managed to finish the final changes post proofing for Wordplay Core Revised Edition (version 1.3 for those in the know) and it's now available for purchase. We're looking at the possibility of an .EPUB and a hardback edition as well, and I've just commissioned the cover for the first supplement which is 95% ready to go to layout. The second supplement is at the 75% stage, as the core text needs some completion which I may do jointly with Graham Spearing, the game's creator.

Digitally, if you use the Mac, and especially if you can use the Snow Leopard App Store, I recommend OmmWriter (a great text editor that is focussed on composition), Twitterrific 4 (a great Twitter interface) and Sparrow (an IMAP mail application, currently only Gmail but due to expand in coverage in it's next release (which is in private beta). All are pretty inexpensive and examples of focussed and strong programming to achieve a specific aim.

Making a Splash!

Little Swimmer
Little Swimmer

Nathan’s swimming is getting better and better – the new class is doing wonders for his confidence and I’m really enjoying swimming with him too. As you can see from the picture above, he can free swim a little now. I wouldn’t want to throw him in a pool (he does struggle to keep his head above the water fully for a sustained period) but he is a little star and working really hard. The new teacher makes him enjoy it so much more.

Splash went the Nathan!
Big Splash!

This is a jump in (he’s made the splash!), something he was getting increasingly reluctant to do at the previous class. He doesn’t like water on his face, but the momentum of the fun, and the fact he and I are tying the swimming to his current favourite TV show, Octonauts, really helps! It looks like we may be able to avoid goggles for the moment. I’m only wearing them in his class as I’ve kept my contact lenses in, and don’t want them to be swept away in splash. All in all, I’m really happy that he’s doing so well, and Jill deserves a mention for the excellent photos that she’s been taking. I think she’s outdone my last four years in the two above!

Finally, for those of you who are looking for pictures of Aidan, here is a gratuitous baby shot which has nothing to do with the blog post here!

With Mummy #2

Okay, so I don’t get lynched. Aidan and Jill are both doing well. He went from 6lbs 15oz to 7lbs 8oz in the first two weeks, which impressed the midwife and health visitor. They both survived the refit of our bedroom this week, and seem to be getting on well!

Jedi Master or Sith Lord?

Sith Lord?
Sith Lord

Aidan was hiding in his hood earlier this week and had a touch of the Force about him. But is he a Jedi Master or a Sith Lord? I guess it really depends how hungry he is!

Jedi Master
Jedi Master?

Yes, if you click through you’ll find plenty more pictures!

Reality crashes in - Vignettes.

Aidan Watching
This is less of a coherent entry, more a set of vignettes on life this last week!

Tuesday morning I had the joy of the Part A NEBOSH Diploma exam. This relates to half of the course (3 full weeks) and covers health & safety law and management systems. Pretty challenging on 2.5 hours sleep (both Nathan and Aidan to blame) but I'm pretty certain that I passed. A couple of the questions were gifts, as they were close to stuff I do at work, but I'll have to wait to mid-April to find out.


Wednesday was back-to-work day; fortunately, my team had things pretty much in hand, but after the best part of 3 weeks out of the loop, a lot of time got spent talking to people and catching up, plus being asked about Aidan and the exam!


Jill and I both went to Nursery together on two nights this week to collect Nathan, and took Aidan. Partly as a surprise to Nathan, partly to give Jill some time out of the house. There was much cooing over Aidan by staff and kids. Nathan is loving being back, and spent his first day with his friends mostly holding hands and playing with the little girl who has been his best friend all the way through nursery. I think there's potential heartbreak there as they're going to different schools in September!


Swimming with Daddy
Saturday was Nathan's first swimming session with Water Babies for a long time and he had to put up with me for perhaps the third time in nearly 4 years. We both had a great time; although officially the same level as the previous class that he was doing with a different teacher it's clear that he was not being taught correctly and chunks of things that should have been being covered weren't. We'd suspected this when we had a reserve teacher a few times, but it was confirmed in the session. It was much better and we should have this level for the whole of his last ten weeks. Nathan was a little trooper and got stuck in even though there was much more splashing than he was used too. He's never been a big fan of this.


Aidan is being a little champion; he had one night and day when all he wanted to do was feed, which was hard on Jill especially, but generally he's wanting bigger gaps between feeds than Nathan did. He's already changed facially, and is really long and lean. The long legs present a challenge, as many sleep suits assume tubby babies with short legs! Nathan’s being a sweetie and trying to help us as much as possible, even with nappies!

I'm a Big Brother

He's Lovely

Been quiet the last few days due to tiredness and the joy of the exam on Tuesday, but wanted to share this one picture with you. Of course, there are more on the Flickr feed (and some further ones I’ll add tomorrow) but this lovely picture encapsulates Nathan’s response to meeting Aidan for the first time. He was absolutely delightful and loves holding and helping with him.

Family meet Aidan. Aidan meet the Family.

We've just had a lovely, but tiring day. It's very much been a 'meet the family' day for Aidan, although – in reality – I guess that it really was the other way around.

My mum and dad brought Nathan home, and he was an absolutely delight, so excited and charmed by his little brother. I'll share some photos tomorrow to help you visualise this when I have sometime to get things organised properly. He's put a spurt on in height over the last few days too, and looks very much the big brother. He also insists that people call Aidan ‘Aidan Sydney’, then gives me a stare when I call him ‘Nathan Vincent’ back!

Jill's mum and dad, and her sister and sister's fiancé came over too, so we had a very full house. Not feeling up to cooking something, the Wetherby Whaler (local fish and chip shop) got a shipping order for 9 fish, 7 chips and 3 mushy peas. Fortunately, they weren't too busy.

I think that everyone had a good time - Aidan had plenty of cuddles and Nathan made sure he remained at the heart of things. The house is strangely empty now everyone has headed off, and Jill, Nathan and Aidan have gone to bed. Just me and the cat downstairs.

I'm shattered, but I need to do an hour or two of revision for Tuesday's NEBOSH Diploma Exam as today will have been a wash out from that perspective otherwise, and I want Sunday and Monday to focus on past questions and law, both statute and key cases. So proper coffee has been made and I've plugged in my iPod with Goldfrapp's 'Seventh Tree' on. Hopefully chilled enough to focus me, but not to send me hyper so I can't sleep.

Until tomorrow.

Home Again

Aidan Day 3 #2
Ready for the trip home

Just a short update tonight to say that Jill and Aidan were discharged from the hospital today, and we’re home. Nathan isn’t due back with us until the weekend, when both sets of Grandparents plan to visit. We’ve used today (and tomorrow) to start on a routine. Being on our own is good for getting the eat/sleep patterns right a la The Baby Whisperer, which is Jill’s practical guide.

Aidan grumbled nearly as much as Nathan when we bundled him into the car seat ready to go home. Fortunately, I’d done my homework before I got to the hospital and practiced putting the seat in the car. This was nearly undermined by the idiot Mercedes SLK driver who had parked into our space to avoid an SUV, which meant it was a tight squeeze getting Aidan in. He did complain at this new environment until a little music and the vibration and road noise sent him to sleep. That and his full tummy with Jill’s milk that’s come on now.

It was a bit hairy getting to the hospital in the first place - there’d been a smash on the main road from Wetherby to Harrogate, and when I diverted to a back route the level crossing had failed down in position so it was another detour to Knaresborough to turn back to Harrogate and the hospital. However, I got there without any more trouble, and only 30 minutes late.

Both Aidan and Jill have been sleeping well today plus feeding seems to be going better than Nathan at the same age. I’ve managed to get back on the horse with revision and have just finished the first of three weeks worth of notes that I need to go through by next Monday night, as I have the exam on Tuesday.

Keeping a close eye on Aidan
Cat: “What have you done?!”

The cat has a resigned look on, pretty much “Why have you brought another one of THOSE THINGS home? You know what happens, they get bigger and more noisy!”

As ever, the Flickr set has been updated. Only a few extra today.

Pictures update

Aidan Day 2 #2
Proud Dad

Just a quick update to say that Aidan and Jill are both doing well, and may be able to come home tomorrow. I’ve uploaded a few more pictures to Flickr.

Pirate Ship
Happy Boy!

As promised Nathan’s fourth birthday pictures are here on Flickr.

Aidan Sydney Mooney

Aidan Day 1 #4

We’re really pleased to announce the birth of our second child, another son, Aidan Sydney Mooney. He was born today, 11/1/11, at 17:14 at Harrogate Hospital, weighing 6lb and 15 oz (or 3.14kg). Both Aidan and Jill are doing well. His second name comes from my maternal grandfather.

I have posted some pictures on our Flickr site, which will be updated as time goes on.


Well, whatever happens, by the 11/1/11 Jill and I should be parents again for the second time, as we've now been given a date for the c-section should nothing happen naturally. Nathan is now at my parents after a lovely birthday which has gone on and on as a result of finding some misplaced presents (!) and we await developments.

We spent his fourth birthday with friends and family, starting off with some presents at home (particularly a Pirate ship) and then going on the Crazy Tykes, the local children's indoor play area. Rather than have a full birthday, Nathan just met up with two of the kids who are his friends, Calum and Joe, and they had great fun running around and climbing and sliding, followed up by fish fingers, hoops and chips and plenty of juice. He'll have a more formal party once we're clear of new baby changes.

We went home, meeting up with Nathan's Aunty Paula and Uncle Mark, and his Godfather Phill, for more party food, presents and cake. The cake was a lovely chocolate one (why did Nathan want chocolate not sponge?!) with a Toy Story 3 design on top. We also had a chat to his Nanna and Grandad through the magic of Skype and video cameras.

All in all, I think Nathan had a great day; maybe not as memorable as the tractor party last year – as he got to ride on one that time – but still a good day.

(I’ll update this with some pictures once I get a chance to process them onto Flickr).

The King's Speech & Beyond

It was almost like Jill & I were on a date last night, as we went out to the cinema again, but had a quick meal first. I can't remember when we last managed to do that! It was test #2 of the 'go to the cinema, have a baby' hypothesis which was once again unsubstantiated.

We nipped across a misty, foggy Vale of York to Clifton Moor and the cinema there, and arrived an hour or so before the feature, so we went to Frankie & Bennies for a quick pasta dish each. There wasn't really time for anything else, but it was really nice, and it left the chance to get some ice cream at the pictures.

We went and saw 'The King's Speech', with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, which was an excellent character driven story of how King George VI overcame his speech impediment. I really enjoyed it – it was very engaging and well written and ended on a high. Recommended.

Today, my mum and dad came back over with Nathan, who has been staying with them in preparation for the arrival of Baby #2. It's his fourth birthday tomorrow, and he's quite excited to say the least. The house is, once again, filled with noise and chaos and it's brilliant! He was in full chatty mode but was very well behaved and went to bed without complaint. We're taking him out for a mini-party tomorrow - just one of his friends and the family too at Crazy Tykes, which is the local children's play area. He'll have a proper 'official birthday' later in the year with more of his friends when things have calmed down a bit! I think my mum and dad have had a tiring, but fun, time with him!

Ch-ch-changes [updated]

Some significant changes, the first of which is that the site has migrated from the old Pipex URL to an new address http://www.deltapavonis.net/ as part of my slow move away from TalkTalk as an ISP. Email addresses etc will also change, but I’ll update you more when that happens.

The site has been rebuilt using Rapidweaver 5, which really seems to do more of the same, but nicely. I’ve merged the media section and the ‘other games section’ into the main blog to simplify further, plus changed the Flickr page to point straight at my photostream. There’s also some back end stuff related to PHP which should make site updates swifter for me. Finally, I’ve changed the theme for the site to refresh it after 4 or more years the same. Enjoy. I hope you find the new site pleasant!

We still await the arrival of Nathan’s sibling.

TRON: Legacy

Although I never managed to see the original TRON at the cinema when it was released, I really wanted to and wasn't disappointed when I finally caught up with it. We've got the DVD too, and it still looks gorgeous. I found the plot harder to accept in terms of the technology and processing power around in the early Eighties, but it was a good, fun, romp.

Last night, Jill and I decided that perhaps the best way to encourage the baby to want to come out again was to go to the cinema (theorising that this was bound to bring on contractions perhaps 30 minutes from the end of the film). Also, it was our wedding anniversary (our eighth) and we wanted to do something, even if the pregnancy and my ongoing hacking cough were getting in the way. So we went to see TRON: Legacy.

It was much better than I expected, especially having seen and heard some of the reviews. The 3D was excellent, the soundtrack awesome, and whilst the plot would never set the world on fire, it's at least on a par with Avatar for complexity. There are some bits when the youngerCGI version of Jeff Bridges' character looks a bit flaky, but it is meant to be a digital avatar copy! All in all, good action and lots of fun to watch, and a film that I wouldn't mind seeing again.

So, we had a great time, and I'd recommend it, but the baby didn't decide to try and join us. So, we wait, with only the evening at the hospital two nights ago as a hint that the game may be afoot...

It certainly makes for interesting living!

Happy New Year

Just a quick update to wish you all a happy, fruitful and prosperous New Year in 2011.

We're waiting with baited breath for the arrival of Baby #2, which is due today according the medics, but no real sign that it's coming today yet.

As I type this, Nathan and I are hiding downstairs on the sofa, watching CBeebies while Jill tries to catch up on sleep. She had a bad night due to a combination of contractions, discomfort from the big bump, my coughing and Nathan waking up. I was sent to the sofa downstairs due to the cough, so got a little more sleep than she did.

Christmas 2010 - Tractor ride 2
Nathan on a tractor trip with his Grandfather

My parents came over for Christmas, and are on standby for looking after Nathan when the Baby arrives, albeit from Cheshire now as they went home two days ago.

I'm two weeks into an awful upper respiratory tract infection which wiped me out the first week. Fighting it off with a combination of patent remedies and antibiotics which the Doctor gave me as a just in case due to the proximity of the birth. The cough has been the worst thing this week and came back with a vengeance last night. I'm hoping that it's because I'm at the end of the infection.

Nathan has had a great time - with lots of presents and attention. Favourites include Buzz and Woody toys, and a John Deere Forage Harvester. He was also ill, but has bounced back well as kids his age do. I can't believe that he's nearly four now. The conversations can be quite a challenge now and never cease to amaze. One of his nursery teachers described him as 'fiercely independent' which is very apt. He likes to do things himself and take charge.

So, that's a brief update from us. We hope you've had a great Christmas and New Year, and that 2011 brings you prosperity and good fortune.

Plan B from Wetherby

Unlike the Marks and Spencer's advertisement, there is a Plan B as we're adopting it!

The arrival of Baby #2 with the coming new year brought with it the realisation that we needed to do something with the house to make enough space, both for the new arrival and for Nathan who is rapidly growing out of his room and taking over the rest of the house.

Plan A was a simple plan; we would strip out our master bedroom and redecorate it, giving it to Nathan as he could also have his toys up there. We'd move into the next biggest bedroom which we had redecorated in a style we both liked a few years ago. When time and money permitted we'd go and add new fitted furniture in, but there was no rush. Off we toddled and went and bought the paint testers, then made a decision with Nathan liberally testing the paint on our wall, bought the paint and ordered the carpet.

Everything was going exactly to plan (I feel like there should be a 'mwahaha' after that phrase) until the morning when we realised that the great fitted loft ladder we put in this year would clash with all the key positions for cupboards in the spare bedroom. Oops! It hadn't been a problem before, as the hatch was just pushed out of the way to get in the loft while we wobbled on top of the step-ladder. Now it was a serious problem for Plan A.

We briefly considered relocating the hatch (not really practicable) and eventually developed Plan B. We still strip out our existing room (as it needs doing for some minor remedial work), order another carpet and redecorate it. Meanwhile, we use the spare room as our base. Once the master bedroom is refurbished, we strip out the spare bedroom and fit the carpet that we'd already ordered there as it fortunately fits. Redecorated, Nathan moves into the old spare bedroom.

All before Christmas.


(Blog drafted on the iPad using PlainText, automatically synchronised to the MacBook with Dropbox, then finished in RapidWeaver. Image modified in Illustrator and Photoshop).

Success despite the Lurgy

The Good News is that the Vulcan to the Sky appeal succeeded and the immediate future of an aerospace engineering icon is secured.

The Bad News is that we are all full of lurgy, although Nathan and I are generally improving, and the dark nights are depressing! Is it really November already?!

Vulcan to the Sky

Just a short one here.

I think I’ve mentioned XH558 before. It’s the last flying Avro Vulcan bomber, one of the classic aircraft designs made and built in Britain. XH558 is 50 years old this year and run by a charitable trust. It’s an awesome sight, managed and maintained by a charitable trust. Problem is, with the current economic climate they’re a funding shortfall to the end of the year. Over the last month, the charity has been trying to raise £400,000 to cover the gap and ensure that the Vulcan isn’t permanently grounded.

It’s important to me in a lot of ways; it’s a sign of British engineering and also harks back to a different world where the UK had a vision of itself very different to the slightly grubby one of today. I also think that it’s important that so much hard work would be lost if the trust has to shut up shop. It’s something that inspires people when they see it.

They need to raise just under £150,000 in the next 4 days to guarantee XH558’s future as a flying aircraft.

If you feel you can, please consider making a donation at http://www.vulcantothesky.org/ or buying some of their merchandise at http://www.vulcantotheskystore.co.uk/ which has stuff for all ages.

Thanks for listening.

Whitby: Steam and Surf

On the Rails

Train arrives at Levisham
The Train Arrives

So here we are on a steam train on a wet and dismal day. Somehow the hiss of the steam, the rhythmic pulsing of the pistons, and the reassuring rumble as we travel along the track all make it worthwhile. It took us nearly an hour and a half to travel from Wetherby to Levisham Station, not our original planned start thanks to the joys of the traffic on the A64, but now we're on our way to Whitby for fish and chips! To steel ourselves as we travel along, we are supping hot mugs of tea and a slice of best chocolate tiffin from the very friendly teashop at the station!

The trip on the train was great, even with visibility being somewhat limited. We arrived in Whitby pretty much on time. It's a place that we've never visited before. I've got to admit that my first reaction wasn't especially good, as the station deposits you amongst some classic seaside town shops and arcades and a cold and wet October afternoon is never the best time to see such places. Actually, I'm not certain what the best time is, but I digress. Looking out across the road, we saw the CAMRA listed pub (oh, so tempting) and the Abbey looming above the River Esk.

A brief stop in the Tourist Information, and we discovered where the steam bus, Elizabeth, went from for a tour of the town. We started down the road in a bitter wind and fine cold rain, stopping for a detour into an outdoor shop where I bought some gloves. The shop assistant spotted that I wanted them straight away, commenting that "I wasn't the first today and wouldn't be the last". We stopped at the Lifeboat Museum, and I acquired an identical lifeboat for Nathan to the one that has had failed electronics from being repeatedly and deeply immersed in the bath. "Look, Daddy has fixed it."

Whitby Harbour
Not the calmest of days

We had lunch overlooking the harbour entrance in a fish and chips restaurant, which had a great view. It was a bit more expensive than the Wetherby Whaler, but very welcome as a respite from the weather, and Nathan did a great job at charming the waitress. Stomachs full, warmed up, we were steeled to head back out. The weather had died down, but we were disappointed to find that the steam bus wasn't running. So instead, we cross the river to the south bank and started to explore the Shambles area.

Spider Web Tea “Rooms /></a><br /><span style=My, that’s a big spider!

Shopping in Whitby
Happy Shoppers

This completely changed my impression of Whitby; I really liked this bit, much more than the amusement arcades. We liberated some fudge, and admired the Halloween decorations that were going up in advance of the big Goth Weekend next week. These went so far as a spider web over the whole of building with a Tea Room in, and many swinging pumpkins with carved faces.

Whitby Pumpkin Street Decoration
Pumpkin - What would Britain in Bloom make of this basket?

We decided against visiting the Abbey, as we had less than an hour and both Jill and Nathan were struggling. I didn't really fancy a repeat of Maiden Castle, where I raced up the hill to take pictures while everyone waited for me.

Bad English
Amusing Sign

I was greatly amused by the lack of the word 'or' in a safety sign for a jet boat in the harbour as we walked back to the station. Unfortunately, the weather started to close in again, so we took refuge with a great cup of tea in Al's Cafe opposite the station. The owner was about to close up, but took pity on us, which was greatly appreciated.

Whitby Outer Harbour
Looking out during the break in the weather.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway steam engine was on time, and we settled into our seats, only to find out that the station that we were getting back off at had a platform that was too short for the carriage we were on. We'd gone all the way up to the engine so Nathan could hear better, so had to swap carriages half way back. There was a little bit of a drama as the engine needed to refill its water and the tower it planned to use hadn't enough, so we ended up slightly late. However, it was no worse than Network Rail!

Nathan crashed out on the way back home, but we topped off the day with a picnic in the lounge for dinner. All in all, a great family day! Sadly, I have to report that I saw no Goths or Vampires, even as dusk fell. However, I do still remember the church that loomed over the town (rather than the Abbey), looking all Lovecraftian.

Lovecraftian Church at Whitby
Lovecraftian view...

Even Keel

Just getting my head back above water after a manic three weeks. It all started with a great – albeit interrupted – holiday in Keswick in the Lake District. We've kind of made a tradition to head up there around the time of my birthday in September and most years have been blessed with good weather. This year was an exception with horizontal rain at one point! However we really enjoyed it and Nathan is really coming into his own in terms of appreciating things like this. He was enthralled at the Beatrix Potter World, much more so than the last time that he went there. He also loved the restaurant with the Cinema in Ambleside (Zefferelli's, if I remember correctly) where we went for my birthday meal.

I had a break in the middle, as I had a side trip to visit a chemical company in the Netherlands with work as part of an exchange, which was actually quite good fun. However, it was great to get back, as the two days away from the holiday really made me notice how much I missed Jill and Nathan. I had an awful trip back across the Pennines to Cumbria, and ended up meeting them on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway platform at Boot when they came in on L'al Ratty. Nathan was completely surprised and excited to see me there! We also caught up with Howard, Paula and MJ, which was great.

The next two weeks were completely crazy; I had the return visit from the Netherlands to host, which entailed a lot of work as I ended up producing a presentation that I didn't expect to have to do, but it all went well. After that, there was the small matter of a grand strategic plan to finalise – work again, not the baby ones that Jill has been working on – and present, followed by a full blown surveillance audit of ISO9001, ISO14001 and OHSAS18001. Fortunately, I am only responsible for two of the systems now, having left quality behind, but it was still pretty stressful.

Along the way we have had Nathan's return to swimming at Waterbabies (marred by the breaking of Jill's glasses when he jumped somewhat too enthusiastically into the water and made hard contact! Ouch! I've also had been trying to focus to finish two scenarios for Furnace in a fortnight (well, ten days), as I foolishly let myself be persuaded by Tom Zunder to run an extra game of my RPG first love, Traveller. Characters for that are done, as is the initial plot line, so I need to bottom that at the weekend then start on the Wordplay: Singularities scenario. I'm much less prepared than I'd like to be, and have less reserves of energy as a certain small boy has been giving us disturbed nights recently.

Speaking of Nathan – who as usual is indirectly dominating this – he managed to have an accident at nursery by jumping and landing on a table, cutting his face. He was very brave and looks like a little wounded soldier. He's also getting more and more cheeky, and certainly pushing the limits more and more. It's fun, but it can be draining! He's also developed a bit of an obsession with Toy Story generally, and Buzz Lightyear specifically. Having never seen the films, I was impressed with the DVDs of Toy Story 1 and 2! Jill took Nathan to his first ever film at the cinema to see Toy Story 3 and he loved every minute of it, even the wee break just by the end of the film!

Anyway, I shall follow up with some pictures when I have a minute, but expect mean and moody from the holiday rather than sunny and bright! Until the next time, here’s hoping things are on an even keel...

Dalek Conquest of the Bathroom

Dalek Conquest of the Bathroom

As arranged by Nathan...

New Year Arrival

New Baby Week 21 Scan

It's a strange and awe inspiring feeling, having just been to the maternity day unit at the local hospital to have Jill's 21 week scan, to have seen your child before it's born. New arrival expected around 1/1/11, and, yes, we know.

Head turned to left in this picture, body curved with leg to one side...

[Originally written 19/8/2010, upload delayed by Pipex]

Friday 13th: I'm Back!

Just a quick entry to say that I’m back! I’ve not posted here very much for the last few months due to a variety of reasons including work being crazy at the end of May/beginning of June, holiday in June for a fortnight, then three weeks of training courses on Environment and Safety topped off with the joys of my ISP.

Oh yes, Pipex/Tiscali/TalkTalk are a complete pain (again). They managed to lose the virtual redirect for http://www.dom.mooney.dsl.pipex.com/ which meant unless you know my ISP username you wouldn’t find this site. I really must get my act together and actual get myself a domain and some external server space to get out of this ongoing fun.

Expect posts in the future on the holiday, my favourite gadget of the moment (my iPad) and perhaps more! And hopefully this is a good Friday the 13th!

Anyway, must dash. I need to pull my copies of Power Projection out in preparation for a game at Tom Zunder’s tomorrow. Not played it for more than a year so looking forward to it immensely.

UPDATE 27/8/2010: Clearly, I wasn’t back. Dear old Pipex/Tiscali/TalkTalk changed all their login details, including the server address, and didn’t bother to amend anything even in the account details and listing. Had enough of this. Grr!

Two Decades to Reach the Top

Two decades ago, after I finished my A Levels, I went on holiday with three of my best friends at the time to North Wales. It wasn’t an expensive holiday; we borrowed my mum’s Mini (a proper Mini, not the BMW bloated thing) and crammed Caro, Liz, Liz and myself in with the luggage and a set of Youth Hostel memberships. We spent a week travelling around seeing the sights and generally enjoying ourselves. In my memory, there are three big standout things from that holiday; an argument (less said the better), a manic moment at the beach by Harlech Castle in a storm, and climbing Snowdon.

Summit of Snowdon

The climb was memorable for a number of reasons, one of which was the fact that we didn’t actually make it to the top! We had started on the Watkin Path, which begins close to sea level and ends in a dodgy scramble up a scree slope to the summit of Snowdon a kilometre or so higher up. It was a glorious day until we came within 50m or so from the top, at which point a storm came in and the people coming down told us that there was an advisory to get off the mountain. Anyway, as the cloud was descending quickly we turned around, thwarted at the last.

I’ve never been back until last week, when I went on a work team building exercise.

As you can see from the picture above, this time the weather didn’t stop me! It was a great feeling of achievement to get to the summit. There was a part of the walk (which was along the Miner’s Path and the Pyg Path) when I thought that I wouldn’t make it. The general deterioration in my fitness post Nathan’s arrival was visible. Aerobically, I was fine, but my thighs were burning with near cramp for a good long stretch which really slowed me up. However, if anything, that made the completion of the climb all the more sweet. I certainly need to get some more exercise in my life!

Below is the route we followed from our first stop shown in Google Maps, tracked by Motion-X GPS on my iPhone. It stops just as we reached the bottom again by the lake, mainly as my iPhone was about to run flat. We actually started from and returned to the nearby Youth Hostel, so the route shown is shorter than we actually did! All in all, it was a great feeling of achievement.

View Snowdon Climb in a larger map

Missing in Action

No updates in the last two months as I managed to delete them by accident. Doh!

Goodbye, old friend... (updated)

Wetherby Bookshop RIP
A sad sight (I thought I’d get my own picture here rather than someone elses!)

Back in October 2008,
I blogged about the change of ownership of 'The Wetherby Bookshop', one of my favourite local haunts. This time, I have to report on its impending demise, something that we discovered when we went out shopping in Wetherby on Saturday afternoon. In my previous entry, I mentioned that my initial impressions were that it was a little chaotic after the transition, and that I hoped that things would settle down. In my experience, this wasn't the case.

When Jill asked why the shop was closing, she was given the answer that "The people of Wetherby haven't supported us – only four people visit per day. They'll be sorry when we're gone." Although I'm really sad to see the shop go, I think that there are a number of factors in play here that have made the failure of the business inevitable.

New Bookshop in Town
Competition Arrives

1) The arrival of a competitor.

Last year, another local bookshop "The Cut Price Bookstore” opened in premises in the centre of town
. This was an additional branch of a shop based in Helmsley. It sells a large and varied amount of stock, most below RRP (as I suspect that some of it is clearance material) but it will also order books in. So, direct competition. There was no discernible change in how 'The Wetherby Bookshop' operated in response to this.

Update: I’d based by comment on ordering books on an overheard conversation. I asked to be sure, and found that you could order books from the other stores (if they had them), but otherwise you could only request that their buyer keeps an eye out for something as they mainly buy remainders. There’s an obvious business opportunity here for the new shop. I’d also observe that the new bookshop is right beside Costa Coffee and the bus station, not down a back street, so it has a much higher footfall.

2) The recession and Amazon.
Amazon made a significant change to their shipping pricing over the last year, when they dropped the threshold for "super-saver" free delivery to £5. This changed the whole economics of the local bookshop, as prior to this it was cheaper – and faster – to order from the 'Friendly Local Book Shop' (FLBS) rather than get it from Amazon. Plus it gave me a warm, glowing feeling of supporting my local community. I'm guessing that this will have hurt, a lot, if people are looking to cut back on expenses yet retain their standard of living. I also suspect that the amount of impulse buys will have reduced as people’s budgets have tightened.

Both of the above are clear changes to the business environment, but this was a business with a huge amount of goodwill and what seemed to be a lot of traffic through the doors. Why would that collapse? Well, here are my thoughts.

3) Criticising the past.
Penny, the previous owner, was a classic small market town shop owner. She knew her clients, often by name. She searched out books, and if they were out of print would give pointers or suggestions of good places to get them. She used a laptop and a monthly CD ROM book catalogue to see what was in print, and more detailed searches at home if this yielded no success. When the stock came in, she knew precisely where it was and could lay her hands on it immediately. This all changed; the new shop was hooked up to the internet and could place orders online (rather than through a phone call) to the publishers.

The new owner was on record in the local newspaper as saying that this was one of the improvements she was bringing to modernise the shop. The tone of the article was that the previous owner was fuddy-duddy and the place needed a serious change to improve it. As a regular customer, I felt pretty outraged on the tone of the article. My experience suggested completely the opposite to the 'improvements'. On at least two occasions I stood there for 5 or more minutes (in a shop the size of our front room) whilst the owner hunted for a book I had ordered and she had called me to say it was ready to collect. At no point was there any suggestion of an improvement to how things used to be.

At the same time, the selection of books seemed to get worse. I'd usually – at least 2 out of 3 times – end up with an impulse buy when I visited the shop, as Penny always had a good selection of interesting titles. The titles may have still been there, but they weren't obvious to the casual browser.

4) FLBS no more.
Bookshops have that special kind of feel. You know the one I mean? Kind of like a library, a little reverential but with an enthusiasm for literature and stories. They're often at their best when they aren't clinical and pristine.

The Wetherby Bookshop definitely needed a little sprucing up, but the changes since October 2008 made it a lot less welcoming. The central book display was halved in height; it probably held the same amount of stock, but it was less accessible and the place looked like it had less books. An armchair appeared; great in somewhere like Waterstones – or the now defunct Borders – but not so good in a room the size of most people's lounge.

This in itself was not terminal, but the change in attitude was. The whole vibe of the shop went from welcoming classic little bookshop, to something quite different. I no longer felt welcome in there. One of the really obvious things was the number of times that I came in and the owner and friends were there drinking wine, and generally having a great time. You got this whole feeling that you were intruding and an inconvenience. And it was something that I disliked. The 'F' had gone from the FLBS.

Update: This was another area where “The Cut Price Bookstore” had an edge. It had more spacious premises, and felt much more welcoming,

In Conclusion.
Looking at myself, although I've bought less from the bookshop in the last 18 months, I don't actually feel guilty about it, as it coincided with a general crash in my reading rates. Usually, I manage around 80 to 100 books a year, but 2009 saw me read just over 40 due to other demands on my life at work etc. I doubt my level of purchases will have made the difference between survival and failure.

So, I am sad that 'The Wetherby Bookshop' is closing, but I think that the comment about the attitude of the people of Wetherby is myopic; it fails to look at the conditions of trade and the reasons why so much 'goodwill' would be burned away so quickly. It's so much easier to blame it on the people of Wetherby and to forget that no-one owes you a living. The customer remains king.

Goodbye, old friend; you actually died in October 2008, although we didn't know it then.

12th Night

Today brought the inevitable return to work after a lovely break away from work with Jill and Nathan. The early part of the holiday was spent at my parent's house, celebrating Christmas with them. It was great to see my mum looking well after yet another operation; she wasn't up to being bounced on by Nathan (but who is?), but she appears to be making steady progress in her recovery.

It's fair to say that I didn't get nearly as much done as I'd planned during the break, but when it comes down to it, the time out in itself was more than welcome in itself, and I was probably deceiving myself about what I could achieve in the time that I had.

Nathan really enjoyed himself and was generally spoiled in the way that you'd expect from his grandparents. He had lots of lovely presents, including a farm set and a toy cooker, plus quantities of toy tractors. He wasn't overwhelmed in the way he had been in previous years, and got extremely excited shredding the paper off presents, with not a care as to whether they belonged to him or someone else. The excitement and thrill of ripping the paper off was the best part of the whole experience to him.

I was very lucky in getting an upgraded version of the Flip Ultra, which records in HD, as my present. It was one of those things that Jill and I had chatted about, as the original Flip Ultra I bought on a whim got used very heavily over the whole of 2009, culmulating in the Furnace video being released on YouTube. It's excellent, and my hard disk drive continues to disappear under a digital media onslaught. In reality, it's a present for the family rather than just myself, but it did fill that gadget rush need I seem to have.

We spent Christmas Day with my parents, and Boxing Day with Jill's mum and dad. They were both lovely days, all family time, something that I feel is the best thing about Christmas.

Other strong memories of the break include a visit to one of the local Mere's to walk the dog with my dad, chancing the ice and enjoying the strange glow of the light off the water surface. Nathan was absolutely fascinated by the ducks, geese and swans on top of the ice and swimming in flotillas to keep part of the lake unfrozen.

We also visited a nearby garden centre which had a ride on train for entertainment. Nathan managed to blag two full trips around the gardens; one with Jill, and the other with my dad and I. We'll definitely have to go back there again when we next visit.

I guess that the other thing that's worth mentioning was how much that Nathan has loved the snow; he has seen it before, but much like Christmas itself, this has been the first time that he has had a real chance to interact with it properly, and he loved it. However, he wasn't impressed that it was cold!

New Year was different this year; for a start, we weren't ill, which had been the story of the past two years. We actually had a very quiet evening in, with Nathan in bed early, watching the latest Harry Potter DVD ("Rock and Roll" Yeah!) and answering some IT support questions from Jill's dad. Fortunately, having upgraded his eMac on boxing day I could now see what he was talking about when helping out, which made things much more simple to do. The quiet evening was partly as I was dry (on two hour emergency call as a favour to a colleague who swapped Boxing Day with me), and partly as we'd not got a party to go to. However, it was a good night...

Achieving Serenity

There is something just beautiful about the clean, open and serene screen that I am facing here on the MacBook as I look at OmmWriter and type this. Something restful, but it does make me hyper-aware of the fan noises from the file server and the iMac in the background. Strange, because they usually aren't something that draws my attention at all.

The gorgeous and clean interface, which also has calming music...

More and more, I prefer a simple interface with minimal disturbance, probably because it is so easy to get distracted and drawn away from what I'd like to do. Focus is what I seek, and it's something I find increasingly hard to achieve. If I didn't, then I wouldn't have a roleplaying game adventure that I first wrote in the latter part of 2006 sitting around waiting for me to complete it. The little moments of stillness and concentration seem to be few and far between, especially this year. It's something that I can also see in my reading rate; I think I'll be lucky if I complete 40 books this year, half what I usually achieve.

The only disappointment that I have with this software is that it's Mac OS only; I could really do with something like this for work too!

The only disappointment with the rest of life is that I can't find an easy way to achieve this kind of focus as regularly as I'd like and there is no easy answer to solving that, because there's no one individual cause of the distraction. I suspect discipline will help.

On Holiday at Last

It's great to actually be on holiday now, even if it brings with it a flurry of preparation for Christmas. Jill finished yesterday, and Nathan and I both finished today. I had quite a good day; a few issues came up which I had to deal with in the absence of my team, but I managed to get quite a lot done. I even tidied my office before I left, which should put me in good stead for the return of the 'clear desk policy' next year.

We had another lovely evening last night, as we went to Nathan's Nursery's little sing-along session. It was really sweet, with all the children lined up in their best after a day of fun and games ready to sing. Amusingly, Nathan saw me arrive and was instantly ready to go as he wanted to get at the toy dumper truck and chocolates he had been given by Father Christmas. This urge to leave was pretty unusual, as it normally feels as if we have to drag him away from whatever he is doing when we get there to pick him up.

He absolutely loved the singing, and every time a song was introduced, he joined in straight away, not waiting for anyone else. He also led the solos! It was sweet. There are photos, and I may share some soon once I get them uploaded.

This evening, we had to deploy the "We'll tell Santa not to come if you carry on misbehaving!" threat, as he has been getting increasingly boisterous and excited over the week. Fortunately, it does seem to have some weight and he's fast asleep now, as is Jill. I think that I should take that as a hint for me too. Catch you all soon!

A Frosty Night

Tonight was one of those special nights, as Jill and I took Nathan to see Santa Claus. He was a little bit excited when we told him what we planned, but not to the point of being boisterous. We set out after dark had fallen, with the moon low in the sky and one of the planets bright below it (possibly Neptune according to Starmap Pro). The roads were still pretty treacherous, but fortunately, it was only a short journey to Stockeld Park where "A Christmas Adventure" was being held. It's a local farm estate which has added a big Christmas shop, cafe, Grotto, skiing & skating, and an "Enchanted Wood" light show.

It was bitterly cold (as we left, the car thermometer soon dropped to -2C), but we wrapped up well. The queue for Santa was far shorter than the forty minutes that the ticket sales people had said, and we soon reached its head. Nathan was refusing to have his photo taken at all, almost treating me as if I was one of the paparazzi, meaning that the cameras that Jill had brought were all for nothing. Nathan was a bit scared by Santa's Elves, two young and friendly women, and hid behind our legs. However, talk of 'Thomas the Tank Engine' drew him out a little and then it was time to go and see Father Christmas himself.

When we got in the room, Nathan was still a little scared, but he answered questions and promised to be good for his Mummy and Daddy (ho! ho! ho!) before he was given a small present by Santa. We think he enjoyed it and it was magical to watch him.

After we left the Grotto, we passed through the gift shop where we had the amusement of Nathan trying to get the attention of another lady in a similar purple coat to the one that Jill was wearing and then discovering that it wasn't "Mummy" and rushing back to me, who he had been ignoring up until that point. After a quick bite to eat, we headed back out into the cold and the "Enchanted Wood". This was done beautifully, with animated events and gorgeous lighting. It was almost worth a visit for the opportunity to take pictures alone, but I didn't give in to that temptation as it was far too cold! Nathan insisted in walking all the way, a long distance, and seemed to love it.

All in all, it was a magical, enjoyable and, above all things, cold night!

Out of the Furnace

A You-Tube video I pulled together using the Flip Video Camcorder at Furnace 2009. Very Vox-Pop; perhaps I should have edited myself out?

I’m pleased with the outcome, although it could do with a little space either side of each cut. The editing was done with the Flipshare software.

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of...

I’m writing this on the Monday morning after a great weekend and somewhat crazy week before that packed with excitement and travel.

We spent most of the weekend away in Cheshire at my parent’s house, as we had been invited to a birthday party for one of Jill’s friends from University. It was Nikki’s big do, an 80s themed birthday party held in the local village hall. Obviously, this meant fancy dress – or at least pseudo-eighties garb – was order of the night! We weren’t completely certain what we were going to wear, but Jill carried out her research in detail and quickly pegged Primark as a source of cheap 80s look-alike clothing. Neon leg warmers, Bat-wing tops, bangles and ra-ra skirts abounded, providing a concerted assault to the eyeballs. Jill was quickly outfitted in a somewhat 80s glam outfit.

Fortunately for the sanity of everyone else, I avoided ra-ra skirts and neon brightness by being an... 80s PIRATE!

Well, actually, I went as Adam Ant, but the DJ had forgotten about Ant-Music, and had nothing on his laptop. (Have you noticed how all DJs seem to be using laptops with iTunes these days?) The make-up was quite scary. I was fortunate that Geoff, Nikki’s husband is an old friend as the stripes I got from make-up transfer onto Nikki’s cheek when we greeted each other were very obvious!

I also got to meet a large number of Blues Brothers (although some claimed they were actually Suggs from Madness), a Ghostbuster, and an extremely healthy looking Freddie Mercury and a fellow member of Queen complete with Dyson to help them break free. We had a fantastic evening, complete with fake beer and wine (well, Jill and I weren’t old enough to be on the booze for most of the eighties!) which meant no hangover the next morning.

Whilst we were doing this, Nathan was looking after his grandparents, which he managed to do with appropriate levels of cheek and cuteness.

I got to do real roleplaying at work on Wednesday, as we ran a major crisis simulation exercise with the emergency services etc. It was very tiring, but great fun. I think that doing that full time would be a dream job for me!

Currently feeling: Relaxed
Currently listening to: Pablo the Fox (but somewhat obsessive about a Kings of Leon track at the moment)
Currently reading: The Dumas Club plus BRP Rome

Busy Busy

Ploughing Match - Stepping Out
Jill and Nathan stepping out

It's been a crazy few weeks, and there is no sign of a let up for at least another week. I forgot to mention that we'd had fun at the end of October at the ploughing match, which was like heaven for Nathan. A big collection of vintage tractors in a field just at the edge of Wetherby on a bright autumn morning. Nathan was doing his cool dude routine with his sunglasses on, and didn't know where to look.

Ploughing Match - Ford
Emma Davenport got a lot of attention

I was amusing by the old timers who were watching a young lady ploughing the field, and looking good at it, and making all these comments about how great it was to see a family tradition being carried on. However, it did look a little like they were having a good oggle too.

Tram in Birkenhead
A tram at Birkenhead

The next weekend, we went to see Jill's parents in Birkenhead. The big expedition here was to a model railway exhibition with Nathan's Grandad, which Nathan seemed to enjoyed. I din't find it that exciting, as some of the displays were fantastically detailed but – in honesty – pretty boring. However, small boys and trains is always a good mix! Once we finsihed at the show, we headed out to the transport museum on a tram. This went via the Woodside Ferry landing (for 'Ferries across the Mersey') which has recently gained a German WW2 U-Boat. Nathan loved the trip, and got quite excited by the museum full of old vehicles and trams too. Great fun, overall.

Fireworks 2009

Last weekend was Firework Night, and Wetherby had it's usual big display on the Ings (the flood plain by the River Wharfe where the old racecourse was). Nathan got all dressed up for the trip out in the cold, finally conceding the week-long battle and wearing his new coat. There was a Thomas the Tank Engine fairground ride at the display, so I'm sure you can guess what he liked most about the trip out. He did seem to like the fireworks though, and it I get a few minutes I may YouTube some of the video.

The Sunday that followed had a 'TomCon', one of our regular gaming get togethers. I was spoiled for choice in games; either Traveller (my favourite of old) run by Graham or Wordplay (the new game which I laid out) in a Cyberpunk setting by Newt Newport. I was more than happy to play either, so held back to let those who were more bothered go first. I ended up in the Cyberpunk game, which was great fun, taking me back to some of my 80s gaming roots. Yet again, Elaine and I ended up with characters who just didn't get on! I also swiped the fantastic slow cook curry recipe from Tom, our host.

This weekend just gone involved an evening out for Jill and I. One of my team at work has recently completed 25 years service and I was hosting at our Long Service Dinner. This was held at Hazlewood Castle, which is a great venue, and we had a great time. The only semi-dubious thing was the Swing singer; he was very good, but it really wasn't quite what I expected, and I'm pretty certain Jill hadn't expected a serenade and a kiss. At least she didn't get "The Lady is a Tramp" dedicated to her, which was what happened to the event organiser! Paula and Mark – Jill's sister and her fiancé – kindly looked after Nathan for us so we could go out and be grown-ups for once.

Lots of other things happening at work, and over the weekends, but this was just a flavour...

Currently feeling: Happy
Currently listening to: Timmy Time
Currently reading: The Dumas Club plus Mouseguard RPG

Socks have the Secret

Well, it's Halloween, and we're off to see Jill's parents to take Nathan out for a trip. That means we'll miss most of the "trick or treat" fun and games, and I'm not certain whether that leaves Nathan missing out on much or not. We weren't going to take him out, but I suspect we'd have dressed him up the the delightful pumpkin outfit that he has got to meet the people at the door. He's certainly got into the spirit of things over the week at Nursery, making pumpkin lanterns and spiders with pipecleaner (remember them?) legs.

I've had a bit of an up and down week, ending up working from home for two days as I was running a temperature and a headache and, looking at my diary, I had virtually no meetings I had to be on site for. I'm glad I did that, as I feel a lot better now, and the last thing I want to do is end up with Bronchitis like I did last time I ignored the warning signs. I also probably got more done workwise staying at home. Getting Nathan to sleep through better has also helped, the results of a combination of socks in bed, plus switching all the lights out except for a nightlight. I should stress that the socks were for Nathan, not me, as we think the way he kicks off his covers at night ends up with cold feet, cold feet lead to waking up, and waking up leads to a bad night for Mummy and Daddy.

Jill was in London for two days with work, leaving Nathan and I home alone, something that went a lot smoother than I anticipated. Unfortunately the little mite managed to fall asleep when waiting to collect Jill from the train, thus missing a chance to go and get excited at "Annie & Clarabel" (train coaches, for all the non-Thomas afficionados). She didn't have a great trip, sleep disturbed by trains and a course that wasn't the most dynamic or effectively run. However, on a plus not she did get to go to the cinema, something we haven't done in months!

The next few weeks are going to be pretty manic, with all sorts of trips and things on for both Jill & I at work. I hate to say it, as it seems to be wishing my life away, but I'll be glad when I hit the end of November, as things should slow down then, just in time for the Christmas rush.

On Thursday night I had quite an exciting rush as I opened up the Scrivener file for "Singularities", the science-fiction setting which I have written as a theme for Wordplay, for the first time in a few months. I modified the file structure in the project so I now have an existing set of folders for the theme version for Wordplay Deluxe, and a new, virgin, set of folders with some placeholders / synopses for the likely chapters of a full, expanded and standalone version. The nicely offset that fact that Royal Mail had generously bent my full release copy of core Wordplay in half in their distribution system. Grrr!

Friday saw everyone else having an early night, so I caught up with a few films I wanted to see, and still managed to be asleep earlier than usual. Next big thing I need to sort is reading Monsters and Other Childish Things (an RPG) before the 8th November so I can give it back to Elaine.

Currently feeling: Positive
Currently listening to: The hum of the NAS
Currently reading: Stop Stealing Sheep & Learn how Type works plus Mouseguard RPG

Weekend Report

I thought I'd just do a quick update for the weekend past.

Thursday and Friday were an interesting change of pace for me, as I had a team away day, which seemed to go quite well. I picked up Nathan as a result, which confused him a little. We had a pretty chilled evening which I rounded off by reading Bryan Talbot's new graphic novel, "Grandville" which was excellent both artistically and story-wise. The only criticism I could level was that the level of violence was not necessary, but it never reached the level of complete gratuity. Saturday morning was spent with a crash tidy up and out to Waterbabies with Nathan in advance of my parents arriving. They'd come over to babysit while Jill and I went out to a party with one of her friends from work.

The party was held in a dance studio in darkest Huddersfield, and was a bit strange as the only people we would have known apart from the hostess didn't turn up. However, we didn't let that deter us and enjoyed the food and drink and the dancing. I reacquainted myself with Salsa (passable), mashed up the Merenge (?) (awful) and failed dismally at the Lambada, but it was all great fun.

Sunday was spent with family, with a variaty of different things. My mum and I finally (after 4 years) started to play "Hammer of the Scots", only to be thwarted 3 game years and 15 turns in when Nathan went all Magpie and started grabbing pieces. As the strength of a piece is based upon which side it is standing on, this spelt disaster for our game. However, we both seemed to enjoy it (me as the rebellious Scots, my mum as the English) and we may well have another go at some point. I was having fun raising merry hell in the highlands and norhern reaches of Scotland with William Wallace, but just getting a bit nervous with Edward the First camped in Selkirk forest. The fog of war effect with Columbia's Block Games is fantastic.

Worked too late on Sunday, plus Nathan wouldn't go to sleep because he had napped too late. Monday passed with lots of emails/SMS and telecons with work, plus a trip to the "Swings & Slides". Small fellow wasn't up to much more and was alternatively happy and then grumpy, probably due to sleep problems the night before. Gave up on work at 2245 as the XP laptop was struggling to connect by VPN and kept crashing. Work tomorrow, but some big exercises later in the week.

Currently feeling: Ready for bed, post Scotch
Currently listening to: The Pogues / Ultravox / Simple Minds (mostly early stuff)
Currently reading: Stop Stealing Sheep & Learn how Type works plus Making Money (Terry Pratchett)

Centre Parcs: Cumbria

Ullswater Birthday Weekend - 1
Nathan and Jill spot a tractor in Ullswater

I promised to write this up some time ago, but I've been waiting to get my Flickr feed updated. Anyway, that was fixed at the weekend when I upgraded the plugin that I use in iPhoto to upload pictures.

We spent my birthday weekend in Centre Parcs at Whinfell Forest in Cumbria, with a group of friends. It came about from a quick aside that I through out to Jill wehen she asked for ideas of what to do for my birthday, and all of a sudden we were booked. It didn't turn out as big as we imagined (too many people had prior commitments) but we had a nice chalet for the long weekend and a group of friends who we had not seen for quite some time.

With us were the Mawhinneys, old friends from Ellesmere Port who I originally met through roleplaying, and the Francises, who we met through work when Jill and I were both based in Port Sunlight. Phill Francis is Nathan's godfather.

We had a great weekend relaxing, eating and drinking too much and enjoying the facilities. Nathan and Caitlin (Richard and Allison's daughter) hit it off really well, despite an age difference, and happily shared a room. We had fun in the pool complex (the nearest thing I've done for exercise since my operation), at the adventure playground, and in the restaurants. In fact, Richard and I rediscovered why soft play areas in pubs are a *good* idea as we enjoyed a pint while the kids scrambled around. One evening, Nathan enjoyed the 'Animal Magic' show with lots of small animals including Lottie the Polar Bear (in reality, a West Highland Terrier).

We finished off the weekend with a quick trip to Ullswater in the Lake District, where Nathan's day was made with hugh numbers of tractors moving sillage before returning back across the A66 and Pennines to Yorkshire.

We had a lovely time and would love to do it again.

A Great Weekend

I've not posted much for the last few weeks because I've be pretty much swamped by a number of projects at work and home, most of which have been completed this week. The two biggies were a huge safety report for work and completing the layout draft of Wordplay for Graham Spearing. The first project left me very proud of my team who had pulled out all the stops over the last 6 weeks to turn around a lot of detail whilst holding the fort for normal operations.

Wordplay Core Cover.pdf (1 page)
The cover of Wordplay screenshot in the Preview Window.

Laying out Wordplay was a real personal challenge, as I've owned the Adobe InDesign package for about two years so far, but only really used it for one serious project (some posters and leaflets for the Church Refurbishment campaign). I offered to lay out Wordplay for Graham because it was a chance to learn how to use the package in more details – with an aim being to offer it for BITS – and also to help a friend produce a book of a game I've been really impressed with. It will be released in 2 weeks at the Furnace RPG convention in Sheffield, assuming Lulu delivers the goods on time to Graham. Although frustrating at times, I've learnt a lot that I don't want to loose. Plus I think the finished result looks good; however, I'll wait for the judgement of others once it starts getting purchased.

So, the work project finished on Friday, and Wordplay was completed on Sunday. The rest of the weekend was the usual stuff, but brilliant all the same. Haircut in the morning first thing to get rid of the grey and reveal the ears, and then on to swimming with Nathan. He is being a little reluctant jumping in at the moment, but was doing fine by the end of the session. We headed back, only to find him fast asleep as we reached home. Jill headed off to the 'Auction of Promises' supporting the Church Refurbishment, and we came away with a week's holiday in the Lakes and a weekend in Filey. So that's some holidays sorted for next year. Once Nathan woke up, we went to Sainsburys to get supplies; we also managed to end up with quite a few new items of clothes for Nathan as he has got longer and leaner. We measured him recently, and he was 94cm tall, a jump of 7cm over three months.

A quiet evening, and then a packed Sunday finished, with the Harvest Festival, a return trip to Sainsburys to swap something that was damaged, and some other fun. An early night on Sunday night, only to be woken by Nathan's bad dream. This resulted in him oversleeping until 9.50 am, the latest that he has slept in for a long time. The morning was spent playing, and then after fish fingers, chips and peas for lunch we headed down to Wetherby, visiting the swings and slides, and then collecting conkers. I'm typing this sitting on the sofa while Nathan chills to 'Chuggington'. A Great Weekend...

I should mention my birthday weekend here, but I'll return to that later. Maybe...

Back Home

I’m back home now from the hospital following my hernia operation, a day later than expected. I was only meant to be in for the day itself (I was in for “day surgery” ) but there were a number of complications during the operation and afterwards.

I was first into the theatre that day, and it looks like I may have taken a hour longer than planned, as I went in on time, and the chap following me was delayed by a hour for his operation. Apparently, the hernia was larger than they expected from the pre-operative assessments. Anyway, the operation went well, and I’m patched with mesh. I was all set to go home the same day, when we discovered that the top of my leg didn’t want to work.

It was a very strange feeling; although there was some sensation at the bottom of my leg, the top and sides were completely numb, and as a result I had no muscle power there. So, although I could move my lower leg, wiggle my toes etc. I couldn’t actually put any weight on the leg without going down like a sack of potatoes. Long and short of it was that I was kept in day surgery for as long as possible, and when there was still no sign of an improvement I was transferred to a ward for an overnight stay.

Fortunately, the next morning, muscle power and some sensation had recovered. When the medics who had carried out the operation came around on their rounds they had a debate whether it was the anesthetist’s fault or theirs (ie the general or local anesthetic), and came to the conclusion that the local was the probably cause.

Mandanol: Paracetamol for real men and man-flu!

Anyway, I’m now back at home, and taking it easy. I have a selection of pain killers, ranging from the delightfully named ‘mandanol’, which is paracetamol (for man-flu?) through to some stronger things that will knock me flat if things aren’t too good. At the moment, it’s bearable and the mandanol is fine. As Jill has pointed out, the incision I’ve had (as the operation wasn’t keyhole) is probably the closest thing I could have to a c-section.

I’m taking it easy, reading, listening to music and generally not overdoing it; I also managed to watch the end of Life of Mars Series 2, which was excellent. Also had first shower and shave post operation, which was a delight.

The big challenge will be when Nathan gets back home, as I’m not allowed to lift him for at least two weeks. How do you explain that to a two and half year old?

Currently feeling: Sore and achy but glad to be home.
Currently listening to: 13th Star (Fish)
Currently reading: Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear (Dan Gardner )

Needing a Season Ticket?

Taken from the Harrogate website

I’m starting to wonder if I need a season ticket Harrogate District Hospital after the last week of fun; and it all started so innocuously!

On My Bike
Out on our ride

Monday was a great day as usual. I’d done my work the night before and was able to play with Nathan with full concentration. We played trains, watched favourites on TV, and played in the garden with his toy diggers and push-around car. Then we went for another bike ride to Spofforth like the one from the day before. I remembered to take a drink and snack this time, and we stopped along the way. Nathan was very insistent that he gave his toy bunny some juice.

Bunny want Juice...
Bunny wants Juice

After the ride, it was back to the house for more play with diggers until Jill returned home, coincidentally from her first day at her new job. When she did, a certain young man decided to start playing up and ended up on the ‘naughty step’. Whilst this was happening, I went to get his Bunny for afterwards, which was when it all got very complicated.

I stepped out of the back door, straight onto a nice round stone from the water feature which Nathan had been using to play with his diggers. Grey-on-grey, I didn’t see it, something I regret as my ankle went both ways, and I fell over. The first part of me to land, my left hand, hit hard against the concrete manhole cover we have in the back garden. It hurt somewhat, and the ‘S shape’ my finger was in suggested that something was wrong and a trip to the local A&E was in order.

We left Nathan with the next door neighbours, and headed to A&E where, after two X rays, some prodding, squeezing and pulling, my double dislocated and fractured finger was back in place and strapped up. I must praise how professional and caring the staff were, even though what I had was pretty trivial compared to what they must see day to day. The only stomach turning bit was when Jill and I were sitting in the cubicle, and Jill overheard the Doctor talking to the Ward Sister and discussing what kind of tug my finger needed to sort out the dislocation. Jill was greatly amused by this!

I must also make a note to hurt myself on a Monday night in future, as it was very quiet! Jill had gone back home to get Nathan fed and to bed, so I had a short wait before she could come back, which I spent reading Le Carré’s excellent “A Most Wanted Man” I had came prepared for a long wait with iPod and book. It was actually quite restful after I resolved my coffee cravings.

Tuesday saw a return to the hospital for the fracture clinic. This was a little traumatic, as I though (despite being nearly 30 min early) that I wasn’t going to get there on time because of the queue of cars for the car park. Fortunately, I made it in with a few minutes to spare after 25 minutes of waiting, and got to the clinic in time. It looks like my finger will be strapped for at least two weeks. I got a good look at the sexy digital X-ray system display when I was in the clinic, and I’m impressed how far things have gone since I was a kid. There’s no developing time now; they take the X-ray and check it when you’re in the room, and the medics can just pull it up in the computer screen. Cool.

My final trip of the week to Harrogate District Hospital was on Thursday night, when I went for my pre-op assessment for a hernia repair I’m having later this month. All went smoothly, although I ended up with another unneeded ECG, thanks to the super-powered hearing of a BNFL doctor nearly 19 years ago.

Muse Ale and Wine Bar (stolen from their website)

Nathan had a few days away with his Grandma and Poppy (who has become “Pops” at the moment, but we’re working on fixing that) going to a Shire Horse Centre and having lots of fun. He came back with another toy tractor. In case it’s as important to you as it is for him, it’s a John Deere. Jill and I took advantage of this to go out for a meal at the Muse, which is one of our favourite haunts, but somewhere we’ve been to far too little post-childbirth! It was a lovely meal, and we got to just chat, something which we miss too often in the rush of day to day life.

The weekend has been spent with my parents here in Wetherby, working on clearing the loft in preparation for some work there. It’s amazing how much stuff accumulates so quickly. I can see why my dad has said he dreads doing their loft! We managed to complete the work on Sunday morning; Saturday had been like a sauna up there, so we started early to avoid the heat on Sunday. Aside from that, the garden had some maintenance; a quick lawn cut, then some general thinning and lifting of the somewhat overgrown trees and bushes to try and save some of the grass by allowing water and light through. Aside from that, we visited the Farmer’s Market and relaxed in the sunshine.

Currently feeling: Chilled, with a hurty ankle and strapped fingers.
Currently listening to: Numberjacks (CBeebies...)
Currently reading: Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear (Dan Gardner )

Taken for a Ride

Route 66 at Wetherby
The Harland Way, site of our bike ride

We had a good weekend, with Nathan on form as ever.

We’re enjoying the joys of potty training, and overall he’s doing very well and catching on to the idea. I’m not 100% certain about him running back into rooms when we’re out in company and yelling “I’VE DONE A BIG ONE” with a big grin, but he seems to be enjoying it and it does generally get a lot of smiles!

We went out on the bikes on Sunday afternoon, Jill on hers, and Nathan and I on mine. He’s got a purpose built carrier mounted on my bike which was a kind gift from our next door neighbours when they were thinking of throwing it away because their son was too big for it. I learned a number of things about my bike, including that things get a lot easier if you have the tyres near their correct pressure. I’d always done it by hand as it has the non-car style high pressure valves and as I couldn’t find a gauge to fit it was always a bit of guesswork. Anyway, I found I was getting 30psi and it should have been 60psi. It was a bit of a struggle to get there, as the adapter for the car footpump bleeds a lot of air from 50psi on, but it made a lot of difference out in use.

We travelled for about 8 miles on the old railway track which runs from near our house to Spofforth. Nathan kept a beady eye out for tractors (none spotted) and was very pleased when he saw the windmill at the farm on the ride about Spofforth. He started to yell “Look, Windy Miller!”. If that pop culture reference passes you buy, go immediately to this page on Amazon and travel to Trumptonshire! On the way back home I felt a strange knocking on my back, looking around to find out that he had gone to sleep! In reality, he was dozing, and everytime I stopped he muttered “Ride, Daddy”, which was a bit of a change from his earlier demands of “Go Faster, Daddy”.

Having watched the first series when we were away on holiday, Jill and I got out ourcopy of “Life on Mars” Series 2 this weekend. We watched two episodes, and it’s just as good as the first series. We’re looking forward to working our way through this one.

In other film and TV news, I watched “Watchmen” this week, which was great. It kept pretty faithfully to the original graphic novel, both in plot and visuals, and was done very well. The ending was changed, but was actually improved it from my perspective, as it made it far more believeable. I can imagine that the multilayered nature of the plot would be pretty challenging to follow if you hadn’t read the original. It’s far less approachable than some of Alan Moore’s other works like “V for Vendetta”, but a worthy adaption all the same. The only criticism I could have is the level of violence, but again, that matches the source. Worth a look if you like more complex and dark stories.

Currently feeling: Tired, bad night’s sleep, but happy.
Currently listening to: Big Cook, Little Cook (CBeebies...) & Beowulf (Seamus Heaney)
Currently reading: A Most Wanted Man (John le Carré )

Holiday Update: Now with Video!

You may, or may not, have noticed the update from our holiday that slipped in below. If you didn’t feel free to go there first! This video (besides being the first I uploaded to YouTube and being taken with my Flip Ultra Camcorder) shows the approach to the place we stayed, which gives a great feel for the time we had.

I hope you enjoy it!

Dorset Long Weekend


I’m typing this, hidden in the corner of the room that we are sharing with Nathan in a B&B in West Bay, just outside Bridport in Dorset. The lights are out and I can only praise the backlit keyboard on the MacBook, and cringe at the click that the spacebar makes in comparison to all the other keys! The reason for the stealth is the attempt to get Nathan to sleep.

We’re down here for a long weekend to celebrate the wedding of one of my friends from University. It scares me to think that it must be 18 years or so ago that we met as fresh-faced, somewhat naive youths in Southampton, truly half a lifetime. Anyway, Jamie was on the same course as me, although I think I first met him through friends at the adjacent Hall of Residence (Chamberlain) to the one that I was staying at (Glen Eyre: Terrace) rather than on the Mechanical Engineering course itself. We shared a house in our fourth year, and our paths continued to cross as we both moved in FMCG and nuclear circles.

Anyway, around the time that Nathan was born, Jamie fell off the face of the world, and I assumed that it was due to my inability to keep in touch with everyone and juggle work and home life which I was going through. However, at the end of last year, I learnt the real reason that he had fallen out of contact. He had met a lady, the love of his life, Alex. He dropped me an email to announce his engagement, much to our surprise and delight.

Anyway, I didn’t make the stag do (which was at Le Mans) because we were already booked on holiday in France (more of which will appear once I’ve finalised the missing entry for June), but we were invited to the wedding. Only downside to this being the fact that it is in Dorset, on the coast. (Think equidistant between Southampton and Exeter). The Sat Nav predicted 5 hours, the reality was 8 and a half, as the M1 was closed, and the M5 had a major smash, and we got stuck behind a Morrisons lorry which refused to get out of crawler gear in the back roads for far too long. Fortunately, we planned the long weekend and came down a day in advance, and even more fortunately, we had no issues beyond annoying the B&B owners. Some of the other guests arrived at their B&B to find that they had cancelled the booking on them and had to go hunting for alternative accommodation.

On the morning of the wedding day, we went into Bridport, which proved a challenge parking-wise as part of the town was shut off due to charter celebrations. Whom should we meet but Jamie and John, his best man, heading off to the registery office for the ceremony!? We headed back to the B&B, and got ready for the reception. Nathan looked especially cute in his suit. The reception was held at the Riverside Restaurant in West Bay, which has very good reviews, and they did Jamie and Alex proud. The drinks reception swayed to the sound of a steel band, whilst the sun shone and the ducks floated on the river. The meal was fantastic, and the staff very helpful, especially as we were on the “noisy” table with all the small kids. Nathan made friends with Ben and Reese, and they had great fun playing. John’s best man speech was excellent; it teetered towards the edge but always pulled back.

Dancing to the Steel Band.

What was especially nice on the day was to catch up with a number of people I’d lost touch with; James & Jo, Chris H, Fiona, Chris H-S, Nick, Jack to name a few. I hope to do a better job this time to stay in contact! Anyway, Nathan was full of beans most of the evening, finally running out of batteries around 10:30 pm and asking to be taken home to bed! Until then he had been telling us he wanted to stay up!

It was a great day, with the final, huge, shock being Jamie and Alex’s plans to emigrate to Canada. Well, they have all our best wishes, but I’ll miss him being in the same country. At least the internet will help with that.

We spent today out doing stuff. Nathan latched onto a leaflet on “The Tank Museum” in Bovington, and announced several times he wanted to go there, so we set out pretty quickly in the morning. It was great, although the size of the machines, and the sound effects, did occasionally overwhelm him. A good day out, and made interesting because of the historical stories, machinery and the personal link of my maternal Grandfather having served in the Desert Rats in armoured cars in the Second World War.

On the way back, Jill and Nathan fell asleep, so I diverted to Maiden Castle, a huge iron age hill fort conquered by the Romans in the first half of the first century AD when they came to Britain. Physically, it is very impressive, as the ramparts are still there. I left the sleeping duo in the car and made a rapid transit to the top (which did get me out of breath!) at which point I realised my mistake! I underestimated the size of the place, probably mentally drawing comparisons to the Roman Fort on the Hardknott Pass in Cumbria. That was dwarfed by Maiden Castle. I took some pictures, but probably only saw 25% of the top before I headed back down to the sleeping beauties! I’d like to come back some time when I can spend a bit longer looking around.

We then headed west of Bridport in search of a beach, and found a pebbled one at Seatown, which was nice. However, it was windy and the breakers scared Nathan a little, so after we spent some time throwing stones at the water, we returned to the car. We then went further rest to Lyme Regis for no other reason than neither Jill or I had visited the town, and did a drive through to see what it was like. It looked nice for a visit, and is another place noted as having potential for the future.

We returned back to West Bay for fish and chips, and then an early-ish bed for Nathan before the long drive tomorrow. An excellent long weekend, just hoping that the drive back will be better.

A French Holiday

Zoo de la Palmyre puddle jumping‎
Even the Wet Days were fun...

I’m writing this far too long after our lovely holiday in France, so I’ll keep it short! We had a great two weeks in the west of France, near La Gironde in the company of my parents. It was a relaxing stay, and Nathan travelled very well, both on the ferry and in the car, which was good news as some of the driving took five to six hours.

The Church at Talmont
The Church at Talmont

Talmont Churchyard
The Churchyard

We spent a lot of time in a small town called Talmont, and caught up with some wine we enjoyed the last time we were over here.

In the Pool #2
Nathan and I in the pool

We had fun in the pool, and Nathan’s swimming skills came on a long way. He was swimming all around the pool on his own with only a woggle for support.

View from LGT
The views from the breakfast table.

The holiday was set in beautiful countryside.

The time went far too quickly, but it reminded me that two weeks away is much more relaxing than a single week!

Highs and Lows

Ivor Day: On the Train 3
Jill and Nathan chilling on the train ride to see Ivor.

It’s been a funny old weekend, as some plans fell apart, but all in all it was good fun. On Saturday, we took Nathan to his Waterbabies classes for the first time in 6 weeks due to holiday and his Chicken Pox, and it went well. He didn’t seem to be phased at all by the return to the pool and diving in etc. except for swimming on his back, which is one of those things that he’s never really liked. Good fun really.

In the afternoon, we went to the National Model Engineering Show at the Yorkshire Showground. This was a bit more machine tool and component driven than we expected, but – sure enough – there were a number of displays of trains and boats which Nathan loved. Suffice it to say that the Flip Ultra was used, and we now have a variety of train videos for him to watch rather than the two that he has had since the last show Jill took him to. I may post one to YouTube to give a feel if I have a moment.

One of the funniest things that happened involved ice cream. Now, Nathan is fond of ice cream, but he’s even more fond of the wafers used to make a cone. We usually get him a small tub rather than a cone, as the first thing he does with one of those is to invert it and eat the wafer. Well, we did this, and he was eating the ice cream well until he decided to blag his mothers (or should that be swipe it?) and the resulting chocolate ice cream face and grin were quite something to behold.

There was a cool little stall there selling candle powered tin boats. Wax, string and a flame was used to make a boat that is self propelled, apparently something that dates back to Victorian days. I can imagine it giving some people health and safety palpitations, but I think that’s an over reaction.

Sunday saw a trip to the Farmer’s Market – unplanned in my case as I was originally going to be at TomCon, the missing of which was the low I mention in the title – and Nathan swiping a chunk of a buffalo burger I’d bought. There was a cool cupcake stall and all the usuals. Mmm. Cake...

Also went to work to get some stuff sorted for the busy week which is about to hit...

Finally, I watched the recent film of “Beowulf”, co-scripted by Neil Gaiman, today and wasn’t disappointed. It was certainly above average, even with the CGI. It does take some liberties with the story, but it makes a more coherent narrative for the movie. And there are definitely things there to steal for RPGs. Hopefully I’ll finally ready the Beckett version this summer, something I keep on putting off.

Ivor Day: Ivor the Engine
Ivor the Engine at Embsay Station.

I’m not sure if I mentioned it before, but we had a fun time last weekend as Nathan was finally back to normal, and we went to see Ivor the Engine, which was great fun! It was cold and blowy, but far less crowded than the Thomas day, and a good return to normality for the tiny tinker. Although I’m not allowed to call him “Tinker” anymore. To quote; “No Daddy, I’m Nathan, not Tinker”.

Currently feeling: Content .
Currently listening to: Humphrey Lyttelton (Jazz, Nice...)
Currently reading: Hellfrost (Savage Worlds),
The White People and other stories (Arthur Machen/Chaosium horror collection)

The Invasion has Started!

... and Leeds City Council are collaborating!

The Tripods have arrived

There’s a relamping programme underway, and the new, taller, lamps look very intimidating in a HG Wells-ian way! This a quick picture taken of the one outside our front garden the other night.

A Quiet Weekend

It’s been a quiet weekend, as we couldn’t really go anywhere as Nathan has the lurgy, but I think that it was a nice one. All the usual stuff happened, with the exception of swimming, and a few other things got sorted as well. Oh yes, that’s how Nathan confesses to having done something: “Happened Daddy, Happened!”. I digress; more flatpack was built, and the new turf in the garden watered. In the latter case, the heavens have been doing their own bit to help the last 24 hours. We seem to be into rain and overcast from the glorious sun of last week.

One pleasing thing was that Jill brought back the final copies of the leaflet and poster that I’d prepared, and they look pretty good. Certainly, they look as I hoped they would and as the preview suggested. Always a good thing. So I’ve now taken an InDesign CS4 file from concept to print, which is a good thing (tm) if I’m to have a hope of preparing Wordplay properly. I know where the bodies were buried (mainly to do with discipline around paragraph styles) and used some functions I didn’t expect to (object styles). All in all, a good experience.

Nathan is bearing up well, and likely to get a trip to his grandparents to allow me to deal with some work things that I need to be in for. Jill is away on a training course in the Big Smoke, so it may end up feeling very quiet and empty around here pretty quickly. All in all, the week promises to be interesting.

Oh yes, and I’ve experimentally enabled comments on the blog!

A Pox on it! [Updated]

A dedicated follower of fashion, Nathan has decided that having Chicken Pox once was not enough. He has caught it again, which bodes well for the next week! It seems either he had a different virus last time, or that it was too mild. Camomile lotion, here we come! Chicken Pox has been going around the nursery the last month, and also in wider circles as at least one of our friends’ little boy has had it.

EDIT: This is the poster I’ve been mentioning. I’m pretty pleased with it digitally, but await the printed version nervously:

Poster for Launch Weekend

I also know the proof copy has been approved by the senior steward at the church, but I haven’t seen a final copy yet. I managed to suss out the way to do full bleed (ie pictures to the edge of the paper) and confirmed my suspicions that, despite what the Adobe website says, InDesign CS3 cannot open .INDD files from InDesign CS4 well. Luckily I did .INX and .PDF too...

EDIT: The bit I forgot. I picked up a French CD and textbook today in the hope that I can get myself some confidence back in the language before we visit the country on holiday!

Finally, I forgot to mention it yesterday, but Happy Birthday Phill (Nathan’s Godfather)! (St George’s Day, which is why it’s a birthday I am better at remembering.)

And now, finally...

It’s time for a short update...

Since the last time I wrote, Nathan has been fine, with no reoccurrence of the symptoms that sent him to hospital and no sign of any after effects. Long may this continue. As usual, he’s been bright as a button, and continues to set the pace of our lives.

Thomas Day: Big Smiles

He’s had a few special days recently, with the best probably being the Thomas Day out at the Bolton Abbey and Embsay Railway. The steam engines were all dressed up as Thomas, as was Nathan (he had his best Tank Engine outfit on and looked delightfully cute). It was Jill’s birthday, and we spent most of the day in and around the steam trains with a very excited little boy. We had a great time, and I’d recommend the day out, albeit a quite expensive one.

The other really big change is that my mum is finally out of hospital; she came out just after her birthday at the start of April, and looks a lot better for it. It’s really good to see her home, but I suspect that it’s equally hard work for my dad at the moment until mum gets some more mobility back and recovers her stamina. It’ll be a long road, but it’s great to see her out of hospital and back with us after 3 months or so away.

Big Bag of Gravel

We’ve had to re-gravel the drive after 6 years, partly because one of our neighbours insists in treating the shared section as the starting position for a 0-60 drag race in a very Demon Tweeks fashion. Anyway, after two big bags, it looks pretty good. Nathan was a star and ran and got his buckets and spades the moment that he saw the bags. I do assure you that we didn’t use child labour for this, no matter what the picture may suggest. He was also very taken with the “crane-lorry” that delivered the big bags.


Of course, from a personal position, the picture of the little lad above is the best achievement we can do. Wear him out with a life of fun and games!

I’ve had some fun gaming recently, including a run out of Singularities setting I mentioned some posts ago, for Graham’s Wordplay RPG. This went well, but prompted some questions to do with how one of the mechanics worked. Interestingly, I used my Flip Ultra to try a tutorial to explain the changes we were thinking of and it seemed to work well. I think we’ll be doing some of this kind of stuff once Wordplay is boxed off to go on the website. It has to be said that Tom Zunder played his character absolutely fantastically, double dealing and out for a quick profit in a way that really added to the fun of the game.

Work have given me a Blackberry, which I’ve yet to decide if it is a benefit or a curse. Mad busy otherwise with a major safety report.

I’ve been using InDesign CS4 in anger for the first time this last week as I have been producing some leaflets and posters for the local church. I’m on tenterhooks to know what the final result will look like as the project I’ve produced has been quite ambitious. I’ve been very impressed with the changes from CS2, and the whole workflow was much better. How much that ties to having a faster computer too, I don’t know.

We have followed up the success of the IMechE Annual Dinner in Merseyside and North Wales, held in Chester, with the IMechE Yorkshire Region’s version which Jill was key in organising. It was a more initimate affair (60-70 people rather than 250), but a great kick off for the event. The speech by Colin Brown, the IMechE’s technical director, was very good (by far the best that I’ve seen by someone in the Institution and better than the professional at Chester) and it was superb to actually see our professional body taking some steps to have a view and take a position. I took a lot of pictures, and used the Flip for the speech, and I was happy with the results. Would have been better with more notice, but you can’t win them all!

Facebook makes you lazy...

I’ve been too quiet here of late, mainly due to those black-holes of time, Facebook and Twitter. I joined Facebook a while ago, and followed up with Twitter recently, mainly to keep track of friends who use the net (a fair few don’t) a lot.

I enjoy them both, in the sense that they’re a good way to while away some slack time, but do I need them? I suspect not, as I forever tell myself that I haven’t enough time. That was until I discovered Eventbox, which is an OS X RSS reader style tool for social networks, and seems to deliver much the same functionality.


“What’s an RSS reader?” you may ask. In a nutshell, it’s a program a little like a browser that allows you to subscribe to certain websites and get summary updates on new posts. Very useful, and very time-saving. I use one called Newsfire which is pretty and effective and changed my online life. Others exist, and I believe Google has a similar tool. Eventbox promises to do the same for Social Networks. I can quickly scan all the feeds and home in on details if I want to now. Very nice, and very useful.

Eventbox came as a free program (in my case) from the recent MacHeist 3 promotion. I had written a long and rambling rant about certain individual’s response to MacHeist (James Wallis, you know who you are!) and its somewhat innovative promotion techniques, but I’ve decided that it wasn’t worth it. I followed one of the two best bits of advice a former manager game me, namely to “Save as Draft, and see if you feel the same in the morning”. I did, and I didn’t, so it’s gone.

(The other was “In projects, the key thing is to identify your long lead items and deal with them first”, but that’s a bit more specific).

Anyway, I’m hoping that this will a new start...

A Trip to Hospital

Nathan crashed out
Shattered, after shopping and feeding the ducks in Wetherby on Monday

We had a very scary experience on Thursday night with Nathan. He’d been a bit funny all week, slightly off his food and also snotty, but otherwise fine. On Thursday night, he came home from nursery (where he’d eaten very little) and wasn’t interested in food or play, instead sitting on Jill’s lap and watching ‘
In the Night Garden’ or ‘Piggle-Garden’ as he calls it. I’d just taken his temperature (which was high) and gave him some Calpol to return to the room and find him shaking and going blue around the lips. He also didn’t seem to be breathing (we thought he was choking and asleep). So, we took him to the kitchen, and gave him the pats on his back to clear his throat, and he came out of it. He was very glazed, and we decided to head straight to Harrogate for the out of hours surgery.

We talked to the out-of-hours team on the way and they sent us to A&E, and then he was admitted to the Woodlands Children’s Ward for observation. Predictably, he found this a reason to perk up, especially when he saw the toy car transporter and the train set. He was kept in for the night, and Jill stayed with him. By the morning, one of the trains on the set was being referred to as “My New Train”. We were all set to go home with him on Friday, when he woke from a sleep with an even higher temperature, so had another shot of Calpol and was kept back for a little longer to see if it dropped back. By the time that happened, the lunch trolley (or rather Thomas the Tank Engine Trolley) arrived with Fish and Chips, which he enjoyed.

Long and short of it was that the medics think that he either had a
febrile seizure (which is apparently quite common until children’s brains fully develop) or some form of rigors. Very scary, but also (apparently) very common. He only really got back to normal on Sunday night, and I’m glad that I missed Travcon to stay with him and Jill.

Today he’s been a star, enjoying feeding the ducks, eating lemon cake and generally being a tinker!

A Plague on Both Your Houses

I was torn on whether to use Shakespeare (as above) or to use something equally sharp as I started to write this. The classics won. I should warn you that this is a rant, so you may want to change channels now.

I’m getting increasingly fed up with the whole economic situation here in the UK – particularly as I watch companies which are fundamentally sound collapse as their markets collapse and funds to transition don’t exist (*) – and the finger pointing about who is most ‘sorry’ for the situation. That misses the whole point; rather than being ‘sorry’, why not put some substantive plans together on how you’d resolve it?

(*)unless you’re a failing bank, in which case the approach seems to be ‘have a blank cheque’ and ‘fill in number of billions that you want’.

Let’s be honest, the issue with the economy sits squarely in both the Tory and Labour houses for different reasons.

Labour cosied up with the big finance institutions as they were an excellent revenue stream (and avoided the need to try and fix manufacturing by actually, god forbid, encouraging it) and fell asleep on the job of regulation and oversight. Well, I suspect that ‘light touch’ regulation is gone for a generation at least (as it has related to safety since Buncefield), which is probably no bad thing.

Labour’s record with things financial isn’t that good, in reality. Anyone with an ounce of sense – or project management experience – could point out that just pumping billions into the NHS, education and public sectors was not going to be efficient, as the institutions had been cut to the bone and lacked the people and systems to manage the massive flow of cash. Inefficiency and waste was an inevitable sacrifice on the altar of improving public services quickly. That’s not to say that things haven’t improved, it’s just that things could have been done so much more effectively. I suspect that a lot of the systems are there now, but the horse has left the stable.

Were the years of growth real, or has it been one big financial bubble? If we find ourself in a depression like the 1930s then the latter is probably the case.

The Tories don’t get away with this blame free either; I can still remember the economics wunderkind I spent an hour arguing with on the train back from my interview at Cambridge. He was espousing the arch-Thatcherite stance that ‘manufacturing doesn’t matter, it’s financial services where the money is made’. He could never answer the question of where it came from in the first place; if I was being trite I’d say that we all know that now, as the Bank of England just prints some more.

He missed the point that even if money is an abstract concept, somewhere it needs to relate to the real economy. By ‘real economy’ I mean the economy where something is made, or extracted, that is physical and tangible. There may not be a direct link, but manufacturing underpins all this and the whole house of cards links back to it somewhere. That argument on the then-British Rail train was nearly two decades ago, and as a nation we’ve been tied to that view at high levels ever since. I suspect that people like that guy on the train, now in his mid-late thirties, are part of the reason we’re where we are.

Getting back to the Tories; they haven’t been consistent, have they? Their position started to change as Northern Rock happened to just find anything that opposed the government. Hypocrisy, position changes back and forth, none of this mattered so long as dirt could be thrown at Labour. Criticism, rather than ideas or solutions, is the order of the day. There’s not even the ideological approach of the Thatcherites; no vision, no solution.

I get really angry when I see politicians implying that manufacturing companies need to sort their own houses out, as Mandleson seems to think that the problem lies with inefficiencies and is the companies own fault? But how many companies can handle a 50, 60, 70% fall in demand overnight? How many places have dropped from a 7 day operational week to 5, 4, 3 and in some cases no-day week? The collapse in confidence of the banks has sent consumer confidence over the cliff edge, and sent a shock-wave through the real economy.

If you operate globally, can you also handle the exchange rate with the €uro and Dollar$ collapsing by 25 to 30%? You probably source from overseas somewhere, which means that you’ll be stung when getting raw materials. The devaluation of the pound is great for exports, but did I forget to mention that all the other major economies are in the same boat so the markets aren’t there? Even places like Germany, the European watchword for prudence and caution in finance, have been sucked into this situation. The vast financial house profits in the USA and London meant that the German banks wanted a piece of the action, and used their subsidiaries to bypass the regulations at home. Money moved to the Anglo-Saxon markets, and has gone with them. Talking to German friends and colleagues, many of them are furious about the situation.

I’m not recommending that subsidies are the way forward, but there have to be some clever options. Things like the German government’s payments for scrapping old, inefficient cars which are promoting demand. Things about finding finance to restructure, or some kind of support when short time working is needed over a period. If we don’t find something soon, then we’ll all be working in call centres which will then be outsourced to India or Eastern Europe because there will be nothing left.

I also think that in many ways, we’re to blame as well. The Great British public. The Lib-Dems and others warning on the credit levels, but as a nation, we ignored it, blindly believing the spin that everything was hunky-dory and the good times would roll. We should have spent a little less and saved a little more, and questioned more about what was going on, especially the rumours that used to go around about mortgage operators dubious actions. We all counted our paper gains on mortgages and felt good, rather than wondering why the prices were exploding upwards so quickly. The growth in the economy – or even in the population – couldn’t be the core driver but we ignored that because it was an inconvenient truth. The government bottled a reorganisation of the housing markets towards the more robust Scottish model, probably because of lobbying, and we all laughed all the way to our paper thousands while our youth couldn’t afford to buy a house.

We need to step up and take that responsibility. To manage our own houses, and pray that the political classes get their act together and stop a recession becoming a long term slump. We need to carefully consider who we vote for, because that will have the biggest impact on where things go longer term. I’m not convinced that we presently have a good option, so it may be the ‘least worst’ choice. But voting is important, as it our way to express our choice and authority. Robert Heinlein had it right in Starship Troopers (the book, not the near spoof neo-fascist movie) in that we have to take responsibility and do our part.

Normal service may be resumed. Thank you for listening.

A Bit of Bond, Engineering Style.

007 wasn’t there, but we had the Tuxedos and the Casino. You can find him here.

Friday night was great, as we caught up with some old friends from the North-West when Jill & I attended the IMechE (the Mechanical Engineering Professional Institution for those who aren’t in the know) Annual Dinner for Merseyside & North Wales, held in Chester. It’s one of those James Bond style events, with black tie and fancy frocks, a formal meal, and then the fun casino (which Jill has won on two of the last three years).

We caught up with some old friends from work and beyond, and had a good gossip. Jill looked really glamourous (as she always does on these events) in her ball gown, and I did my best to accessorise to her!

The speeches on the night were okay, rather than outstanding. I was originally going to be a bit scathing about the local MP who was the second act on, but then I thought it was a little unfair. She’s a historian by education, and has worked in libraries and then for charities before becoming a politician, and now works in children’s affairs. That considered, she made a valiant attempt at engaging with the audience and being relevant, with only small one gaffe(*). I certainly enjoyed her more than the main speaker, the former football referee Dermott Gallagher.

In previous years, the after dinner speaker had been a cricketer (Geoff “Dusty” Miller) and a radio sports presenter (Gary Richardson recently famous for his under-the-stairs broadcast during the snow for Radio 4’s Today). Both managed to be funny, tailor their speech to the event, and clean throughout. Gallagher’s speech was somewhat disappointing in comparison. It was crude, lacking in depth, and the anecdotes were, to be honest, not very interesting. Better luck next time, I hope. I only wonder if I would have found it better if I had been drinking, and not stone cold sober? I suspect not, as most of the anecdotes just served to confirm that football is not a gentleman’s game.

The Casino went well, but we didn’t win this year! We deployed ‘the system’ again, but didn’t accumulate quite as fast as previous years as the variant of Craps that was being played was slightly more in favour of the house than in past years. We did build up quite a large stash, but then decided to blow it pretty spectacularly in a slightly mad-cap attempt to take the prize for best overall gambler. Ironically, the winner wasn’t too far ahead of us when we started to do this, so perhaps we should have stayed slow and steady! However, it was a bit of fun, and we’re both aware that the system wouldn’t work on a real table, as the statistics are somewhat less in favour.

All of a sudden it was nearly 1AM, and I’d managed to miss several of the people that I wanted to have a talk to, and not talk to others as much as I would have wanted, such as Brian, the production engineer I worked with closely on my very first job after graduating. I drove us back, and we were home for 2AM, and soon asleep. Nathan woke at 7AM, but fortunately my father played trains with him so we got a bit more of a lie in.

All in all, a great night out!

(*) She argued that engineers should have some formal protection for the use of the term ‘engineer’, something that the PM’s office was somewhat luke-warm about when e-Petitioned about this at the start of 2008.

March already!

Where on earth has the last month gone? It feels like someone has stuck the accelerator pedal to the floor, especially now that life is returning to normal with the usual round of work, weekends and swimming for Nathan.

I’m looking forward to the weekend, when we are at a formal meal with some old friends, which should be great fun. We’ll also get some good family stuff done as well. I may even try and get a little of “This Fear of Gods” prepared for Travcon, but that really depends on how much I can stand being at the keyboard and computer (like it has been a problem before!).

Getting really annoyed with all the stuff about Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension, especially the posturing by Ms Harman. To start to threaten to change laws or work outside them to nobble someone, no matter how odious their attitude, is really dangerous and a slippery slope. They should have got it right when they got rid of him in the first place. And if the RBS board misled them, which is being implied, then they should remove the individuals involved and make sure that they loose out appropriately. Lynch mobs to public disquiet is not where we should be.

I’m also getting annoyed about the fact that it’s okay to bail out banks to the tune of tens of billions, but when a manufacturer enquires about loans to enable restructuring of several million (made necessary by the bank’s failures crashing the market and the lack of available money from them), then it’s time for macho posturing about not bailing out failing businesses from Mandleson and friends. Hmm. Isn’t that what RBS, Bradford & Bingley etc. were? Failing businesses? I think that the government will pay for this at the next election, and we will be paying for it as taxpayers for years to come. However, I don’t see much in the way of options, or much in the way of difference between the alternatives. They’re all pretty much complicit in this.

Thank you! Normal service now resumes!

Nathan is being a bundle of fun at the moment, and his language is really developing, which can be quite disconcerting at times. He’s also getting very bossy, a point that Jill and I point the finger jokingly at each other as being genetically at fault for. He’s also become much less clingy when I drop him off to nursery, especially when he sees his friends!

(Okay, so I was a month out with this and have updated the heading!)

Busy Busy!

Snow in February
Snow at the start of February

The last few weeks have been pretty busy; Saturdays are dominated by Nathan's Waterbabies (probably setting the scene for Mum and Dad's taxi for the next decade and a half), and then Sunday seems to come around too fast. I'm working from home on Mondays at the moment with my Mum in hospital, so spend Sunday night and Monday night doing work so I only need to deal with phone calls on Monday day when I'm looking after Nathan.

Mum is doing well, especially considering she has had her third hip replacement on her left leg following the fall and break. In some ways, it was a blessing in disguise where she damaged her leg, as she has had to have a new replacement – quite a beefy, robust one – rather than wait months to have it heal naturally. We're hoping she'll be out this week, which will take some of the strain off Dad with the travel to see her along with everything else. Of course, that depends on the all clear being given.

Daddy and Nathan: Hats
Out in the Cold

Nathan enjoyed the recent snow, especially on the worst day when he had Mummy and Daddy home with him due to travel issues. However, he did seem to think that it was a bit too cold and wet!

Birthday Present 2
Unwrapping presents

Nathan also had his second birthday and party in January, and seemed to enjoy it a lot, especially opening the presents that he was lucky enough to get. The wrapping paper proved a big attraction as usual, and some of the toys are big favourites now!

There are a fair few new pictures on my Flickr page which you can get to from this page or directly by clicking on the pictures above.

Spot Must Die!

Spot the Dog
"Lovable Spot"

So, there he is, the stuff of my current nightmares, "Spot the Dog". As with most children, Nathan tends to get a little obsessive about certain programmes that he has seen. The first big hit was probably "Thomas and Friends" (from which we are having a sabbatical after James and Gordon had a crash which Nathan didn't like) followed by "Trumpton" and "Camberwick Green". And then came "Spot the Dog". Now, Spot is great in small doses, and his educational DVD is really good, especially 'Spot's ABC', but when it's the only thing that your two year old wants to see it becomes... somewhat wearing.

Anyway, we're now on our fourth day of avoiding Spot, and it seems to be going well. Nathan has discovered the CBeebies bedtime hour, and loves "In the Night Garden", which he has heard in stories at Nursery, "Third & Bird" (which is fantastic, especially Muffin!) and "Charlie and Lola" (which has the best pseudo 70s soundtrack ever)!

We've also rediscovered lots of books and the train-set, which is great fun

New Beginnings

Well, here we are well into 2009 already, and me without any updates. The first excuse which I have is that the active FTP that Pipex foisted on us when they moved to M$ boxes for their servers doesn't communicate well through my parent's firewall, but that doesn't excuse the silence since. The main reason for that is the fact that most of my geek time has been spent building a new iMac up to replace the one that died. That's all done now, so normality starts to return.

Mummy and Nathan
Walking at Tatton Park

Christmas was lovely, as we spent a relaxing few days with my mum and dad. Nathan was really aware of the whole thing this year, and – to be frank – some of it nearly overwhelmed him. We ended up on a present break as he just wasn't interested by Christmas Day afternoon. Too much choice and noise.

Whilst there, I got to read some, play with the computer writing a short book review, watch and curse at clumsiness inherent in Russell T Davies' Doctor Who Christmas Special, eat too much and generally chill out. We had a great time. Jill and I also watched The Clone Wars and The Revenge of the Sith for a Sci-Fi fix.

We spent a great day with the in-laws and Jill's sister and fiancé, whom Nathan charmed as ever! All 4 of his grandparents now have names – Ma-Ma, Poppy, Nanna and Dad-Dad. Lovely stuff! Also went out with the dog and got some nice pictures.

Sunset in Winter
Sunset at Shakerley Mere

New Year
New Year was quiet, as we were home with Nathan, so we passed part of it with Jools Holland and some Champagne. Much better than last year when we were all very ill with the vomiting virus which was going around. Spent a lot of time from 31st building the new iMac and making myself feel somewhat unclean by installing a virtualised version of XP on it so I could run some PC-specific star-mapping software.

Been back a week, and it's already starting to feel longer. However, at least I feel like we're moving forward rather than on the back-foot.

Music - been listening to The Killers, Marillion, Matinee Club (aka The Modern) and the theme from Stardust on the iPod a lot recently, especially now it talks to my car speakers!

So, to conclude: We hope you all had a happy New Year, and that this year is prosperous and better than the last!

Merry Christmas all!

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you for all your kind wishes, cards and presents!

For those that are interested in such things, I've posted a review of one of the books that I've been reading here for your entertainment.

Dom, Jill and Nathan! xxx

Excited / A Little and Often / The Assault Continues?

I'm feeling pretty excited, as Nathan is coming home today. He's been with my parents for the last week whilst Jill and I have been getting over the lurgy. I'm pretty much recovered now, and Jill is nearly there too, except for a hacking cough with nothing to cough up. I've missed him lots, and loved being able to use iChat and Skype Video to see him during the week. I'm fully expecting to be shocked on how tall he looks, and on his vocabulary having grown. My mum and dad have been absolute troopers looking after him, and Nathan seems to have had a good time to.

I'm trying to get the writing habit back together at the moment, as I've far too many unfinished projects at the moment. The key for me to do this is to start to do a little and often. I guess it's the old 'eating the elephant one bite at a time' analogy (not that I really feel like eating Nelly)! I had a bit of a panic when I started up working on my Traveller scenario for BITS, This Fear of Gods, as whole sections of the draft had disappeared from the binder in Scrivener. Fortunately, I realised that the files were there in the program's trash folder, and that the cause was an artifact of the program that I use to synchronise the folder archive between the iMac and PowerBook. I think this confirms that I'm going to be completing the first draft on my laptop.

Heard something disturbing this morning on the home of the chattering classes, Radio 4. The Today Programme had an article about proposed changes to legal aid. These include means testing access to legal aid (hmm), the option to recover legal aid if the defendant is convicted (okay, can understand this) and the removal of the right to be awarded the legal costs back if the defendant wins the case. Now, the bit here that concerns me is the last one. This gives the state the route to maliciously prosecute – and financially ruin – someone, should they wish too. Another step down the slippery slope. I'll keep an eye on the BBC News site to see if this gets fleshed out, as there was nothing there when I looked just now.

I am a Storyteller Gamer

According to Robin Law's quiz, I am a storyteller gamer...

All these things I've Done...

Over the weekend, whilst I was laid up, i worked my way through Halting State, a near future SF novel by Charles Stross. It's very much in the style of a noir-thriller with cyberspace trimmings as originally launched upon the world by William Gibson in the seminal SF cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. Anyway, some of the discussion with the author at the end of the book set me thinking. Stross made an aside about how, by setting the novel in 2012 onwards, he could easily have characters who have never known a world without You Tube and MySpace, Facebook and GPS. I latched onto this, and starting thinking. On Monday, Nathan was playing with my dad and I before going to bed, and I started to think about the gulf in assumptions between my father's birth in 1941, mine in 1971, and Nathan's in 2007.

When my dad was born, assumptions were thus;

*The high end power technology was oil fired, and fast propulsion was via propeller driven aircraft (soon to be obsolete).
*Fast mass transport was by rail or ship.
*High end communication was radio (I'm too lazy to check if FM was deployed yet), and the telegram and telephone happily co-existed. Early black & white TV existed, but had been switched off during the war.
*Early computers were being born in Bletchley park to crack the Enigma and other codes.
*Theoretical nuclear power and weapons designs were in development.
*Spaceflight had not yet been achieved.
*Slide-rules and log tables are common.
*B&W film was the norm, and mass market photography was starting to be established

When I was born, assumptions had changed further:

*High end power technology was nuclear fission, with experimental fusion and fast reactors.
*Fast propulsion is by turbofan (aircraft) and jet (military).
*Fast mass transport is by car (petrol or diesel) or aircraft (and rail if you are on mainland Europe).
*High end communication is still radio, but phones have become ubiquitous. Telegram is dying. The first versions of what will become the internet are being developed by the military.
*Colour TV is about to be rolled out.
*Computers were mainframes or min-systems, with dumb terminals.
*Nuclear power is used globally, and weapons are causing tension between East and West.
*Man had landed on the moon, and NASA was working on a re-usable launcher (The Shuttle).
*LED electronic calculators had appeared, some with the tables in log books included.
*35mm film technology was the most common form of photography.

So, what did Nathan arrive to?
*High end power technology is nuclear fission, with experimental fusion and fast reactors. The use of renewables is increasing again.
*Fast propulsion is by turbofan (aircraft) and jet (military). Hybrid power-trains are being deployed on cars.
*Fast mass transport is by car (petrol or diesel) or aircraft (and rail if you are on mainland Europe).
*High end communication is still radio, but digital mobile phones have become ubiquitous and starting to challenge the landline network. The internet is everywhere, and also threatening to merge data and voice services through VOIP such as Skype.
*Colour TV is ubiquitous, and digital transmissions are becoming commonplace. Higher definition standards are being developed and the CRT is dying.
*Computers are commonplace, and laptops are becoming the preferred format. Convergence is occurring with a number of digital devices such as cameras, phones, laptops, PDAs...
*Nuclear power is in decline.
*The Shuttle is close to the end of its life with no defined replacement identified. The International Space Station is the main focus of manned space-flight, and long range observations by Hubble and probes are the focus for unmanned flight.
*Satellite navigation is now common.
*Digital photography is now the norm.

Some changes there!


We've all got the lurgy at the moment. Nathan started us off the end of last week with a vomiting virus (lovely!) which resulted in Jill and myself running on a series sleep deficit. I then joined in on Friday night, having spent the day looking after the sick little man, with a fever and tight chest and vicious cough. I limited through the weekend and, somewhat foolishly, went into work on Monday when my mum and dad were here with Nathan. I regretted it by the time I got in, and decided that I wasn't going back into work the next day at least and would work from home if I felt okay. Anyway, got back to find that Nathan had decided to develop a cough and cold too, having been clear of bugs for perhaps 12 hours. Anyway, Tuesday saw the pair of us at the Doctors who diagnosed me as having bronchitis (and being told that I shouldn't be in work for the week) and Nathan as having 'yet another' virus!

Jill had also left us a note when she went out saying she was feeling like she had the same thing as me. She saw the Doctors late afternoon, and they confirmed she had a chest infection too. So, as I write this, Jill is sleeping it off having been sent home by her boss, and Nathan and I are sitting on the sofa, wrapped up well, and watching children's classics on the TV. Trumption, at the moment.

So it's very much the 'House of the Lurgy' with Lemsips all round for the adults, and Calpol for the small one. Normal service should be restored at some point!

Happiness is the Road

Marillion LMUSU 13/11/2008 #2
Marillion at Leeds

Well, I went to see my favouritest band in the whole wide world on Thursday, and really enjoyed myself. Thanks to a scheduling snafu, and some confusion, Jill couldn't make it and my friend who I'd hoped could come couldn't either. So it was pretty strange, going out on my own for the first time in years. Even stranger going to a gig on my own for the first time ever!

However, it was great! Marillion always do a great show, and this was no exception. The core of the concert was the new double album, Happiness is the Road, which is only available from their website [if you're interested what they sound like, click the link and go there and they'll send you a free sampler CD or download], with strong elements of the awesome Marbles, and some older bits and pieces. Nothing Fish era, which may disappoint some people, but you can go and see Fish for that!

The album is starting to grow on me, more slowly than I'd have liked. However, that's more a reflection of the 110 minute length, which is much harder to assimilate than a single disc. The gig really showcased the new release, and I left with the anthem-like title-track Happiness is the Road ringing in my ears. If you want to hear the concert, it was recorded and you can get the MP3 download here.

I had a great night, only marred slightly by the fact I wasn't with friends. (How hard can it be to give away a ticket!?)

Currently feeling: Happy
Currently listening to: Woke Up (Happiness is the Road – Marillion (live at LMUSU))
Currently reading: The Second Book of Lankhmar (Fritz Leiber, still!)

Love is a Red Balloon...

Love is...

Nathan says hello to his Grandad (Jill's Dad) when we visited them at their holiday flat for their 40th Wedding Anniversary at the weekend. There are more pictures on my Flickr pages.

Guess who didn't switch to GMT?

The answer's here!

Mr Hyde

Nathan decided that – despite going to bed an hour and a half late and having everything slightly late including his dinner yesterday – that he'd not switch to GMT with the rest of the family as we came out of summer time last night. No, instead, he decided that the best thing to do was to wake up at the usual early time he had been. We love 5:00 AM!

Dr Jekyll
A Contrast

I updated the photos here they seemed more appropriate. The cute original one remains here.

A Painter in the Family

Nathan likes to paint...

So many colours!

The Wetherby Bookshop

Wetherby Bookshop
Wetherby Bookshop by Katya Shipster, on Picasa, all rights reserved, click image to see original

The Wetherby Bookshop
has changed hands this week, marking the end of an era. One of my favourite places to visit, the owner, Penny, has retired and sold up to a younger lady. I went in today and collected some books I'd ordered for Nathan (for longer term) and it was a little more chaotic than usual, but hopefully the serene calm will come back and the selection of books remain as good once the new owner settles down.

I'll miss Penny, and the fantastic service she provided. I visited most weekends when we went into town and
always bought from the shop if I only wanted a single book as it was no more expensive than Amazon once you factored in the postage. I hope she has a happy retirement. As she said, this will be one of the first Saturday's that she has had off in thirty years, and I hope she enjoyed it.

The important thing here is to remember to support your Friendly Local Book Shop!

Random Musings

Been a strange few days, with Nathan 'suffering' from Chicken Pox, and me adjusting to Jill not working at the same place as me for the first time since we started going out. I've also had some time to consider the gaming session which I had just over a week ago, which was good.

Firstly, Nathan. In some ways, aside from a few small spots, you'd never know he was unwell. He's been a riot of energy today, and Jill was quite worn out tonight when I got home. The picture below is during a short walk we took him on to get some fresh air as he was getting frustrated being cooped up. You'd never know he had the lurgy...


Hopefully, he'll be back up to normal soon.

Jill not being at work is taking a bit of getting used to. I expected it to be strange, but I'm missing the company at lunch. Got pretty annoyed at the weekend, as I got called by someone from work with questions about stuff I haven't done in four years. Thing is, it was Jill's remit before we restructured and I think it was pretty insensitive and out of line to be making that kind of call. Anyway, I helped as graciously as I could and discussed it with the individual involved today, putting across my feelings and pointing out that there are other people in place to handle that kind of call. I hope that is now sorted.

We're just working our way through the fourth season of the new Battlestar Galactica. The problem is that, thanks to the US Writer's strike, the series ends at episode 10, and we've probably got another year to wait until we see the last 15 episodes. Quite frustrating really.

I mentioned running Sufficiently Advanced at TomCon September 2008. It was very different, and great fun. I've decided to do it again at Furnace later this month. It was strange to have a game which started to shift into a philosophical debate more than an action adventure, but I think that's very reflective of the best hard SF, which the game is meant to feel like stylistically.

I'm also being very impressed with Slipstream at the moment. This is a plot-point campaign for Savage Worlds, which is one of my favourite crunchy systems at the moment, and is a pure Flash Gordon serial style fun, and a total contrast to Traveller or Sufficiently Advanced! I also read Greg Stolze's Film Noir RPG, A Dirty World, which finally delivers something with the ORE system that I want to play, unlike Reign.

On a final note, I've really been enjoying listening to Fish's latest album, 13th Star, over the last few weeks. It is definitely a return to form, and possibly his best since Suits or Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors. I'm also getting excited that Happiness is the Road, the 15th Marillion album, is due in the next fortnight. Can't wait for my pre-order!

Currently feeling: Relaxed
Currently listening to: Flash Gordon (Queen) Blame Slipstream!.
Currently reading: The Second Book of Lankhmar (Fritz Leiber) & Slipstream (RPGs).

The Pox

Nathan has Chicken Pox, caught from one of his compatriots at nursery. The poor little-love had a lousy night last night and woke up around 2am, not getting back to sleep until after 6am (ditto Mummy and Daddy). He's seen the doctor and I guess we're lucky that it's happened when Jill is off, waiting to start her new job. Fortunately, we've both had it.

Obligatory Nathan Picture

Coy Portrait
Looking Coy

37, 9/11

My birthday passed without quite the level of dark news and comment that I've come to expect since my 30th on 9/11. I'm not sure if the various items of doom and gloom about the financial markets made the old news of the Al-Qaida attack on US fade away, but it was a welcome change.

We had a great day; Jill & I both took the day off, and Nathan went into nursery for the day so we had some time to ourselves. We spent the afternoon in the Royal Armouries in Leeds, partly on a scouting visit for the IMechE Regional Dinner, and partly as something different to do. I wanted to see the 'Weapons from the Movies' show, which had a lot of weapons and armour created by WETA for films such as The Lord of the Rings, The Last Samurai, and the Narnia films. It was very impressive, especially as entry was free. It was great spending time with Jill as a couple rather than having the parents bit dominating, albeit I was a little distracted by the gadget she had got me for my birthday with my mum and dad, a Palm Centro phone. However, Jill does tend to say that the odd gadget keeps me quiet!

We picked up Nathan, and had a chilled evening. A very mellow birthday, but lovely.

UPDATE: I now have a challenge - someone who knows I like gadgets has bought me a missile firing USB connected launcher for the computer, but the package and contents have no clue who it is from. So if you bought it for me, thank you very much, but let me know!

Have you missed me?

Just in case you've been pining for him, Nathan on the Bank Holiday Weekend.

I realised we hadn't posted many pictures of the little tyke recently, so here's one you'll have missed if you don't look at my Flickr photostream. It was a weekend with him full of energy until his batteries ran out, and then he recharged with a nap or a snack...

Of course, the big challenge this Monday is whether he will give his Grandma a kiss, or just stick to his Grandpoppy!

How heavily do you load a Brute? [UPDATED]

One Loaded Brute

We saw the picture above when travelling on the East Coast Main Line railway, and were quite bemused by it! Does anyone know what this is in modern terms?

UPDATE: Sadly, my dad has shattered all my wild imaginings of ogre like beasts enslaved by the railway companies. You can find the full details of what a BRUTE is here on wikipedia.


disarray (noun)
the state of being confused and lacking in organization or of being untidy

Has anyone else noticed how this is the latest political buzzword? It's being horribly over-used in political briefings and statements, and really starting to annoy me, especially as I think all the parties in the UK are in the same state of disarray! People in glass houses...

On the Beach

We've just had a lovely week away in the Southern-most part of Devon, the South Hams. We stayed in a bijou chocolate box cottage in Galmpton, just outside Hope Cove.

Elliots Cottage, our home for the week.

Nathan had his first visit to the beach, and loved it. Thanks to Water-Babies, he wasn't scared of the water; however, he was unsure of the waves when the sea was a bit choppy.

Wading out to sea!
Hope Cove adventures.

We generally chilled out – as much as one can do with an energetic 17 month old – and visited the beach everyday, and had a few trips to Salcombe and Kingsbridge. The weather was glorious, aside from the day we arrived when we were greeted by a thunder and hail storm.

On the Beach!
Having fun at Hope Cove.

I read much less than usual (only 4 books), but did a bit of work on a secret RPG project (tm) which was good, and got me back into writing stuff. It was a real shame to have to head back home, and if I have one regret it was that we only had 7 days there.

Rock Pools
Rock Pool fun.

The South Hams are a lovely part of the world, and I spent a lot of time there as a child as my parents regularly took a cottage there as our main holiday. I'd recommend it wholeheartedly. Nathan loved it!

Loving it!

The journey back and forth got spread over three days each time to ease things on Nathan, and we stayed at my parents' house in Cheshire and my aunt (and godmother) and uncle's house in Somerset. With the exception of one leg, he was as good as gold! Our only worry on the journey was whether we'd be able to get fuel with the Shell Tanker driver's strike, but we didn't have a problem.

All in all, a lovely break away from things (especially as the mobile signal was poor!).

Currently feeling: Tired but relaxed
Currently listening to: Nothing.
Currently reading: The Wellstone (Wil McCarthy).

Brief Update

Okay, it's been over a month since I last properly put some posts together, but life (at work and home) has been busy, and we've been away to Devon (more on that later, as I'm waiting for the photos to complete uploading to Flickr) on holiday and visiting as well. I'll remedy this drought over the next few days, honest.


I've been pondering something over the last few days; why do I prefer writing stuff on the PowerBook, when I have a gorgeous 20" screen on the iMac G4 coupled with a very nice keyboard? I don't know what it is, but nothing has come close to the tactical feel and focus I get tapping away on either of my PowerBooks over the last decade. The iBook didn't quite match either of them for the same urge to type away.

I've also realise how much little tweaks to your user interface can significantly improve your workflow. I was helping my Dad out with his iMac G5 to try and resolve an email related issue, and although he's on the exactly the same version of the OS as me, I kept on getting frustrated. The big differences were little things – I have Exposé set to my top screen corners to either clear the screen, or drop to all windows available, and the mouse I have (a gorgeous Micro$oft Intellimouse 5) has different set ups with the extra buttons. It's amazing how much difference it makes. Anyway, we fixed the issue, and started the process that will allow him to break free from his current ISP if he needs to.

Wales Weekend

We had a lovely weekend in the wilds of Wales, with no modern communications, staying at one of my University friends' cottage. Ceri and Nick kindly looked after us for the weekend, and Jon and Becky also came along. We celebrated Jon's birthday, and had a great time relaxing.

Ceri, Nick and Nathan
Ceri, Nick & Nathan.

Jon, Becky and Nathan
Jon, Becky and Nathan.

Ghost Baby
Ghost Baby - I loved the reflection here.

Jill and Nathan
Jill and Nathan, on a train. Can you spot the tired one?

Things that make it all worthwhile.

I got home from work on Wednesday, after one of those days when you're really happy to be away from the place, and was greeted by Nathan who managed to put a smile back on my face pretty quickly. As I got to the door, I was surprised to find him wearing his cardigan and looking very excited. Apparently, he'd demanded that Jill put it on him a few minutes before I got home!

Anyway, on seeing me, he squealed in excitement, and rushed to the side of the room where his reins had been put. Now, we'd had these less than two weeks, but already he associates them with going for a walk. He demanded – vociferously, saying 'Da' – that I put them on him and then took him out for a walk in the close. We were out for 40 minutes and ranged a fair distance. He was determined that
he was going to walk, and that he was not going to be picked up.

One of the highlights was Nathan yelling 'hiya' and waving at the next door neighbours when they arrived home from their walk, and the look of surprise on their face as they waved back. It still brings a big grin to my face now!

Catching up

I'm not sure why, but I realised that I'd not bothered to take off photos from my FZ50 since Easter Sunday. It was quiet a pleasant surprise when I did upload them to iPhoto yesterday, as I'd forgotten some of them completely.

First of all, I'd forgotten we had snow on Easter Day, and I got some lovely pictures of Nathan discovering it properly for the first time. Needless to say he was fascinated!

Snowtime fun!
Nathan and I in the snow.

Jill was far more sensible and avoided actually getting her feet cold and wet!
Running through the snow
Nathan running to me from Jill.

He loved it, and was fascinate about the feel of it with his hands. I think that it's great watching him learn how things work and copying. It reminds me what we loose as we get older. If you could bottle it, then you'd make a fortune!

Anyway, later in the afternoon he saw 'The Wizard of Oz' on the television and was transfixed by it! I'd not seen the film for a long time, and I can see why it was a favourite with kids of all ages. Nathan loved it, especially the singing. No doubt he'd love Bollywood films as well as traditional musicals!

I'm off to see the Wizard...
Off to see the Wizard...

Last week was pretty good – I came out of it feeling far more positive about life than I have for quite some time.It was a combination of Jill's birthday, and a couple of good days at work when I actually felt I was getting somewhere for the first time in a while. I'd talked to our former next-door neighbour, Vicky, and arranged for her to babysit on Friday whilst I took Jill out. We went to an old haunt –
The Muse Ale and Wine Bar – and had a lovely birthday meal. It was one of the first times we'd done this for a long time, and well worth it. We'd stopped going for a while after their letter back to Nathan saying that kid's aren't part of their 'mission statement', but we were just a couple out together, and it was not too far from home. All in all, we were only out for two and a half hours, but it seemed much longer in a good way. We had a great bottle of Pinotage too! A great week, and good for the two of us.

Currently feeling: Chilled out.
Currently listening to: The PowerBook G4 fan.
Currently reading: The Complete Chronicles of Conan (Robert E Howard).

****** Hackers!

Pretty annoyed, as I've just found out that some bugger has hacked one of the websites that I maintain, and put in a link to a trojan etc. Not seen it myself, as the Mac tends to be blasé about PC viruses and as I've not been asked to do any updates I've had very little reason to visit the site. I do have anti-virus installed, but if the attack doesn't break the firewall, or affect a Mac it doesn't alarm by default. Anyway, I've replaced the corrupted files, and also gone and hardened the site password significantly (not that it was that weak in the first place), but it's still annoying!

As an aside,
Rapidweaver has been upgraded to v3.6.7, which is the last non-bugfix version for Tiger. It's improved the export times somewhat, especially with the bigger sites I have. I'm still mulling over whether it's worth switching to OS X 10.5 Leopard or staying with Tiger (OS X 10.4). I never rush to new versions of the OS (because it often takes 2 or 3 patches to get everything to a stable enough level), but there are a couple of big questions I need to answer:

1) Is there a significant speed hit with a G4 processor (1.25GHz+ and 1GB RAM+)?
2) Does Creative Suite CS2 work with Leopard (or it's a £500 premium to upgrade to CS3!)?

Pretty much everything else is clear. Most of my other apps are all Leopard compatible, and those that aren't won't be a big loss. It'd have been nice if the various Mac publications actually covered these kind of questions!

We had a great day today – Nathan was on form, and we took him to
the local fish and chip restaurant in Wetherby where he had fish (no batter) and some chips, and stole bread and butter. He really likes the fish! After that, he entertained the shop assistants for 30 mins in one shop (opening every cupboard he could find and generally being cuite) before we went to Harrogate and had more fun in Mothercare.

Currently feeling: Annoyed.
Currently listening to: Suits (Fish)
Currently reading: Yvgenie (CJ Cherryh) (resisting Asher's Hilldiggers!).

RIP Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Picture swiped from amazon.co.uk, where you can buy a copy!

The last week has seen a number of the great and good pass on, but the one that resonated with me was the news of Sir Arthur C. Clarke's death at the age of 90. Clarke was one of the great visionaries of the 20th Century, and many things that he envisaged have come to pass including geosynchronous satellites, sat-nav, a number of space transport maneuvers, and plenty more – such as the space elevator – sit there in development or as tremendous concepts. Clarke also popularised science, and gave the story that became one of the most acclaimed SF films of all time, 2001 A Space Odyssey. Personally, the latter bored me silly although I admired the imagery.

Anyway, Clarke has great significance to me, along with Andre Norton and Isaac Azimov, as his writings shaped my interest in Science Fiction (especially hard SF) at a young age. I was introduced to him by my Australian second cousin, Kathy Finlay, who bought me a copy of Rendezvous with Rama when I was still a young lad. I loved the tale of scientific exploration, adventure and technology, combined with the shear sense of wonder of first contact with an alien artifact. Sadly, the later sequels didn't match up to the first book, but – like the Highlander films – one can always pretend that the later versions don't exist! This sense of wonder had me reading more of his books, then moving on to other authors and genres. Over Christmas, I re-read a number of his older works and they're still valid today.

I got quite annoyed listening to some of the literary intelligentsia harping on about how he was important, but really 'not very good as a writer'. It seems you have to write turgidly like Atwood's (apparently non-SF) post-apocalyptic novel, Oryx and Crake, to be a good writer. I think that time will prove them wrong, and that his significance will be more recognised as the distance grows.

So, rest well, Sir Arthur, wherever you are.


Don't they grow fast?

I'm sitting on the bed on Sunday morning as I type this on the PowerBook, with a storm of energy and excitement running around yelling 'hiya', with the telephone handset clutched against his ear. Fortunately, the phones can be locked, so we're not getting knocks on the door and complaints!

I went to Portugal for three days (or more accurately, I went to Portugal for a day and spent the two days either side travelling) and was shattered when I got back. This was a combination of not sleeping well the first night in a strange bed (which is something I've always suffered with at hotels) and then an 04:30 hr check in at Lisbon Airport the next night. Fortunately, my flight back to Manchester was already off by the time the muppet ran onto the runway with a backpack on, so the travel didn't get extended even more.

Anyway, when I got back, I went to sleep for an hour and was woken by Jill calling me as she got in. I got to the top of the stairs to see Nathan holding the stair-gate and rattling it. When he saw me he yelled 'hiya dada', which made my heart jump! I couldn't believe how much he'd grown in the four days since I'd seen him last. I guess it's something that all parents have to get used to.

I promised some more pictures in the last post, so here they are:

Conducting an imaginary orchestra.

Mummy, Grandad and Me!
Arriving at his Grandad and Nana's house.

Toddling and running!

Grandad and Me #2
With his Grandad!

Right, let me tell you a story!
Holding Court...

As usual, if you click through, there are more pictures on Flickr.

Currently feeling: Relaxed.
Currently listening to: Broadcasting House (Radio 4)
Currently reading: Chernevog (CJ Cherryh).

When the Wind Blows...

Bit of a palava today. I was due to fly to Portugal with work, and it all went pear shaped at Manchester when the BA desk told me that my connecting flight from Heathrow to Lisbon was suspended and likely to be cancelled, and that they recommended that I didn't travel down on the shuttle flight. So I turned around, with perhaps 6 hours of the day wasted in getting ready, travelling on the M62 and waiting. What particularly annoys me is that we booked the flight 3 hours before I got there and we got no warning from work's travel broker. And I'm probably going to have to try again tomorrow or the day after. The real downside is that going to Portugal means that I'm going to have to miss TravCon08, which I was really looking forward to.

iChat image
The view from iChat

Nathan's at his grandpop and grandma's tonight, which is a strange feeling. We watched him on the iSight camera using iChat earlier today, which was cool, even if he was somewhat unimpressed by us doing so! He's back tomorrow for his swimming lesson. He does seem to be enjoying himself at the moment, and is toddling about all over the place causing chaos as he has fun. One of his latest tricks is grabbing a phone, almost saying "hiya" – or at least a very close approximation of it – and then handing it to you with a grin and a giggle.

The weekend was good. On Friday, we went to the Merseyside and North Wales Engineering Dinner, which is organised by Jill and my professional institution, the IMechE, in conjunction with the IChemE. Meeting with the M&NW team is always refreshing, as it gives us new heart in what the engineering institutions can be. That's something we find lacking at the moment in the Yorkshire Region, where there are too many people stopping things moving forward with a negative attitude that is very hard to push against.

Jill and I launched our assault on the craps table in the fun casino, helped by the croupier (?) who had inadvertently set the odds of 30:1 coming up 1 in 6 times. We used our usual system and ended up with even higher than normal returns, ending up top gamblers of the night with a fortune in excess of £500 million. Sadly, it wasn't for real, but we did walk away with a water pistol, a bottle of red, a bottle of champagne (drunk) and a 2 hours session in a Ferrari or a Porsche! Naturally, Jill is getting the driving session as she had the faster car before we became sensible and swapped the Corolla T-Sport and MG ZS for the Avensis estate.

Parkgate: Dee Marshes in the Sunlight
The Dee Estuary Marshes at Parkgate, more if you click through...

We spent the night, and a big chunk of the next day with Phill and Linda, Nathan's Godfather. It was lovely to see them and exchange gossip. I think Jill would have got me to sneak their new kitchen in the car if it was possible, but to no avail! After that, it was Parkgate for ice cream on a windswept, bright and stormy day, then back to my parents in Cheshire before returning to the Wirral on Sunday with Nathan to see his Nana and Grandad. We also saw Nathan's Aunty Paula (Jill's sister) and Phill came to see his Godson. Lunch was a nice meal at The Country Mouse at Brimstage Hall craft centre; good plain fayre that Nathan loved. We had a great time with my in-laws, and it was a shame to leave when we did (around 19:30 or so). The only disappointment I discovered was that Jill's mum escaped from all the photos I took. I'll have to remedy that next time. there are some really nice shots, which I'll upload to Flickr soon.

Currently feeling: Tired, and fed up of motorways.
Currently listening to: The cat purring.
Currently reading: Rusalka (CJ Cherryh).

Splish! Splash! Splosh!

... or "Dominic, Ready, Go!".

On Tuesday, Jill was on a training course, so wasn't on her usual day off with Nathan. This meant I got to step into the breach with our young swimmer and go to Waterbabies with him. This was quite a daunting prospect, but thanks to some expert advance tuition by Jill using a teddy bear to demonstrate, and Nathan's patience, I survived! The other thing that helped was that the other people on the session had cried off as they were either very pregnant, or their child had a broken limb, so we had 1:2 tuition from the instructor.

Nathan was, as ever, a little star in the water and full of excitement and enthusiasm to chase the little rubber fish they use for encouragement. Me? I was knackered by the end of it, especially when I discovered that the water was far more shallow than I anticipated and as a result I got a great workout. I really enjoyed it, and it was worth the day off! It's a shame I have no pictures of the session.

More Pictures

Here's a shot of the moon I took on a cold windy night on the road between Little Ribston and Spofforth;

Moon on a Cold Night 3
The night of the Eclipse.
This is the same location in daylight, some weeks earlier;

Winter Landscape 2
Into the mist.
I loved the way the mist created layers into the distance. It also created some nice views of the trees when the sun broke through;

Winter Landscape 7
Stand of Trees in Cold Winter Sunshine.

Finally, in case you've been pining for a certain young man to appear here;


London in the New Year

In my entry on the Christmas break back in January, I mentioned that I hoped to add some photos into the narrative. I've finally uploaded them into Flickr, and as the entry is so long ago, I've decided that I'd give them their own entry here;

Jill at Horse Guards

The New Model Terracotta Army
The New Model Terracotta Army

Atrium at the British Museum 3
The British Museum

Parliament Sihouetted 1
Parliament Silhouetted

Clicking through any of these links gets you into the photostream where you can see the other pictures.

New Shoes

Nathan has just got his first pair of proper shoes (size 3G, Start*Rite) rather than his Robeez moccasin style shoes. He looks scarily grown up in them, and is starting to take some tottering steps around with increasing confidence! It's scary how fast he's changing. I most get the Flickr site updated so you can all see.

His shoes are just like this, but navy blue! Image from the Start*Rite site.

A Gaming Weekend

The weekend just gone was a fun one, as I got to play games for the first time this year (in honesty, for the first time since I went to Furnace last year). Tom kindly hosted a weekend of gaming, starting with the boardgame Twilight Imperium (second edition) on the Saturday, and following up with me running my Savage 2300AD RPG conversion for the second time. It was great fun, and I really hope to make several of these weekends over the next year, even if it's only for a day at a time.

From Tom's Gaming Weekend album...

The position above (taken by Tom) shows where we where at the start of the End Game period. At this point, Tom's son Matt (white colour) and I (red colour) both started major aggressive moves against our neighbours. The end result was that I won, but only because my technology and trade base outstripped Matt's more expansive empire.

I last played the game around 2000, with Andy Lilly and some of the BITS crew after a Dragonmeet. It was great fun then (except for the fact that I was knocked out very quickly in that game). I'd traded up to 2nd edition after the game, but it had sat around gathering dust for the last five or so years. I'm glad that I got to play it, and would love to do it again. It combines politicking with trade and resource building and major space battles. What more could an SF fan ask for?!

The 2300AD game was also fun, but felt somewhat more like a dungeon crawl than the last time. I'm not certain if that was me, but the more times I've run the scenario, the more frustrated I've become with it. Savage worked like a dream and I was really happy running it.

Tom discusses this some more on his blog if it interests you for a second opinion! He and his wife Ann were absolutely gracious hosts, and I came home feeling more relaxed than I have for a while. It was a great escape from work etc. Now I just need to keep my fingers crossed that Jill's friends finally agree a date for their pamper weekend so she can get away too!

Currently feeling: Happy.
Currently listening to: The Fan on the G4 PowerBook.
Currently reading: Avenues & Alleyways (a|state RPG) and LA Confidential (James Ellroy).

Illnesses and Recoveries

I don't think Jill or I have had so many different colds and infections for a long time! Ever since Nathan has been to nursery, we seem to be magnets for the latest bugs that are going around. The usual cycle is Nathan to Jill to me, and it's been the same with the latest thing. We had two weeks with him off nursery with initially a cold and ear infection and conjunctivitis. The cold and ear infection escalated (by which time Jill had caught the conjunctivitis, also shared with his grandma) and Nathan was sent to hospital, but discharged pretty quickly. He was offered a role as ward mascot as he was ineffably cheerful when he was there. The initial infection was diagnosed as bronchiolitis, but on the wane. He does have a really nasty cough with it.

First Christmas Present
Nathan at Christmas, ignoring his cold and teething.

Since Monday's hospital visit, Jill has developed the chest infection, and I've developed the conjunctivitis. That's quite annoying, as I've done my best to avoid it so far, including wearing my glasses for most of the week. I suspect that we'll have a weekend of early nights as a result.

Jill's mum and dad are also ill, with nasty flu-like symptoms which sound horrible. As mentioned, my mum has the conjunctivitis badly, but is also suffering with her hip, which seems to have been overloaded following her knee operation. The hospital managed to forget to give her a 3 month follow up appointment (which should have happened) but after some chasing she seems to have finally got a date mid-Feb to see what the damage is and how her knee replacement is doing. I can't wait for this as she's obviously in a lot of pain.

My friend Tom is also on the mend, which gladdens meas otherwise I'd feel like a bit of a Jonah for him. Why so, you ask? Well, every time we try to organise a roleplaying game session something goes badly wrong. We've flooded Sheffield on one occasion to stop a session by Skype, and this time (a planned face-to-face session) he has been struck by a palsy. Fortunately, he seems to be on the mend and has been discharged from hospital. As I couldn't get down to see him, I've sent him some books to read. They're both favourites of mine from recent times - Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space, and Hope Mirrlees' Lud-in-the Mist. I hope he enjoys they as much as I have.

The Christmas Break

Christmas and New Year was a great break for us, with two weeks of freedom from the daily grind. It's something I was really looking forward to after the last three months, which have been pretty hectic.

We spend the days either side of Christmas at my parents' house, with a brief visit to the Wirral to see some friends (Nathan's godfather) and Jill's parents. It was very relaxing, except for the fact that Nathan started to teeth on some of his back teeth and he really let us know it. It was pretty tiring, but at least it wasn't when we were at work. Fortunately, being at my parents meant that we could pass him on and catch some sleep after we'd been up a lot of the night. On a plus note, I used the late night play sessions to catch up on a number of films on DVD which I hadn't thought I'd get to.

Oops! Did I do that?
Oops! Did I do that? Nathan discovers his Gran's tuperware cupboard!

Not unsurprisingly, Nathan was as excited with the wrapping paper as he was with his presents. He was a very lucky boy, and I was very glad I had the roofbox on the Avensis when we headed home or we wouldn't have fitted everything in. Amazing how much 'stuff' a small boy has. He had a number of presents he was very taken with, and the simple wooden ones certainly competed strongly with the electronic, noisy ones. I'm sure this will change with time.

Before we left my parents, we had a great little early party for Nathan's birthday on the 9th January as all his cousins were there. Although Sam is in Afghanistan, Alix had brought the kids over from Germany to the UK at Christmas. Pretty brave, doing this on her own, but she does approach it like a military operation which is probably the only way you can do this with 4 kids and remain sane. It was fantastic seeing them all. They travelled over from Germany on the Chunnel on Christmas Day, having done presents etc. inthe German tradition on Christmas Eve. The kids had a special surprise as Sam managed to be back in the UK for 24 hours and turned up to see them unannounced. A brilliant Christmas present for them! As well as Alix, Jill's parents and sister came as well and brought a lovely cake which Nathan was very taken with because of the chocolate buttons it had on it. He's very taken with chocolate buttons and grabbed a handful!

New Year was grim as Nathan announced he had the vomiting virus by being sick over my bedside cabinet and Jill and I both subsequently came down with it. Although it wiped the pair of us out like 'flu, Nathan seemed to weather it far better than we did and recovered far more quickly. It appears to have gone through the family as my dad has had it since, as have some of Alix's kids.

My Dad having it was a bit touch and go, as Jill had some business with the IMechE related to our Region, and went down for a meeting in the started of the New Year. My mum and dad had offered to babysit for us, so we had a long weekend in London for our wedding anniversary. We were getting pretty nervous that my mum and dad wouldn't make it with the virus, but it all ended happily. It was great to get some time together, marred only by the fact that we were so tired after being ill! We stayed at the ever faithful County Hall Premier Inn (where we had the experience of a fire alarm one night) and did some touristy things. We also had a lovely meal for our anniversary at the Italian restaurant – Locale – opposite the County Hall. This showed that we'd become alcohol light-weights as we failed to finish a bottle of nice wine that night!

A highlight of the trip was the visit to The First Emperor at the British Museum. We couldn't pre-book tickets (they've sold out until April when it closes!) so we found ourselves standing in a queue at 9.05 am on the Saturday to hopefully get some of the 500 tickets that they release each day. The queue started to move at 9.15, and by 9.25 when we got to the front the earliest tickets we could get were for 17.10! We took these and the wait was definitely worthwhile. We had a quick look around another gallery, then headed back to go somewhere else. I was also pretty chuffed that I found a games shop immediately opposite the museum, and managed to find some things that I'd been after for a while!

Somewhere Else was the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum (rather than the last Marillion album!) which was absolutely superb. It really gave a feeling of what the place must have been like in the Blitz and beyond, and I learned far more than I ever expected about Churchill. We happily spent three hours there and I'd recommend it. I found it particularly relevant as I'm involved in playtesting a new game set in the 1960s assuming the Cuban Missile Crisis had gone nuclear; looking at the kind of facility used to run the government was very helpful to get the feel in my head for this.

Anyway, The First Emperor was absolutely excellent. It had less in it than the Persian exhibition we'd seen some years before at the British Museum, but less was definitely more. There was a far stronger narrative here, and less of a feeling that you were looking at a massive collection of bling from ancient times. I'd read a little on Qin, the state that the first Emperor had expanded and used to create the first iteration of China from, ironically in an RPG, and that taster made the exhibition even more worthwhile. I'd love to see it again if I got the chance, but I suspect that won't happen. The follow on exhibition on the Roman Emperor Hadrian looks pretty interesting too, but somehow I can't imagine it being as popular.

So, the Christmas and New Year Break was a good one for us, and we went back to work feeling refreshed. If we didn't catch you at the time, then we'd like to wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.

Note: I'd hoped to have some pictures here with this, but I may well add them later when I get the connection back up properly as I can't upload anything substantial.

Happy Holidays

Well, we're off for Christmas now, and it's a great feeling! I'm glad that this year is nearly over with its incredible highs, and terrible lows. It'll be our first Christmas with Nathan, and we intend to enjoy it as much as we can.

The only downside today is the fact that I'm absolutely knackered, as Nathan did not sleep at all well last night. I was up from 1:30 to 5:30 with him and I'm feeling pretty drawn as a result. He just couldn't settle, and it looks like he's threatening another cold Sad

But, looking on the bright side of things, I've even managed to wrap some presents!

Poorly Sick

We've been quiet here the last three weeks because we've all been poorly sick. Thought we were over it, but then we've all developed tonsillitis. It looks like Nathan is going to miss another week at nursery. He's trying to be happy, but his horrible cough is getting to him. We're all pretty frazzled from lack of sleep.


However, it's not quite this bad... (Man Flu)

However, I do recommend the following solution if you are an adult. Worked for me when I was at home and still does!

My Mum's Kill or Cure Recipe
Hot Water
2 crushed paracetamol (follow dosage instructions), alternatively use a blackcurrant Lemsip.
Shot of Scotch (optional)

1. Put Ribena in mug.
2. Spoonful of honey into the mug.
3. Add Scotch (if needed).
4. Add hot water.
5. Stir well.
6. Mix in paracetamol.

Enjoy. Great for sore throats and fevers!

Currently feeling: Shattered.
Currently listening to: The Silence.
Currently reading: Trail of Cthulhu (RPG) and The Mission Song (John Le CarréWinking.

Jaffa Cake Rustler Spotted in Wetherby

Howdy Pardner!
This is Nathan, dressed up ready for action at a party he went to. It seemed that his cowboy outfit was appropriate, as he decided to snaffle a mini-Jaffa Cake the same weekend and ended up with big grin –and chocolate – all over his face.


I'm going through one of those phases at the moment where I'm getting slightly obsessive about organising things. It's something that has happened over the last few years, mainly as I get busier and have ended up spinning more plates. A number of different things have caught my eye - a combination of articles, software and solutions. I really enjoyed one of the articles on 43folders on managing a paperless office, which resonated with me because I'd previously (about 10 years ago) tried something similar with the then new and trendy Visioneer Paperport scanner. That failed, mainly as the scanner was pretty limited in what and how it handled, and the OCR capabilities around at the time were pretty bad. However, I'm wondering if it may be the time to revisit this, as the filing cabinet is getting far to full.

Kinkless Desktop!
If your desktop looks like this, then have a look at the article on Kinkless.com linked below.

I also really liked the article on Kinkless.com on ways to avoid a massively cluttered desktop. I just wish that there was a way that I could establish this easily on the work PC (but I guess that I should just be grateful that it's finally working normally again), but the tools beyond the basics are all for OS X. However, i went some way towards this over the weekend with a general clean up of the iMac HDD.

One of my friends refers to this kind of stuff as 'productivity pr0n', as you need to be very careful that you don't just get obsessed with fiddling with new systems. I agree with this up to a point, but I do think you need to try out the various options to see what works for you. I'll probably post some more links and software notes over the next few weeks.

Feeling pretty fed up...

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The Prisoner
The lad I'm missing.

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Why..? Revisited.

About a week ago I mused on the UK government's inability to green light civil nuclear power while they remained happy to build a new generation of nuclear weapons. Seems like they finally got around to moving this forward in the Queen's speech this week.

The BBC reported:

Energy, planning and climate change bills in the Queen's Speech pave the way for new UK nuclear power stations.

Looks like the ball is firmly in EdF and Eon's hands now to see what they can do.

Currently feeling: Chilled.
Currently listening to: The wind outside the house.
Currently reading: Mob Justice (RPG).

Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night

Walk to Wetherby
Nathan on a walk into Wetherby.

Needless to say, I've added more pictures onto the Flickr account, mainly of Nathan. You can go via the direct link or through the last few thumbnails here. It's a funny time of year, with the mix of young kids getting excited about 'trick-or-treat' and fireworks, and the slightly older kids getting nutty with fireworks. The cat is cowering under the bed (unless we are around, when he snuggles up to us) during the nightly bombardment of fireworks, and Nathan has been woken once or twice.

Never-the-less, I love this time of year, especially as we actually have an autumn (even if it has temporarily gone on hold for a week of abnormally high temperatures). I don't know what it is about autumn, the falling leaves, the damp and crisp mornings and the mists, but it is one of my favourite times of year. I guess I should really try and get some pictures before everything has fallen.

We've just had a great weekend, especially as both Jill and I are pretty tired. Jill's tired because I've not been giving her the support she normally gets as work has been pretty frantic and she's not been well. I've been doing my first proper academic qualification for quite some time, and have spent two weeks in lectures for the NEBOSH General Certificate (a UK Safety Qualification) and then a day in exams. They've been long days, with a fair bit of commitment (the day itself tops out around 12 hours when the bus ride into Leeds is included, and then there's revision and homework after Nathan has gone to bed). On top of this, I've had another two nights out with work (an offsite meeting, and a leaving do) and have also been dealing with my first crisis in my new expanded role. So Jill has been feeling somewhat neglected.

So, we've had a quiet weekend, a shopping trip to Harrogate, Sunday Lunch at the Scott Arms in Sickinghall, and reasonably quiet times and early beds. I'm hoping that the next week at work will be reasonably sane and that things can get back to normal. Fingers crossed, eh?


Currently feeling: Relaxed.
Currently listening to: Nathan snoring (but the last CD was the new Eagles album).
Currently reading: Granbreton (Hawkmoon RPG). Making my mind up what novel to read next.


Just musing here, but how come the UK has a government happy to commit to building new nuclear bombs for the next 30 years, but not new nuclear power stations, but at the same time claims that climate change is one of the big things they are concerned about! Surely a nuclear / renewable future makes sense if that's your big concern...?


Nathan the Campaigner

Letter from The Wetherby News.

Nathan has been campaigning for infant's rights, or more specifically, for infant's changing facilities here in Wetherby. In reality, with the exceptions of the new Costa Coffee, the Morrisons Café, and Café Aprés (in Boston Spa) none of the local cafés and eateries have decent changing facilities. When asked, there was quite a variety of responses from the landlords and owners; The Scott Arms in Sicklinghall already have a changing mat and great child facilities, but are considering a proper changing stand. Thr3 in Wetherby is also planning to get a changing stand.

Our Campaigner out in Wetherby
Our Campaigner Out and About in Wetherby.

The Muse was less forthcoming – apparently, children are not in their mission statement and not wanted. Le Bon Appetit, whilst a great place for a meal, have the view that you can change the baby on the floor. That's the floor which is filthy, with no mat and generally very low hygiene standards.

To put this in context, a proper changing stand takes very little space, and can be fitted into most existing rooms. They aren't expensive, only £150 or so. Nathan plans to continue his campaign so we'll report if the places that promised better facilities have delivered.

The Last Few Days

I didn't really get a chance to finish updating this while we were away, so I'll quickly summarise the rest of the holiday here.

On Tuesday, we went on the Eskdale and Ravenglass Railway, otherwise known locally as La'al Ratty. It's a small steam line (3 foot gauge) which runs up the Esk Valley and conveniently stops just down the road from Boot. We got Nathan into his new Bush Baby carrier and headed off on our expedition to Ravenglass. The first 25 minutes of him in the carrier were killers, as I rediscovered muscles that I haven't used for a long time.

Eskdale Railway - Out to Ravenglass - 4
Nathan waiting for the train to start.

I'd taken the OS maps of the area with me (more awkward than usual as the valley runs on the edge of two maps) and followed the journey as we went. It was great fun, although I recommend a jumper if you are in an open coach! The views were great.

Eskdale Railway - Out to Ravenglass
Arriving in Ravenglass.

Jill was looking for Thomas the Tank Engine when she took the picture above! Once we arrived in Ravenglass, we headed off out of town along the road to the Roman Bath House Ruin that's there, at the edge of the site of an old fort. Back in Roman Britain, Ravenglass was quite an active port. Nathan had great fun as we went along, grabbing my shoulders and trying to steer me along.

Nathan and Dom @ Ravenglass
Nathan riding his Daddy's back!

The bath house was quite a substantial ruin, in a state similar to some older castles I've visited in the past, but beyond a plaque and a space to walk about there wasn't an awful lot to do except use your imagination. Now, Roman times were one of the periods of history that fascinated me (I'd have done a Classics A-Level had the school not stopped me) so it wasn't too hard to do, especially as you could clearly see the edge of the old fort from the trench and rampart that ran around it in the adjacent field. However, it was the kind of place that you spend thirty minutes at (maybe more with a picnic) rather than the full on Roman experience like Herculaneum or even the fort in the Hardknott Pass.

Ravenglass Roman Bath House
This picture shows all the ruins of the Roman Bath House.

The trip back was great, and Nathan managed to fall asleep. We were sitting just in front of a group of rail enthusiasts who were cycling the old rail routes to see where everything used to go. I was fascinated to hear some of the technical details. They also took a lovely picture of Nathan showing his new interest in ice cream.

Eskdale Railway Return Trip - 4
Moments after he made a grab for my Magnum Classic!

The next day saw us travelling across to Windermere, via Sawtry and Beatrix Potter's old farm Hill Top, and the ferry. When we got to Bowness we visited the Beatrix Potter Experience, which was great and is definitely the place that I would recommend if you;ve got children who are into Beatrix Potter. Fortunately, Nathan and I managed to guide Jill through without her getting too excited. The café here was much better that the one on the railway, although the setting was a little less attractive.

Thursday saw us in Whitehaven, which was my old stamping ground when I was up in the Lakes working. It isn't much to look at, and even the improvement activities seem to have gone a little shabby, but there are real gems here. The place used to be one of the major ports in the UK (indeed, Cunard started here and moved to Liverpool later) and it's one of the few places to have been attacked by a foreign power in the guise of the US Navy during the War of Independence. One of their great heroes, John Paul Jones, led the raid here. There are other links, but you need to look below the surface rather than take the place at face value. I'm guessing the closure of one of the town's two main employers in 2005 hasn't helped the place.

An old Churchyard in Whitehaven, showing the spiral created for the Millennium celebrations.

Anyway, the really good reason to visit Whitehaven still remains; Michael Moon's Antiquarian bookshop on Lowther Street. The place is fantastic, a deceptive in size like Doctor Who's TARDIS. If you like books, you should visit this place. There's a great review of it here in Sam Jordison's blog. After we finished at Michael Moon's we went for a walk around Whitehaven, and then we headed out of town to nearby Cleator Moor, where we met up with some old friends, Howard, Paula and their daughter Mary-Jane. They're a little ahead of us (MJ is 16 months old), so we had a great time catching up and exchanging tips. Nathan behaved himself, and we got him into the car asleep when we headed back to the cottage and the effective end of the enjoyable holiday.

Ulpha Fell Road
The Ulpha Fell road on the way back to Yorkshire.

It's worth mentioning that we had two very nice meals on the journey from and to home at a pub called The Plough, at Lupton. This is the end of the A65 just between Kirkby Lonsdale and the M6, near Kendal.

A Long Expected Party

Well, it's Day 3 in the Boot Village House, sorry, Cottage and much has happened. Sunday dawned overcast after heavy rain during the night, but we didn't let that put us off! It was Roy's (Jill's father) 60th Birthday and we'd booked a table across the road at the Boot Inn for a slap up lunch to celebrate. However, before that we started with cards and dangly 60th birthday signs that Nathan loved. He loved them for perhaps the wrong reason (for pulling off the numbers when he was on his walker) but he loved them never-the-less.

Roy's 60th Cake
Roy's 60th Cake supervised by Nathan and his Aunty Paula.

The meal was fantastic, with high points being Nathan singing, Nathan being introduced to Simba the Ginger Cat, and the meal itself. Mine – the infamous Boot Pie – nearly didn't make it as it tumbled to the floor on the way to our table, but fortunately, they had one in reserve. I took pictures, but had the usual challenge with Jill's family all trying to avoid the camera and the chance of a decent group shot was somewhat minimal. The food was fantastic, with great taste, flavour and serving size, and fine beer to accompany it. I was nearly in trouble when I bought Roy a half of Guinness as well as his Sherry, but fortunately it dodn't set his stomach off.

Eskdale Mill
Eskdale Mill in Boot Village.

After the meal, we went for a walk to Eskdale Mill, which is a working flour mill driven by water just up the road from the cottage. It was fascinating, as the technology is pretty much as it was a hundred years ago. The Miller was scathing about the National Trust's approach to preservation – preferring a working route himself – and the fact that teachers seem to want to take kids around places like this. Personally, I thought it was great, but I can understand why younger children would be a liability around the place. It'd be perfect for for older kids doing CDT to set off a project. Unfortunately, demonstrating that they meet current hygiene legislation would be near impossible so they can't actually do anything with the flour they make. We left to walk some more to the church near-by, while I pondered whether they had to meet lifting gear and machinery guarding regulations or if there was some kind of exemption.

Roman Fort @ Hardknott Pass
The view from the fort in the Hardknott Pass.

Next day (Monday), we had a mini-drama with water leaking from the ceiling. Hopefully resolved by the agent, but we'll find out tomorrow. The afternoon saw us traveling up the Hardknott Pass, stopping off at the Roman Fort. The views were gorgeous, as for once it was brilliant sunshine. Usually when we get there it's raining! We visited the place we always do and got some wonderful pictures of Nathan with windswept hair. After that, it was over the pass to the bleak valley between the Wrynose and Hardknott Passes, and on through Wrynose to Ambleside. We'd planned to go to Keswick, but it was getting late, so we stopped in Ambleside.

Roman Fort @ Hardknott Pass
It was windy up the pass!

We had a mini-expedition to get a baby rucksack carrier from a shop that actually knew about them, and ended up walking away with a 'bush baby' carrier and some sound advice. The shop was called The Outdoor Family for Kids and I heartily recommend it. Great advice, opportunities to try the carriers and patience as we made up our mind. After this, we had a meal at a Cinema and Jazz Club and Restaurant called Zefferilli's. It did get a little embarrassing when Nathan started to sing to the songs, but I'm sure they preferred that to him crying. After that, we headed back over the Passes to take some pictures of the sun setting and return home.

The day ended with a call from a friend I first met 16 years ago when I was working up at Sellafield during my year out. We'd called in to see them on Saturday, but they weren't around, but we'd left the cottage number. We're planning to meet up on Thursday, which will be a great finish to the holiday.

Currently feeling: Happy
Currently listening to: Nothing
Currently reading: The Wicker Man by Robert Hardy & Anthony Shaffer

Holidays in the Communications Desert

We're away in the Lake District for a week, in what is best described as a communications desert. No broadband, no mobile signal, no outgoing phones. Even the TV has to be satellite to get a signal! Fantastic! As a result, this is going to be posted somewhat retrospectively!

Wasdale Head
Jill and Nathan at Wasdale Head.

We've taken a cottage in Eskdale, in the village of Boot, called Orange Hill Cottage. There aren't any oranges, and it's surrounded by hills rather than being on one, but it's rather nice. Jill found it on the internet. As well as the three of us, Jill's Mum and Dad, and her sister Paula and her fiancé Mark have come along. The cottage has a fantastic kitchen, and a lovely living area.

We got here around 5 o'clock last night, ahead of everyone else, so got the pick of the rooms and a chance to settle Nathan down properly. It did show how times have changed though. In the past, had we arrived and unloaded the car at a place like this with an excellent looking pub opposite we would have probably headed over the road and got a meal and a few drinks. However, now we're responsible adults (!), Nathan insisted that we stay in feed, bath and put him to bed. He went to sleep like a dream.

Everyone else arrived around eight thirty after a nightmare journey, which I suppose was to be expected on the last weekend of the school holidays. They'd just missed the smoke alarm drama (we'd had to disable the mains alarms as they were on the blink and replace them with battery based ones that were delivered by the owner's agent last night) and had also missed the turning for the village (something we'd done in daylight earlier on).

We were up again at 3 AM, as Nathan is teething again. We found two upper front teeth erupting last night and he was in lot of pain. We got back to sleep by 4 AM, and mercifully got a thirty minute lie in to 7:30 as he was tired. I'm not certain what today will bring, but I'm sure it'll be a great change to normal. I'm hoping we can catch up with some of my friends I made when I worked up here mumble 16 mumble years ago!

As an aside, I've just finished The English Patient, following its name-check in Pulp Egypt. I've never seen the film, and the book was interesting as it only really came together towards the end. I don't think its one I'll keep, but I will check out the film. Sadly, had I known it I couid have programmed the PVR at home to snag it as FilmFour has it on this week. That's the perils of getting the listings magazines later on!

Currently feeling: Tired but relaxed.
Currently listening to: Radio 4 via the Sky Box.
Currently reading: Polity Agent by Neal Asher

Boys and Toys...

So how do I drive this?

I've added some new pictures onto Flickr, which include the Great Yorkshire Show and Darcey Finta's Christening. I love the one above with Nathan in it. My mum had hired a motobility scooter for the day, as she is in a lot of pain with her knee while she waits for her NHS hospital appointment to replace a large bit of it. (Wow! 3 hip replacements and a knee replacement – My mum is becoming the bionic woman! However, I'd rather she never had to go through any of this because it's put her in a lot of pain.) Nathan sat on her lap and loved the whole experience. He wanted to try and drive it himself, as you can see from the picture.

Nathan struggled a bit for the second week running last night, as he's really started teething now. A week ago he had two teeth erupt, and another three nearly break through properly. He was hurting badly, and for a while the Calpol and Calgel just weren't doing it for him. Fortunately, I think a combination of the painkillers and exhaustion got him to sleep. Last night saw a repeat, with two more teeth arriving. Surreally, these were two additional ones, not the ones that are on the cusp of breaking through. I guess it's a good time for them to be arriving, as I'd rather loose sleep at the weekend than during the week. He's moving steadily into solids now, and just coming out of a variety of pureés. Sometimes the mess is quite impressive.

It's been a good weekend - I've finally managed to start to get some of my less wanted gaming material scheduled to go up onto eBay tonight. If you're interested, have a look at seller ID Cybergoths sometime after 10 o'clock, as I start to clear duplicates and rarely used items. This is a great step forward as it had been something that Jill and I had started onto before Christmas when we were just two and a cat!

Qin RPG cover

I've been reading through Qin: The Warring States, which is a superb Ancient Chinese Wuxia style RPG. The production quality is excellent, and the game system is slick. It's a bit disquieting to find out that the French publisher has somewhat messed up the English language release with virtually no publicity. I don't do Chinese / Japanese Wuxia style stuff (usually), but this has really tempted me. The PDF version is currently 10 US dollars, and well worth checking out. I hope it does better as its reputation spreads, which it seems to be doing now. And if you're wondering what Wuxia is, think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers.

Currently feeling: Relaxed
Currently listening to: Spent the afternoon listening to Queen, and singing along with Nathan!
Currently reading: Qin - The Warring States (a Chinese based historical RPG).

Nathan's Food and Drink!

It's been a while (nearly a month) since I last posted any pictures of Nathan onto Flickr. We'll I've corrected that oversight, and you can have a look at the results the usual way (by clicking on the photos themselves or by going via the thumbnails here).

I love food!
This one was while he was enjoying a meal - he's really getting into solid food (well, pureés) now and loves to get it everywhere and throw the spoon around!

Milk or Beer?
This one has Nathan facing a hard choice! Beer or milk?

The other BIG development today is that one of his teeth has finally broken through! Obviously, this makes us an excited and proud mum and dad, but it does mean that he's also in a lot of pain and finding it hard to sleep!

Currently feeling: Wet.
Currently listening to: Maximo Park
Currently reading: The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

Splashathon Success

Nathan successfully completed his Splashathon today, with a new underwater swim at his Waterbabies class. He's raised nearly £300 for charity (see link here) and was a happy little boy. If you want to donate some more you can follow this link.

Underwater at the Splashathon
This picture was taken during his swim! There are more on my Flickr page, or you can follow the photo album link as usual!

Currently feeling: Like a Proud Dad
Currently listening to: The Who
Currently reading: 'Reign', an RPG by Greg Stolze

DIY Retrospective

It's Saturday morning, and it feels appropriate to have a retrospective of where we got to with the DIY projects. We didn't get everything done we wanted to, but most of the key things happened, thanks to my father's help.

The completed list is as follows:
1. Security Light at back of house working.
2. Bannister repaired and reattached.
3. Nathan's video monitor camera wall mounted.
4. Nathan's picture put up.
5. Spare room measured to allow carpet to be moved.
6. Broadband and telephone extension relocated upstairs out of crawling child range.
7. Dining Room light changed for new fitting.
8. Garage light switch relocated by new pedestrian door.
9. Nathan's door hooks put up.

The things that didn't happen were;
1. Water butt connected (bought, installed, but needs the hose connecting to the downpipe).
2. Security Light #2 repaired (a full day of frustration with this one).
3. Bathroom extraction fixed (needs me to go in the loft).
4. Upper Storey Windows painted (probably happen later on this year).
5. Grout repaired on bathroom floor (couldn't get the right colour grout).
6. Repoint flags (thrown in as a last minute addition just in case we got there)

So all in all it was pretty successful, and a good use of four days. Nathan also enjoyed the attention from his grandfather!

All in all, I'm happy! Happy

More Pictures up

I've uploaded another selection of pictures to Flickr. You can get there by clicking directly on the picture, or by going via the photo-album.

Nathan in his new high chair with Mr Butterfly!

There are also such joys as Nathan trying out solids...
Finishing off!

...and some more pictures of Wetherby.
Wetherby Bridge

All taken with the Panasonic FZ50, which is great fun to use!

DIY fun and games

I've been off the last three days on holiday. Or rather, I've been off these days learning the fun that it is to be a dad. Several of the other blokes I knew who had children used to joke about 'The List' which their better half maintained. Well, I'm just discovering about this phenomenon.

Over the last few months, a lot of things have built up around the house that need to be repaired, changed or generally attacked with hammer and screwdriver, not to mention power tool! Fortunately, my dad has taken a few days to come and help me go through the list. The first day was pretty successful, with a number of jobs, electrical or otherwise being completed. Happy

Day 2 was a bit of a disaster though; when we bought the house it had two security lights at the back which stopped working quite quickly. One of these we successfully fixed, twice, as the first unit we installed didn't work properly. The second unit, which used to have a switch board in the kitchen until it burnt out, was much more frustrating. We spent most of the day trying to track the cables for this, in the end concluding that either the continuity was shot, or there was a hidden sneaky feed that we couldn't find. It was very, very frustrating! Sad

We're hoping that Day 3 (repair the bannister and relocate the broadband to a custom built cubby hole) will prove a lot smoother!

Nathan's Splashathon

Nathan is going to carry out a 'Splashathon' to raise money for Tommy's on the 12th June 2007, when he will perform a new underwater swim. He's been practicing every week with his mum at Water Babies. If you'd like to help him raise his target of £200, then please make a donation here.

Currently feeling: Content
Currently listening to: BBC Radio 4
Currently reading: 'Legacies' by Alison Sinclair (just finished 'Prador Moon' by Neal Asher)

High Chair, High Jinks

It's not Nathan in this picture.

We've been trying to buy a high chair today for Nathan, and had all sorts of fun. It's been driven by the fact that he doesn't yet sleep through the night (he did for a bit, but now the milk isn't enough for him), and he's reached a size and an age that initial weaning can begin. Anyway, Jill did a look at all the options on the internet and using her Which? subscription, and we settled on a Tripp Trapp chair, as shown above. We knew that Mothercare stocked it, so Jill phoned Harrogate, Leeds and York to see if they had it in in the colour we wanted, and it turns out on Leeds had stock. So we went on an expedition just before lunch to go and buy it.

On arriving at the Leeds Mothercare store, the assistant went out to the back to get the high chair, then returned to tell us that they only had the cherry colour in stock. Jill explained that she had called earlier and they'd said they have it in,, but really only got a mumbled half apology. Anyway, disappointed and annoyed, we went and collected the other things we needed and headed to the cash till. At the till we were asked did we get everything we needed, so Jill told the assistant (a different one) that no, we hadn't. The assistant looked surprised and said she was certain that the chairs were in stock. A few minutes later she came back with one, and we walked out happily having parted with some of Nathan's vouchers from the Christening. (Thanks all!).

Fast forward to getting home. I opened up the box for the Tripp Trapp to discover that it was a Walnut colour, not 'natural' as we had asked for. 'Right', we thought, 'let's not waste time' and we arranged to drop it off back at the Harrogate store (far closer and easier to get to) and get a refund. We decided to use the internet to mail order it again rather than go back into Leeds. Jill first tried Blooming Marvellous, a site she uses regularly, but no luck there. Another site she tried needed her to phone them to order it, and when she did she was cut off by the store most of the way through sorting out the order. It was starting to look like it wasn't to be, until Jill remembered another store on the net which sold it. The order is placed, and hopefully it'll be here this coming week. Now all that's left is to start preparing the food for the little tyke!

Currently feeling: Tired (bad night's sleep)
Currently listening to: Nothing, as I'm hiding up in the Baby's Room as he sleeps.
Currently reading: 'Thud' by Terry Pratchett (just finished 'Karavans' by Jennifer Roberson)

Christening Pictures

Proud Parents

The pictures from Nathan's Christening are on my Flickr page, or you can link through the photo-album page.

Compare and Contrast...

Nathan and his Minder 2
4 Months Old.
Nathan's Minder #2
1 Month Old.

What a difference 3 months makes!

Nathan at Harrogate Spring Flower Show

Nathan at Harrogate Spring Flower Show
This is one of the new pictures that I'm really happy with. The rest are on Flickr (click through the image to find them) or you can look at the thumbnails on the relevant photo-album page.

It's fair to say that we've had an excellent weekend this Bank Holiday. The Christening went really well yesterday and we caught up with a large number of old and new friends. The service was lovely and Nathan was deploying all his charms. If he develops any of the abilities of his godfather Phill then he'll be a real heart-breaker in the future. Afterwards, The Bingley Arms did us proud with the meal and everyone seemed to have a great time.

However, I've got to confess that I'm looking forward to tomorrow and work for a chance to relax a little, assuming that work remains calmed down. Sleep has been at somewhat of a premium as Nathan's new schedule has been disrupted by everything that has gone on. Hopefully everything will return to what was normality at the end of last week.

I've only just got the photos from the Flower Show last weekend uploaded, and will add some from the Christening later on.

Currently feeling: Tired and happy. Happy
Currently listening to: Nothing - enjoying the silence.
Currently reading: 'Collected Ghost Stories' by M R James

Looking forward to the weekend

Well, the Bank Holiday weekend is finally upon us, and I really haven't looked forward to one for so much for a while. The last two weeks in work have been hell, and pretty stressful, and sleep has been at a premium. It's really been the worst time I've had in work, but I guess I'm now hoping that it is behind me and life can return to normal.

The good thing is that we've had 4 nights now in the 16 weeks since Nathan was born where he has slept through, and 3 of them have been in the last 5 days. Jill picked up copies of 'The Baby Whisperer' and has made some small changes to Nathan's schedule, which has been giving us some much needed sleep! Hopefully this will carry on and then I'll finally be able to get back onto the course I'm doing with work and the writing of Power Projection: Reinforcements.

Sunday brings Nathan's Christening, which has grown somewhat in proportion since we originally planned it. However, it should be a great do (after the church we're going to an excellent local pub, The Bingley Arms) and I'm really looking forward to catching up with some friends that I've not seen for a while. And we've the Monday to recover! I just hope that the weather holds off.

I've got some really nice photos of Nathan and Jill from the Harrogate Flower show last week. I'll try and get them uploaded over the weekend if I get a moment. I'm absolutely loving the FZ-50. It's a great camera and has re-enthused me about photography. I guess that having a cute son to take pictures of helps as well Winking

Currently feeling: Ready for a good relaxing weekend.
Currently listening to: 'Face in the Sun' from Simple Minds' album 'Cry'
Currently reading: 'Collected Ghost Stories' by M R James

Pure Bliss [UPDATED]

Pure Bliss
The best £3.50 ($5.99) I've spent in a while.

[UPDATE] I've now burned a CD with his favourites (which just happen to be the hairdryer, clothes dryer, vacuum cleaner and womb sounds) and it is working an absolute treat.

Nathan on Jill's Birthday

Mum and Son

This shot was taken at the RHS' Harlow Carr Gardens when we went there for a day out on Jill's birthday on the 11th. It was a glorious sunny day, and we had a lovely time. It was a case of fourth time lucky, as we've tried to viist three times before, but always been scuppered by being too late or the weather. Nathan was absolutely shattered at the end of the day (there's a good picture of him crashed out in the Baby-Bjorn I was carrying him in alongside the shot above on Flickr).

I'm not going to add any more here now, as it's getting late, and I've had far too little sleep recently. I'll try and update later this week.

Currently feeling: Shattered.
Currently listening to: White Russian, from the Marillion album 'Clutching at Straws'
Currently reading: 'The Secret Pilgrim' by John le Carré

Easter Egg Attack! [UPDATED]

Nathan attacks an Easter Egg!
This photo sort of summarises Easter morning. Nathan was fascinated with the Easter Eggs! Ohh! Shiny!

You can see more by either clicking through the picture above, or by going and seeing thumbnails of the last thirty pics of Nathan I uploaded on the photo-album page.

UPDATE: Just to clarify, no, we haven't been feeding Nathan chocolate. He just liked the shiny wrappers!

Nathan-isms at Easter

Nathan's personality is really beginning to show now as he hits three months of age. On Saturday night we think we made a mistake by not giving him a bath before bed as he was tired. He went to sleep, but woke up every three and a half hours rather than the four to six he has been doing since he went in the cot. Tonight, when we put him in the bath, it was very funny. He was so enthusiastic, trying to crawl out of my arms and leap into the bath with Jill. I had difficulties holding him back.

Once he was in the bath, he showed some new tricks, grabbing and throwing and trying to chew the ducks he has. That and trying to drink the bath when we weren't looking! When I got him out he followed that up with peeing on his towel and giggling about it for the second time in a row! He's also been doing some of what Jill calls 'tummy time', and seems to like it, practising his crawling and head holding. He's also getting quite insistent that he wants to try sitting up.

We've had the quietest Easter in a long time, staying at home with no visitors. Good Friday saw us in Leeds for some shopping (getting Jill a coat from the ever excellent Bravissimo store). Saturday saw Jill taking Nathan into Wetherby, while I finally painted the half of the kitchen that we abandoned doing a year ago or more. Easter day itself had us puting a sleeping baby in the pram and walking along the disused railway track to Spofforth. We didn't go all the way – and it seemed a lot longer on foot than on the bikes we usually use – but it was great to get out in the sun and fresh air. When we got back he was still asleep and we left him in the pram while we had a coffee and a sit in some garden chairs with a book. In my case this was the CJ Cherryh novel I was reading back when Jill was in the hospital waiting to give birth. Fortunately, I can remember the plot from earlier!

About the only thing I've forgotten to do is phone Alix, Sam and the kids in Germany, which I remembered too late in the evening. Something to try today if I remember. I always forget the time difference between them and us. It was far harder when they were in Cyprus (as they were further apart in time zone) but it's something I should remember.

As usual, I've some new pictures, but haven't culled and uploaded them. I'll try that later today!

Currently feeling: Content.
Currently listening to: Somewhere Else, the new Marillion album
Currently reading: 'At the Edge of Space' by CJ Cherryh.

First Swim & First Night in the Cot

Nathan had his first swimming session last week with Water Babies. He went through the whole gamut of emotions - crying, laughing, smiling during the half hour. It was a great day, and Jill really had fun. I felt really priviledged to be there, and got some nice photos which I'll put up next time I upload to Flickr.

Last night was also a bit of a milestone. Nathan's been struggling to stay the whole night in his crib, so we decided to try him in the cot. Jill had been talking to one of her (cohort?) fellow new-mums who said that she'd had the same problem until her daughter went into the cot. So we tried it, and it seemed to be a good night for both Nathan and myself!


I finally managed to upload the latest pictures of Nathan to my Flickr account, and some of them are gorgeous, even if I took them myself!

Little White Riding Hood

There are also some nice shots from a recent Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) schools event held at the Light in Leeds, which coincided with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Presidential visit to the Yorkshire Region. This kind of schools stuff is critical to getting kids interested in science and engineering. The pyramid in the picture is made of elastic bands and bamboo dowels, and was built by two schoold over a morning.

IMechE Visit

I'm also pretty pleased with some of the shots I got recently of my mum and dad. My dad had emailed me a shot he'd had taken of him at a recent formal event, which he quite morbidly said would look great on an order of service for a funeral. I disagreed, as I don't think that it captures the essence of him. It was technically good, but wasn't 'my dad'. I'm pleased with the portraits I took as I think they really catch the essence of him.


What's going on, Cupcake?

We have a government that pushes the need to control carbon emissions and goes all preachy on it! They also commit to renewing our nuclear weapons capability. But they don't have the guts to commit to the one big carbon reduction they could make on power generation, committing to new build nuclear power stations.

Renewables are laudable, and should be embraced as heavily as we can, but nuclear is the only low carbon route which can provide the baseload generation.

How come we can have the bomb, but not clean power? Is it me, or is that just crazy?

Updates on the lad...

I'll add some more updates in the near future. I've been a little sucked into 'real life' and cuddles for the lad. I've taken a load more photos and need to get them all sorted out soon.

Nat-Cam is live and bouncing!

My new bouncer!

Nathan has two new live and and bouncy exciting toys; a video monitor so he can be seen in glorious black and white when he's in his crib (which he's managing most nights), plus a new exciting bouncer. The bouncer does sounds, lights, and vibrations and he loves it! He loves his gadgets too!

Mummy and Daddy love the video monitor too. Daddy wasn't too fond of it at first, as it wiped out the wireless network, but that was soon solved with a change of channel. It's cool watching Nathan on TV!

He's getting a busy social life too - yesterday he went out with his chums to La Locanda in Collingham. Sadly, he had to drag Mum along too. The day before, he'd been for a weigh-in, and had successfully added another 4 oz on top of the 8 oz the week before. Winking

You can find more cute pictures of him here...

Nathan does Cute!


A Busy Week.

It's been an interesting and busy week, which explains the time since the last post here. I've been travelling with work a fair bit to do some customer audits related to a company we are thinking of taking on in a service role, and Jill has had the usual clinic sessions combined with a check up to see how she is (rather than the baby).

Monday saw an early start across the Pennines to Macclesfield to a pharma company. It was very interesting to see, especially the difference of focus that massive margins mean. My company makes FCMGs and is far more conscious of the cost of waste and efficiencies than the pharma company we visited. It was a totally different culture, but it was also nice to see a British based business that is still doing well.

Wednesday I was on a big trip down South, so I worked from home in the morning. It gave me a far better appreciation of the pressures on Jill during the day, as writing a report played second fiddle to changing nappies, feeding and generally stopping tears. The value of the new baby bouncer was shown, as it was a sure way to thirty minutes quiet (and an excited Nathan!). Typing one handed, I managed to complete the report before I left. For reference, the bouncer is a Fisher Price one with lights, sounds, music and good vibrations! It was certainly giving Nathan good vibrations!

The hire car for the trip was a VW Passat, which was great once I worked out (a) how to start it and (b) where the handbrake was. The wonders of electronic gizmos making every car different. It was a completely different kettle of fish to the Renault Megane I'd had on Monday, and a pleasure to drive, certainly on a par with our Toyota Avensis.

The trip to Oxford was pretty clear, and I arrived at the 'hotel' that I was staying at earlier than I planned, 3 miles from the customer we were to visit. I use the term hotel loosely, as it was a 'Day's Inn' at a service station - clean, basic but with decent wireless internet access. I met up with the rest of the audit team (from another site) in the 'restaurant' and we enjoyed the best fare that Welcome Break could provide. It was all going swimmingly until I went to bed and phoned Jill, when I found out that work was after me.

I called the security office and they told me that a fire alarm incident had happened, and the long and the short of it was that I ended up turning the car around and coming back to support the follow up. I checked out with the bemused receptionist at ten to midnight, then headed back up the M40/A43/M1/M18/A1M... to work. I finally got home to my bed at 7AM the next morning, tired and shattered. I was pretty relieved too, as I think Jill was about to murder me when I came into the house at 6.30AM. She hadn't expected me and I think that I was going to face a fencing foil or something! Winking

Jill has had a hard week – Nathan is in the middle of a growth spurt and as a result very demanding. It's wearing her down, and it's very difficult for me to do a lot practically beyond do the best I can to help look after him in the evening. The GREAT news is the fact that he has put on 8 oz (old money!) over the last week and is finally above his birth weight. This has been a great relief to both of us, and also explains his constant demands for food the last few days. Put in a context like that, it's fantastic. Friday night helped; I ended up as Nathan's chair for the evening while Jill pottered around. It's a good thing that Five US had three episodes of CSI back to back!

This morning saw me in work (playing catch up), but we spent most of the afternoon out in town, pushing the pram down and finding out just how much stuff you can get in a pram with a baby! I start to understand my mum's tales of carrying the collapsed family pet dog in the pram as well as me and the shopping. The Mothercare plastic bag clips are wonderful things! As I type this, Nathan is fast asleep recovering from his exertions (being pushed around town). We've got some good new pictures, but it'll be tomorrow before I post them to Flickr. It's nice having a quiet weekend. I'm glad I didn't have to go to South Africa with work this weekend as was originally planned! Happy

Nathan and Minder...

Nathan's Minder #1

I've uploaded some new pictures of Nathan and others (including some friends like Tom) to Flickr. Click on the picture above to go straight to Flickr, or use this link to look at all the pictures as thumbnails first.

It's been an up and down weekend. Some friends from work came around with a takeaway on Friday night, and we cleared the lounge in preparation for Allied Carpets failing to turn up to lay the replacement carpet on Saturday morning. It was a great evening, as it gave Jill some company other than Nathan or me.

Saturday had the carpet failing to arrive (it's being replaced after the iron fell on it in December) and my parents arriving to help put the room back to straights and see Nathan. It was a great day, as Jill & I got a few hours to ourselves, grabbed a meal and nipped out to Harrogate and Wetherby while the doting grandparents looked after Nathan. It was nice to have a little space, and to see my parents. The only downside of their visit was the return on my eBay pile, which means I need to do something with it!

The other big news is that Nathan managed to sleep the night through in his crib last night. Fingers crossed this continues!

Currently feeling: Tired.
Currently listening to: Bombs' playing in my head having written the last entry.
Currently reading: 'At the Edge of Space' by CJ Cherryh. If I could find the book as it's been tidied up!

Where in the World?

I was following up some links and ended up on Neil Gaiman's website (famous author if you're into SF and Fantasy) where I came across a cool website that serves no real purpose except to let you realise how big the world is. Basically, the site lets you enter the places you've visited and colours them in on the map.

The World...
So that's the world view for me. Makes me realise how little I've seen.
Europe map...
The second map is a bit more parochial, as it shows the locations in Europe I've visited. I'm going to have to ask Jill to try this too and see if she's more travelled than me.

Where in the world have you been?

A Month Later!

Nathan is a month old now, and getting more and more alert! He's been smiling for a while, recognises voices and is generally great fun. We got some great pictures of him last night (which are on the Flickr page!). He's still not reached his birth weight again, but is starting to pick up a bit now. The effects of the cold seem to have gone and he feeds like a trooper.

He had two expeditions this week; firstly he went out with the ladies who lunch, and then to be registered. The first adventure involved coffee at a friend's house, then a trip to Ask (a local restaurant), and finally a chance to tell scare stories to the next group of ladies who lunch. He took it all in his stride but was a little tired the next day.

It's been a week where we haven't got a lot done as such, but have been really busy. The evenings have disappeared in a blur of cooking, nursing Nathan, changing nappies and other domestic stuff. The one real leisure thing we've been doing has been watching the second series of Carnivale, which is really excellent. We're four episodes from the end now, and I'm hoping that it will be as good as the building tension suggests that it should be.

Currently feeling: Content!
Currently listening to: 'Marbles' by Marillion
Currently reading: 'At the Edge of Space' by CJ Cherryh.

The Kane Files...

I've uploaded a new set of photos onto Flickr, (ignore this link, use the pictures) most of which came from my sister Alix's visit with her family when they got back in the UK last week. There's a sample below with Matt pulling a scary face!
Scary Matt!
I've also added some shots of Wetherby I took this morning when I walked in, and some more pics of Nathan looking cute. Of course, looking cute is something he wasn't doing tonight. He was very grizzly, but seems to have finally got to sleep!
Space Baby
The shot here is of him asleep, escaped from his 'Space Baby' sleep-suit.

Today's been a bit of a quiet day, with the main things being my walk into Wetherby this morning, and our expedition to 'The Baby Room' to look at some more furniture for the Nursery. While we were there I couldn't but help notice (yet again) how obsessive people are about 'designer' goods, even if they are more poorly manufactured and less practicable. Anyway, we managed to find what we wanted, and a new wardrobe has now been ordered.

I got quite angry today when I was in Wetherby. I was walking along the High Street when I noticed that a young mum – looking very harassed with three kids in the car squabbling – carrying out a perfect parallel parking maneuver on the roadside. The thing she hadn't noticed was that the 'space' was in fact on double yellow no parking lines as it was an access way.However, the lines were near invisible from wear, and they wouldn't have been obvious because she was in a big car (a Freelander) and the space was tight.

What made me mad was the Traffic Warden. he was on the opposite side of the road and instantly clocked that she was parking in the wrong place. He took her number down and was preparing the ticket before she'd stopped the engine. There was a time when the traffic warden would have just come and asked her to move on, but this guy was just planning to ticket her. So I told her what he was doing and she drove off, leaving a really annoyed looking traffic warden. I hate behaviour like this, especially when the department doing it has been clocked breaking the rules on parking itself!

"Come and have a go...

... if you think you're hard enough!"

Well, that's pretty much what Bill Gates said when launching Windows Vista! The BBC reports: 'Windows Vista is "dramatically more secure than any other operating system released", Microsoft founder Bill Gates has told BBC News.'

Frankly, I think that's tantamount to laying a challenge down to any hacker or virus writer who feels like taking a shot at Vista. Fortunately for me, I intend to stay with Mac OS X, and within that I run anti-virus software anyway.

I'm typing this downstairs on the laptop, while Jill and Nathan are asleep upstairs, shattered after their day out. They went to the pub at lunchtime to meet up with the group of new mothers whom Jill describes as 'the ladies who lunch'. It's great because it's go her out of the house and it's allowed her to share worries. At the moment, her worst worry is the fact that Nathan has only put on 1 oz in the last week. The thing is, he had a cold for a big chunk of the week, and she's feeding him on demand and regularly, so I think that it's probably a mountain made out of a molehill by the health visitor when she weighed him. If he hadn't put on more weight in a few days, then that's the time to worry. He's clear of the cold and feeding well now.

The last few nights have been hell Sad as Nathan has been very grizzly. Three hours sleep has been fantastically long when we can get it. To paraphrase Shakespeare in the Scottish Play:

Methought I heard a voice cry "Sleep no more!
Nathan does murder sleep," the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast. (2.2.32-37)

But then he smiles and it makes it all alright and fantastic. He's opening his eyes up a lot now, and being very alert. Looks gorgeous as a result!

Tonight has been the first night when I've had time to actually do some writing for BITS, but I'm feeling too tired. I had hoped to start trying out Scrivener to see just how good it is. Instead I'll probably mooch for a bit and read Squadron UK, a British Superhero RPG (effectively a rewrite of the game 'Golden Heroes' published in the early 1980s). There's a really nice toucjh in this, as it is dedicated to Matthew Bond, a fellow gamer and friend who died very prematurely last year. Apparently he loved Golden Heroes as much as he loved Traveller.

Over the last few days I've been giving some support to Ad Astra Games for their new Traveller miniatures range which will support Power Projection. They look absolutely gorgeous, and I can't wait to get my hands on them. There are some pictures on the Power Projection site which show how fantastic they are.

I've also been reading the initial draft of one of the new BITS projects; it's an adventure by Dave Elrick set in the Spinward Marches just after the Fifth Frontier War. Dave is a master of writing for Traveller, and really captured the feel of the 'classic' era. I shared some feedback, and can't wait to read the next installment.

I don't do work here on the blog, but I can report that I've actually got a date for the interview to replace the first of two missing people in my team. I can't wait for this to happen as I feel a little like butter spread too thinly on toast, especially as a third team member is off after an operation. It should make life a little less fraught.

Currently feeling: Tired but strangely happy. Happy
Currently listening to: 'Brave' by Marillion.
Currently reading: 'At the Edge of Space' by CJ Cherryh but also 'Squadron UK'.

The pictures are up!

Well, it took a while bit there are a load of new photos up on Flickr which you can reach via the photo album here on the site.

Last night was a bit trying. Nathan didn't want to sleep, so I got three hours in total, which I caught up on earlier tonight when I got it. It's looking like he's being a bit better tonight, and as soon as I have uploaded this I'm off to join Jill and him in slumberland!

On a happy note, we've just heard that one of our friends from work, Mike Fildes, has become a daddy for the second and third time tonight with his two little ones being born safely. His wife Lisa is doing well too. Congratulations! Happy

I N S O M N I A...

It's been a hard few days. Nathan's sleeping hasn't got much better (although he did manage several hours in a row last night) even though the cold is clearing. Now it's nearly gone, he has got very hungry (he wasn't eating a lot at the weekend) and last night we had the joy of him discovering that he could get full and that it wasn't a pleasant situation. It's been especially wearing on Jill, even though my mum and I have tried to help as much as we can.

Grandma and Nathan
My mum arrived at the weekend after JIll's mum had gone home. Looking at the picture here, I've just realised that we didn't get many pictures last week and none with Nathan's maternal gran (or Nan) so I need to rectify that. I have uploaded what we did take.

Anyway, it is (touch wood) looking like we are heading out of the woods at the moment and sleep may return to living memory. Today, Jill and my Mum went out with Nathan, his first non-medical trip. They went to The Kestrel, a local pub that does pleasant meals and apparently had a lot of ice cream. Well, that's my mum and Jill, as Nathan isn't quite that developed. Apparently he slept through the whole thing and was much admired by the people in the pub. He's going to break hearts when he's older! It's great that Jill got out of the house, as I think she may slowly go stir crazy otherwise. I spotted this when she got excited during our recent trip to Morrisons!

Oh, and I was right. The day after we visited the doctor's Jill was told off by the Midwife for feeding Nathan the water exactly as the doctor had told her! Go figure! I guess we're bad parents because we carried on that day as it was obviously helping and in the case of treating a cold I think we'll take the route of common sense and medical opinion.

Currently feeling: Tired.
Currently listening to: Nothing, but the last albums I listend to were the Chemical Brothers' Surrender and Simple Minds' perennially good New Gold Dream.
Currently reading: 'At the Edge of Space' by CJ Cherryh. In theory.

Neurotic, eh?

I'm typing this with Nathan fast asleep in my arms, and the laptop perched on my lap (duh!) on the sofa in the lounge. We've been to the Doctor's today (sent by the midwife) to have him checked out because his hands and feet were a little swollen, and he was suffering with a really blocked up throat. Turns out that he has a cold, and maybe we aren't as neurotic as we thought. We've fed him with expressed milk and a syringe, and he's had more in a sitting than he's had for the last few days. We were treated with a big happy sigh, and now he's fast asleep in my arms. Jill has been told to give him some water if he is excessively demanding. I'm sure that will get her labeled as a 'bad mother' by some of the more militant midwives we met, but he seems happy enough.

Currently feeling: Justified and Annoyed! :-/
Currently listening to: Radio 4 in the background
Currently reading: 'At the Edge of Space' by CJ Cherryh

Official: We're Neurotic!

And that's a good thing! We've had ups and downs the last few days, enough to make it feel like we're on a roller coaster ride! Where to start...

Tuesday - an old friend, Phil, came around to meet Nathan. They hit it off well, but that was to be expected as Phil is a charmer! We patted him down before he left to make sure that Nathan hadn't decided to run off with him! There is a picture on the new shots I've added.

Mellow Yellow!

Thursday, I had to go to another site with work, over on the Wirral, for a meeting. I had to pick someone up on the edge of Manchester on the way, so was planning an early start. Things started to go a little wonky when I met Jill's Dad on the landing, and he told me that Gillian (his wife, not Jill his daughter) had developed a bad cold during the night, so they were planning on going home that day, rather than wait to the weekend. They wanted to minimise the bugs that Nathan was exposed to, and I can't fault that at all. Anyway, the meeting should have finished by 3pm, so they would wait until around 6pm when I would be back before they left.

I left the Wirral to return home at 2.15pm and finally got in our front door at approximately 10.30 pm. It was the trip from hell, and the weather warnings were – for once – very justified. I won't bore you with the details, but each of the following was shut just before we reached it; the M56, the M6 Thelwall viaduct, the M60 Barton Bridge. On top of that, Manchester Gridlocked and took perhaps three hours to cross rather than go around. It wasn't a fun day, but I guess at least I got home, unlike 11 or some unlucky souls. I was absolutely knackered.

Friday had the greatest ups and downs. Nathan started to sleep a lot longer (three and four hours) than ever before, and was showing very little interest in his food. On top of this, he was very nasal and sounded like he was struggling to breathe. Needless to say, this was quite worrying, so we phoned the midwife out of hour number after we couldn't find any descriptions of what he was doing in the baby manuals, and the next door neighbours with more experience than us were out. They told us to go to the Out-of-Hours doctor service at Harrogate Hospital, so Nathan had his first trip out, to the very place he had come from six days before!! Anyway, the doctor checked him out and he was okay. It's probably just a change in his sleeping pattern combined with the fact that he is taking his milk a lot faster. We were officially labeled as neurotic, and then told that the doctor felt that this was a good thing for new parents, and that we should do what we did if anything else changes again. Phew!

There was one disturbing thing. While we waited in the reception, we couldn't help but sit there and listen to twenty minute argument between the reception staff on what to do about an asthmatic who was choking. The Doctor had said to send a car out immediately, but the staff coordinating and the staff in the cars were being somewhat chaotic in trying to agree who would go. They couldn't even decide whether to call an ambulance. If it was a serious asthma attack, the patient could have been in a very bad way by the time they resolved it. I hope they weren't.

Another positive point is that we seem to have got the car seat fastening technique all resolved now! We go it in pretty fast last night, and the initially complex looking threading of the seat-belt becomes second nature very quickly.

Currently feeling: Neurotic (and that's a good thing!)Happy
Currently listening to: Radio 4 in the background
Currently reading: Pulp Egypt (an RPG book)

Night Shift Again...

I'm writing this as Jill is feeding Nathan, the last feed of the evening with the two of us. The last few days have been an interesting experience; returning to work was great, but I was instantly hit with a wall of work with a surprise audit that needs to be prepared for by the beginning of next week. I've managed to get out on time every day since we got back, which I think has surprised us both.

Beyond the late nights, the big change to our schedule is an early evening sleep (maybe for as much as two whole hours!) while Nathan snoozes off his meal. Jill's mum and dad are here at the moment, which is absolutely fantastic. I think we both really appreciate the support. Next week, my mum is coming over as well (kind of a shift change)!

The cat remains bemused by the whole situation!

Currently feeling: Tired, as I have an early start in the morning
Currently listening to: Nothing, as we are watching 'The Riddle of the Sands' on DVD.
Currently reading: Pulp Egypt (an RPG book)

Two Days into the Sleep Deprivation Programme!

Do I have to go home?
It's been an interesting few days, mainly comprising feed, sleep, nappy change, feed, sleep, nappy change.... Jill is struggling with lack of sleep, and it's not been too much fun from that point of view. Of course, it's everything that people say it is, but when Nathan smiles or chirps, it kind of makes up for it all.

I'm due back at work tomorrow, so Jill's parents have come over to give her some support when I'm not around. She's doing pretty well overall, but the breast feedings is hard work, especially on her left side.

If uploaded the final few pictures from the hospital to Flickr, as usual. You can get to them via the photo album.

Welcome Home!

Jill and Nathan came home today! Hurrah! Now I can join in the 'no sleep' fun...
The journey home sent Nathan to sleep quite quickly, once we'd sussed out the car seat. I suspect that he is actually used to the car noise, plus we put on the appropriately named 'To All Arrivals' by Faithless, which used to send him to sleep when he was still in the womb.

It was a very hard night for Jill last night, as Nathan was very hungry, feeding every two hours or so for 30 to 60 minutes. She was absolutely shattered when I got in to see her this morning (early, as she called me in). Hopefully, she can get some sleep now while I sit here with him and finally get the chance to put the Christmas decorations into the boxes.

As an aside, the look on the cat's face was a picture when he started to cry... and I'll upload the picture later on. After a quick look he went and hid upstairs under his duvet-bed!
I've added some photos of Nathan taken yesterday to the usual place.

Nathan discovers his tummy!

Yesterday was good, but it's hard going for Jill. Her wound is hurting, and Nathan has discovered his stomach so is starting to be very demanding on feeding. He's got it all sorted on the right hand side, but is still not quite not sure of the left hand side. He has this cute, but annoying, habit of feeding for a few minutes then nodding off with a happy sigh. Which is frustrating when mummy would really like to sleep.
Jill and Nathan
I finally got some really nice photos of Jill and Nathan doing something other than feeding, which I've added to the photo album to share them.

The big change yesterday was a move from the room that Jill & Nathan have been in since they moved to Pannal Ward out into the ward itself. Apparently, they had a lot of babies born again on Thursday, so the rooms were needed for more C-Section patients. The move itself was simple enough, but I think that they'll need some adjustment to the new area as it's a lot noisier. It was nearly ten o'clock at night by the time that they were settled, and then Nathan decided that daddy hadn't seen a really dirty nappy yet, so did one to give me changing practice before I went home. It was quite an experience, and I now understand the comments some other friends and parents have made about 'how can someone so small make such a big mess?'. Once this was done, the midwife dropped hints so I went home!

Beyond the trip to the hospital, I finally managed to get a haircut, which was great. Funny how the little things make a difference! The Traveller CD ROM also arrived in the post (all the original books and games digitised), which will be useful if I am doing any writing for BITS.

Currently feeling: Ready for another day!
Currently listening to: Nick Clarke's Audio Diary on Radio 4
Currently reading: Pulp Egypt (an RPG book)

Some More Photos

I added some more photos this morning. They're up on Flickr and linked through the Photo Album page as usual!

Nathan sleeping

My Mum & Dad (Grandma & Grandpoppy!) visited last night from over in Cheshire. Nathan had been sleeping like a dream for the last two hours following a feed, and then decided to wet his nappy the moment Grandma held him, starting to cry.
He got a bit fractious then, and the midwives think that it is because he's got ahead of Jill with his need for milk – she's still supplying colostrum but should get the milk today (hopefully!). Aside from this, he's feeding well! Jill was looking a lot better too, except when she sneezed which really hurt.

Nathan Vincent arrives....

Nathan Vincent finally arrived today. Both mum and Nathan are doing well.
Nathan Vincent
The vital stats and more pictures can be found on the photo album pages.
I can sleep well tonight...
Dom (still smiling!)

Day 4 - No News.

Quick update this time, as there is no real news. Jill had the last gel shot of the hormone to try and start her off, but she didn't get to a point as good as the night before. I can't but think if she should have stayed up later last night rather than us both taking the 10 o'clock early night as a big opportunity. When she went to bed the contractions were still increasing in intensity and frequency. We noticed two things over the last few weeks – the baby is more active on alternative days, and that the moment Jill lies down she starts to loose the contractions.

Generally, the staff at Harrogate have been fantastic – I guess the only grumble we have is about the doctor we saw today as his bedside manner needs some work. He certainly doesn't know how to put a worried mum at her ease. It wasn't just Jill that this applied to either – one of her friends had him for her C-Section earlier in the week and he didn't say a thing to her during it, not even 'good morning'.

So where do we go from here? It is looking very likely that Jill will have a C-Section tomorrow if she doesn't go into labour naturally before then. This will probably be mid/late morning, unless the Delivery Suite is busy, in which case it'll be in the afternoon. It'll be interesting if it is delayed, as tomorrow should be Jill's more active day, and it tends to start early afternoon. I hope we do go naturally, but if it doesn't, so-be-it.

Day 3 - Out of the Holding Pattern?

On reflection, today has been pretty good. The extra sleep did me some good, and I went into the hospital (via Starbucks just down the road to pick Jill and I decent teas and coffees) more refreshed than I had for a number of days. Nothing much happened until lunchtime when the specialist checked Jill out. At that point, they decided to give Jill another gel hormone dose. After this, we spent some time having a good natter, playing cards and talking to people on the phone!

Jill on the blower
About two hours after the dose, Jill started to get contractions, initially around 5 mins apart, but gradually getting stronger until they were around 3 minutes apart by the time that I was sent home. A check up some six hours later indicated that the hormone has been doing what it should, so there would be no intervention (except perhaps to encourage Jill's waters to break) today. Jill started to use the TENS machine, which is a wonderful thing (and can be seen in the the photo above on the wristband) for pain relief late afternoon.

We had one final surprise at six, when Jill's sister Paula and her fiance Mark arrived from on the Wirral to see her. They spent two hours with us, and I think that it really helped Jill take her mind off things, certainly in a much better way than games or the TV do. Around ten o'clock, Jill was told to get some sleep, and I was sent home to bed. I'm not sure if I should expect a call tonight or not! We certainly seem to be out of the holding pattern of the last few days.

I guess I've some other things on my mind - my mum is in for an operation tomorrow with a light general anesthetic to allow an injection to be carried out to try and sort out some of her joints. I hope that it will work well and that she recovers soon to see her grandchild! My internet rpg and IT geek chum Tom Zunder (aka The Guv'nor on The Tavern) is also in for an operation with keyhole surgery tomorrow, so I wish him well too!

Currently feeling: Ready for bed
Currently listening to: Faithless, to all new arrivals.
Currently reading: Nothing properly today


I've just had an email from one of my relatives (Hi Dawn!) which likened these posts to a soap opera, so I'm going to do my best at keeping to that standard!

Today was very, very frustrating. At one point, I was even contemplating getting agitated and raising my voice and demanding to know what was going on. But it passed... I guess it was the tiredness and the mixed messages. I went home last night in the knowledge that today was likely to be it - either Jill would have another shot of the hormone gel, or it'd be the drip, or she'd start herself. Unfortunately, they had a rush last night and the delivery suite was nearly full, so the last thing that they wanted to do was to add another lady in labour to the mix.

We didn't find out about this until lunchtime. I'd struggled out of bed after a bad night – Jill not being there and the cat deciding to kamikaze me at 4 in the morning – and got back to the hospital for 8.30am. JIll had a check on the monitor – aka machine that goes ping – when it was quieter at 11am, and the midwife mentioned that they had been busy that night, and they wouldn't have anyone to look further at us until the afternoon. At 1.00pm we had another check, and again it looked like we'd be going somewhere in an hour or two. However, I guess it ended up too late, and they finally confirmed at 10.45pm that nothing would be happening until tomorrow... so I headed home to see the cat and get some sleep.

We agreed I'll go in later tomorrow, and get some of the stuff around the house done that needs doing. I'm glad of this because I'm shattered! I know, all you sage hands who've had kids before will be thinking that "you ain't seen nothing yet if you think that is sleep-loss from kids". I know, but permit this moan for a bit!

Anyway, that's enough for now. Hopefully, tomorrow will show some progress.

Very Quick Update

This is a very quick one, as I'm heading for some shut-eye. Jill and I went in for her to be induced this afternoon. So far, they've had two attempts which have put her closer to where she needs to be for labour, but no luck so far. I've been sent home for some sleep, and I'll be back in first thing tomorrow unless anything happens faster.

Two Piccies - firstly, Jill's ward (she wanted me to use this!):

The Maternity Ward

Secondly, our very own machine that goes 'ping'!

Machine that goes ping!

Night All!

B-Day arrives.

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary and – like Christmas – we had a quiet day. We went down into Wetherby, and had a nice lunch at Bon Appetit. Jill snagged the camera off me and grabbed an ambient light shot she's quite pleased with.

Me at Bon Appetit.

I like it too! It was a really pleasant afternoon, with only the shadow of the induction today hanging over it. There weren't any real developments last night, except Jill having slightly different pains to the ones that she has had for the last few days.

Today we're going in for the induction, so we know the next time that Jill comes home it will be with a baby. Quite a scary thought, as we've now reached the point where something is going to happen, but also quite a relief.

I finally finished The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers last night. It took some getting into, but it's a great tale that links Shelley, Byron and Keats together along with a different take on vampires (or vampyres as it is in the book). I'm glad I read it, but I suspect it won't be high on the re-read list, unlike his other books Declare and Last Call. This book was another from my backlog, which in some cases is a couple of years long. I'm trying to make headway into it now, with the next book after Complicity (which I'm re-reading as I just saw the film of Iain Banks novel) being Eragon. Which should make my mum happy as she bought it for me some time ago!

Anyway, I need to go and get ready for the appointment at the hospital.

Currently feeling: Nervous
Currently listening to: Radio 4.
Currently reading: 'Complicity' by Iain Banks

Ladies who Lunch...

Today, Jill had her weekly 'Ladies who Lunch' meeting with the ladies who were at the Wetherby Midwife sessions. They've kept on meeting up the same day and time since the sessions ended, going to a different restaurant or cafe every week. I think it's great – they're all socialising and sharing their experiences. This week, they met after a gap over Christmas and found out that one of them had given birth four weeks earlier than due, but was doing well. Jill also seemed happy to find out that some of the others were in the same position that she is, late after the due date.

At the moment, we're in the position that Jill will go in to be induced on Friday if nothing develops. So we're kind of hoping that the baby will arrive on our fourth wedding anniversary tomorrow. We'll have to wait and see what happens.

While Jill was socialising, I was in work. I took advantage of a couple of hours to clear some things out of the way for later in the month when I have to go back. It was good seeing people and getting a little bit of normal life for a while.

Currently feeling: Relaxed!
Currently listening to: Nothing.
Currently reading: ''The Stress of Her Regard" by Tim Powers (I had a brief diversion into the Pulp Egypt last night)


Last night was pretty hard for both Jill and I, as the practice contractions continued and kept Jill awake during the night. This in-turn kept me awake, so we both had very little sleep. As I type this, she's gone to sleep because they've stopped. It'll be a brief respite because we are back in at the Hospital today for an internal examination. As this includes a 'stretch and sweep', it may well trigger labour off properly. I'm hoping it will, as it's getting very frustrated.

I start my paternity leave today, which seems appropriate based on the hospital visit. I've chatted to a few of my colleagues and team this morning, which was nice. That, combined with the sunny day, has made me feel somewhat less stir-fry and trapped in the house. The downside to this is that I've just been told that one of my team who left at the end of the year has had some dreadful news. Apparently his wife has been diagnosed with leukemia, which comes on top of his father dying in December. Absolutely awful, and a reminder of the frailties of life.

On a more positive note, I uploaded some more pictures onto Flickr, which are linked through the photo album pages here. They're of Christmas and were partly done to test the new camera.

Currently feeling: Tired!
Currently listening to: Gay Dad "Leisure Noise"
Currently reading: ''The Stress of Her Regard" by Tim Powers (I had a brief diversion into the Savage Worlds RPG last night)

2007 and all that...

Looking back at the last entry, I've just realised my mistake... It's Monday, and it's a Bank Holiday, so of course I'm not back in work today! And I won't be in tomorrow, as Jill will have her internal if nothing has developed by then. So that's that then.

We were in shock last night, as there was a party in the Close with fireworks and loud music. One of the things we've noticed in the four years we've lived here has been that New Year was dead, totally different to Liverpool and the the Wirral. But last night the next door-but-one neighbours had a party. We'd have first footed them, except for the fact that Jill was ready for bed. But it was great to see some life in the close! Of course, the cat hated the fireworks!

Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR! We'll see what today brings...

Currently feeling: Relaxed
Currently listening to: Radio 4
Currently reading: ''The Stress of Her Regard" by Tim Powers

Another Restless Night

We had another disturbed night last night, with Jill getting practice contractions again. It seems to be at its worst every two days, so I'm not expecting a good night tonight. This, more than anything, is getting Jill fed up. We're definitely in that transitory state at the the moment. We were out for a few hours yesterday in town, and got a light lunch out. However, six o'clock came and the pain came again, so we had a very quiet evening. I guess we're also hoping that this timing doesn't mean that we're going to have a very nocturnal child!

The big question comes if the baby hasn't arrived on Monday; do I go back into work to maximise my paternity leave? I think I probably will, but we'll discuss it over the weekend.

Currently feeling: Frustrated
Currently listening to: 'Leisure Noise' by Gay Dad
Currently reading: ''The Stress of Her Regard" by Tim Powers

A Disturbed Night

I should have posted this last night, but the PowerBook battery was flat, and I didn't put it back on to charge in time. We thought that everything was starting during the evening, with Jill getting what she can only describe as contractions. These continued through the night, but stopped this morning, so I've left her dozing. Needless to say, it was a bad night's sleep for both of us.

This morning has dawned a mucky, wet, dismal day that even put the cat off going outside. I don't think that we will get up to a whole load of things, but what we'll do really depends upon developments. I do need to nip into town to drop off a DVD which we watched yesterday afternoon – Superman Returns – and also pop into the bookshop.

Jill's parents went home yesterday, her dad starting to suffer with a bad cold. I think this had prompted them to leave earlier than they'd planned. After they'd gone, we watched the film, had a big falling out with the cat after he decided to savage Jill, and then I had a play with iCalamus.

The House

I've a draft short article which I knocked together on how to use the Nemesis RPG's sanity system in the Call of Cthulhu RPG. It's only about two pages long, so I thought that it would make a good test bed for the DTP package. I went quite far with it last night, but in the end I called it a day, as the image I was using as a backdrop didn't come out the way I wanted. I need to take it back into Photoshop and tone it down so it is lighter, and also mirror it for the facing page. The original shot was one that Jill's dad took of an old house on the Wirral, which I doctored in a (free) package called Image Tricks. I wanted to go for a horror style theme to it and I think that it's worked.

Plus Two...

The first thing to say is that we don't really know any more than we did yesterday! The second thing is that the good night's sleep didn't happen either, as Jill had a moment when she thought things were going to start last night and a very restless night overall.

The trip to the midwife really only gave us three things; the knowledge that the baby is 'a nice size' (whatever that means), the fact that we go back next Tuesday for an initial internal , and finally a date for induction if nothing else happens before then. I guess it also confirmed that the midwife in Wetherby was wrong about how the baby was lying and it is the way that Jill thought. As this was the same midwife who missed the fact that one of her friend's baby was breach, it wasn't a surprise.

We also went ice-skating today. Or at least, we went to a local farm that sells Christmas Trees and such things, and has this year expanded its repertoire to include an ice rink. We didn't actually use the ice rink, as it wouldn't be a smart move in Jill's condition, and certainly not a smart move with my sense of balance. Rather, we had coffee and carrot cake and enjoyed watching the fun as some of the kids tried to do the Cha-Cha Slide on ice!

Currently feeling: Happy
Currently listening to: Torchwood (on in the background)
Currently reading: ''Cavalcade" by Alison Sinclair

A Day Later...

Jill and the Dyson!

Ahh, the perils of the handheld Dyson! It certainly looks like a more intimidating weapon than that used on Christmas Day's Doctor Who Special. This is the scary pose I mentioned Jill striking yesterday!

No real news on the baby front again, beyond more abdominal pains 'like pins and needles' this evening. We're in to the hospital tomorrow afternoon for the appointment that we were told to pre-book, so should know more if nothing has started before. We're very much into the waiting period now. I'm hoping we have a quiet night like we did last night - both of us slept the best we had for a while.

Spent part of the day finishing Terry Pratchett's "Going Postal", which was good fun. It seemed to have parallels with Enron and a number of other businesses when the bean counters take control and loose contact with the product or service they make or provide. Great fun, but no standout lines that are likely to jump into my email sig files, unlike 'The Truth'. I'm starting 'Cavalcade' by Alison Sinclair now to switch back to SF for the first time in a while. Sinclair wrote one of my favourite books of the last few years – 'Blueheart' – which I'm hoping sets a standard that this lives up to. If not, it can go on Bookcrossing. On checking, I've read 92 or so books this year, and I think that breaking 3 figures isn't looking that likely in 2006. But never say never...

We had a drive out today as well, with a walk by the River Wharfe, and then a trip to Harrogate. Jessops was open when we passed, so I got a UV filter to protect the lens on the FZ-50, and a decent case for it. I also shot a few pictures to try it out a bit more, but the light was pretty depressing. I concentrated on shape and form, and grabbed a few family shots, but nothing really leapt out at me. However, it was nice to be using a decent camera again. I forgot how different an SLR style camera is to a compact, and the lens on the Lumix is excellent, making me think far more about framing than I have done for a while. Interestingly, I keep on finding myself shooting around a lengthy of 135mm, which was my favourite fixed lengthy lens on my old Canon AE1-P.

Anyway, that's enough for now. Perhaps there will be some real news when I next write.

Currently feeling: Relaxed
Currently listening to: The Killers "Sam's Town"
Currently reading: ''Cavalcade" by Alison Sinclair

Countdown Suspended...

Well, we've reached the Due Date, and so far there is no real sign of the baby. Jill reminds me that only 5% (apparently) of babies are born on their due date, and that really we didn't want a Christmas Baby because of all the complications with birthdays. The only real signs are that the baby has dropped a little more, and the bump has gone harder. Also, Jill's back to being very restless at night due to cramps in her legs and arms, but fortunately for her it hasn't given her too many problems as she hasn't woken up too much. It's me that suffers – I guess that it's practice for when our baby arrives.

We've spent the day enjoying a traditional meal and presents with Jill's Mum and Dad. They're experiencing the day with us for the first time. It been a nice day, and the fact that I didn't get more than two and a half hours continuous sleep last night hasn't really hit yet. We enjoyed a bit more TV than usual – the BBC really floored ITV this year with Doctor Who and Vicar of Dibley specials, which combined with the rest of the schedule was pretty good. I've been enjoying my new digital camera – to photograph the baby, honest – and Jill has been striking poses from bad Sci-Fi films with her new Dyson Handheld. I think that the latter demonstrates that she is as bad with gadgets as me!

On a happy note, I've just discovered that Skype 2 is finally out for Mac OS X, which means that my Mum and Dad will be able to use their iSight cameras on their Macs to get a video feed from my sister and her children when they get to Germany at the end of January. I think that will mean a lot to grandchildren and grandparents alike. It certainly will mean a lot to me.

Currently feeling: Ready for bed!
Currently listening to: Top of the Pops 2
Currently reading: 'Going Postal' by Terry Pratchett, after finishing 'Perfect', a dark Victorian RPG.

T Minus 2

We think we're nearly there, and not just with respect to the house. The Nursery is complete, with the crib and cot both ready and assembled thanks to my Mum & Dad visiting. The Study is complete and looking great, and the house is starting to return to some semblance of sanity. Perhaps it's the quiet before the storm.

The cat is still oblivious to the changes that are going on, and had fun on Thursday tormenting my parent's Golden Retriever, Ben, by sitting near him and just staring at him, then following him around when he moved away.

Jill's had some practice contractions when we were shopping in town yesterday, and ended up staying in the car while I was sent around Morrisons with a list. I met some of the neighbours there, and had a good chat. They made some very kind offers of help should we need it.

We're having a lazy Saturday – I'm typing this in bed! – as we just realised that it could be our last one for quite a few years. Jill is planning to follow the cat's example with sleep today if she can!

Currently feeling: Relaxed
Currently listening to: 'Any Questions' - BBC Radio 4, but mostly Faithless otherwise.
Currently reading: 'Single & Single' by John Le Carre

T Minus 9: A Rollercoaster of a Week...

Well, the last four days have been pretty crazy. The carpet arrived as planned, but in the afternoon rather than the morning. As it was getting laid, the fitter suddenly asked "Where do you want the join?". Now, the thing is that the nursery is small enough that there should be no need for a join. It appears that the shop miscalculated the size, and missed out one of the geometrical irregularities on the map. Anyway, the fitter managed to put a pretty much invisible joint under where the cot will be, and it looks very nice.

Then Thursday brought the cupboards for the new study and more complications. There are two cupboards - one is the full height and width of the room but only a foot deep, and the other is a normal wall unit that sits over the computer disk. The first problem cam with the latter. Two workmen had arrived to fit it, and it really needed three to fit it. Fortunately, they found some props and things in the garage which meant they could lift it and lock it in place safely. They didn't put the doors on though, as insufficient fixings had been delivered by the manufacturer of the units.

The next complication was that the full height unit would not fit into the room - it was too big. And there was no obvious way to resolve this by splitting it. We were promised that it would be taken away on Friday, and returned Monday. However, whoever came to take it away managed to split the units, and they are now in the room awaiting fixing. They'll look pretty good when everything is completed.

The next disaster came on Thursday night, when the iron fell on the less-than-a-year-old carpet in the front room, and melted it to the weave below. Jill was pretty upset with this, but it looks like it will be covered by the accidental damage clause of the insurance policy. In the mean time, we've made it look a little better with a cut out from an off-cut of the new carpet.

Jill is getting pretty tired now, and also kicked a lot. I think that it's getting frustrating for her, and she is finding it awkward. She struggles to use the bath as it isn't comfortable with the size she is, and I think she wishes we'd reached the end.

Tonight, we have the company Christmas do, which should be fun. Somehow I think we'll be going soon after the meal, as the dance-floor looks right out! I hope we get through without an early arrival...

Currently feeling: Frustrated that I can't make Jill feelbetter.
Currently listening to: 'Excess Baggage' - BBC Radio 4
Currently reading: 'Travels with my Aunt' by Graham Greene

C-Day (or 13 days to go...)

We had a bit of a scare last night, as Jill thought she was having contractions, but everything looks normal now except that the baby has dropped even further! Today ("C-Day") sees the carpet arrive for the nursery, probably early afternoon, which will put things on a far more even keel. At least then some degree of sanity can be achieved with some of the rooms getting free-space. I know, I know, friends have told me to get used to the idea of clutter with children on the way, but one can hope!

I've added some new photos to the Photo album, partly by way of an experiment. because of issues with my web-host (space, access issues) I've started a Flickr account, and this is my first attempt to see how it works. Let me know what you think.

Currently feeling: Content.
Currently listening to: 'Darwin's Beagle Diairies' - BBC Radio 4
Currently reading: 'Travels with my Aunt' by Graham Greene

Finding the Critical Path...

We've found the critical path on the preparations, and it's the carpet for the nursery! Everything hinges on this...

How does this work? The carpet goes into the nursery which means that the chest of drawers and other items of furniture for the nursery can move from the spare room into the nursery. This frees up access to the loft, which means the Christmas decorations can come downstairs. Then, the shelves and the cupboard in the study can come out and go into the spare room. Then the fitted cupboards can come up from the garage and into the study, being replaced in the garage with the shelves etc from the spare room. Finally, we can assemble the cot bed!


The Meaning of Advent

It was only this morning that it struck me how little time is left before the baby arrives and our lives change forever. Jill always gets an advent calendar, and she turned around to me when we were opening the door and said "I guess we could use this as a countdown".

She's completely right; if the baby arrives on its due date, it'll be here on 25 December, Christmas Day itself. Beyond the fact that Advent Calendar's don't count down, they have the same reason - counting the days to a baby's birth!

Today, we finished the Nursery as far as we can until the carpet arrives (next week, unfortunately), which made me feel a lot happier about our preparation. We've also started to move on with Christmas preparations, ordering a fair bit via the internet. What did we do before the mid 90s? I'll post a picture when i get a moment; I'd taken one, but the flash has washed out the colour. It's been a good weekend - I probably should have got more done, but feel a lot better for it.

Currently feeling: Relieved and optimistic.
Currently listening to: 'To All New Arrivals' - Faithless
Currently reading: 'The Riddle of the Sands' by Erskine Childers.

Nursery Update...

The gloss is completed and today should see the border and fittings going back up, along with the new curtains (covered in butterflies). The carpet fitting is booked (sadly, the 12th December so a bit far ahead), so we're nearly completely there!

We had the last ante-natal class this week, which was an interesting experience. One of the couples from the previous course came back with their 7 week old, and then one of the people from our course appeared. His wife had given birth to twins the night before, and he was shattered and elated. There was a scary discussion on the efficacy of epidurals; in the case of the twins it'd worked well (the lady fell asleep during her labour), but in the case of the other couple, the epidural hadn't worked well.

On a positive note, my cold has pretty much broken, and only a tickly cough remains!

Currently feeling: Tired but a lot better in myself. Nervous and excited.
Currently listening to: The Archers Omnibus!
Currently reading: 'The Riddle of the Sands' by Erskine Childers.

Mellow Yellow

I've just finished off painting the walls of the nursery what seems to be a bright yellow, but is allegedly 'Pale Citrus'. I'll have to see how it has settled down in the morning. This means that only the gloss needs doing, which should be reasonably simple as I've rubbed the paint-work down already. This means that the major bits and pieces which are changing in the house are nearly done.

The past weekend, we went to the shop where we bought the 'travel system' (as I must call it, not a pram or push-chair) in the hope of finding a decently priced, solid and drop-sided cot bed in a dark colour to match the rocking chair which Jill is being given by her sister. We were pretty shocked – especially after fruitless searches at Mothercare, Babies R Us and Mamas & Papas – to find exactly what we wanted the moment we walked in. Sometimes it just happens that way! It was even more of a surprise to find that it was in stock, so we bought it. It fitted well into the Avensis boot (which reminds me why we bought the 'sensible' car) and is now safely home, awaiting assembly. Fortunately, that isn't time critical as my mother is recommissioning the cot that my sister and I, and my nieces and nephews used.

I got some good news tonight - Sam, my brother in law, has finally got his promotion to Staff Sergeant. The downside to this is that they may not be coming back to UK after all, and could end up in Canada or Germany for the next two to three years after they leave Cyprus. Exciting times for my sister's family, no doubt, and a well deserved promotion for Sam.

Currently feeling: A lot better - just a dry tickle of a cough, and some tiredness.
Currently listening to: Muse "Black Holes and Revelations"
Currently reading: Spirit of the Century RPG and 'The Riddle of the Sands' by Erskine Childers.

5 weeks to go

On the way to the ante-natal class on Wednesday, Jill reminded me that it was only 5 weeks to go until our life changes completely, and that's assuming that we don't get blessed with an early arrival. That means that it's even more important that I get the nursery stripped and painted this weekend, something which hasn't been helped by catching man-flu (!) off one of my team earlier in the week. I should be asleep now, but I'm pretty heavily blocked up and suffering from it.

The clear out has increased the size of the pile of stuff for eBay, with some Call of Cthulhu material being added because I can't see myself ever playing with it. It's gorgeous, but all it does is eat shelf space! I'm dreading putting the material up (the time needed!) so it's going to wait until after I get the room done.

Jill is bearing up well - it's the first week of her maternity leave, and she has been getting used to the change. She had an expedition to the Mamas & Papas factory shop in Huddersfield, and came back commenting on how expensive everything was. I'm finding it strange not to be meeting her at work anymore at lunch etc. and also getting a lot of questions after her from the ladies in work.

The cat is probably the most disturbed member of the household at the moment - he seems to know that something is going on, and has made me his favourite person now, not Jill. She's a bit put out by this. I don't think he wants to compete with the bump for space or attention!

Weather is lousy, but I guess that really makes me focus on the need to do the nursery!

Currently feeling: Full of cold.
Currently listening to: The Killer's "Sam's Town" and Gorillaz "Demon Days"
Currently reading: Mythic Russia RPG

Sleep Deprivation

I'd foolishly thought that sleep deprivation began after the baby arrived, but have been discovering the truth that it starts a lot earlier than that over the last few weeks!

Jill was very restless when she was first pregnant, but settled down. The last fortnight or so have been interesting as she has been restless, but not woken up with it. Rather, she's done a great job at waking me every one to two hours, which is a killer as usually I go straight back to sleep before I think of using the spare bedroom! It happened again tonight, and I feel shattered. In some ways I'm looking forward to the work trip just south of Gatwick as – hopefully – I'll get two good night's rest.

The weekend saw some serious work in the house - most of the study has been relocated from where it was (now to become the nursery) into a smaller room (which used to have the 'library' and spare sofa-bed) to allow us to get on with painting etc. Slowly, everything seems to be coming together.

I was invited out next weekend to see Tom and play some boardgames, but decided to cancel (even though it would've been a great time to try Hammer of the Scots or Crusader Rex face to face). Jill had said yes, but it was pretty clear that she wanted me to get the other room (and the related huge pile of eBay stuff) sorted out. Hopefully, I'll get another chance to actually play some of these kewl games soon!

Currently feeling: Tired
Currently listening to: Kaiser Chiefs 'Modern Way', Mansun 'Wide Open Space'

Books & Baby Pictures

I've just started to add some book reviews which I originally did at the Tavern to the Books section. I've also added a new Photo album with the baby pictures in.


I guess that I haven't been updating this as fast as usual, but there is a good reason. Life is slowly getting more complicated (and I guess that we can only blame ourselved) as we are expecting our first child. We've had three sets of scans now, and everything seems to be going well.

The first one was just to confirm that Jill was pregnant (!) and gave us an interesting estimated due date...

...25 December! So it'll be an interesting Christmas. The first picture doesn't show a lot, but the later scans show a scary amount of detail. We got called in two weeks early by mistake, and ended up with an extra picture.

17 week scan

Twenty weeks showed even more. We didn't ask what sex, because it doesn't really matter to us so long as the child is healthy.

20 week scan

The last scan confirmed the expected due date.

Naturally, I've been developing a long list of things to do, with Jill's help. The nightmare will be merging the 'study' and 'library' (in reality Bedrooms 3 & 4) into a single room. I've started sorting with a fair few books going to charity shops, BookCrossing.com, and some friends. The games which I haven't used in a long time have started to head to eBay (currently on hold from the joys of Royal Mail changing its postal charges).

On top of this, I've started the job that has plagued me for the last three years - painting the outside window and door frames. I've managed to complete the downstairs over the last two weeks, but rain has stopped play this weekend! I'm glad Jill found the tip for the painter's 'George' which makes doing the edges much more difficult.

Stag Do Madness!

Photos from Jon's Stag do are now up! The scary photo below is me (right) and him (left!)...

Just Married

Brighton Rocks!

I've just spent the weekend in Brighton, to celebrate my friend (and former best-man) Jon's forthcoming nuptials with the glamourous Becky (who I will always remember for being described as "that lovely girl in the red dress who sang opera and got slightly drunk at your wedding").

Jon was a little nervous (okay, a lot nervous) about the events that his brother Andy (his best man) had planned for him, probably dating back to his 21st birthday and earlier. On that occasion, Andy tied him to a lamp-post at night on the main student thorough-fair in Southampton with only his boxer shorts for company. There were a number of kerb-crawling lasses from the uni giving him a bit of banter. Now, Brighton is famous for a number of things – its pier, the book 'Brighton Rock' and its counter-culture (it vies with Blackpool as a famous gay hot-spot – so I think that Jon was probably right to worry.

Fortunately for him, Andy remembered that he too was taking the plunge into matrimony later in the year, so only mildly humiliated Jon with a mock Scouser get up outfit. I think he was worried that he'd reap the seeds he sewed in 12 months time. The picture below is of Jon, in outfit, and I'll post some photos later!

Is Big Brother watching You?

This weekend, I was listening to the radio, and happened upon a police officer making a strong defense of the fact that the police had retained more than 24,000 DNA samples from juveniles who had never been convicted, charged with an offense or cautioned. (You can find the BBC's take on this here.) Of course, this will also be going on for adults who happen to have come into contact with the police in a similar manner.

The Minister responsible mouthed platitudes that 'there are safeguards in place'. The database is being built up because the Police are allowed – at their discretion – to hold this data after enquiries, no matter what the outcome is. Part of the justification given is the fact that it's needed for the 'War on Terror'. I suppose that DNA evidence would help identify a juvenile suicide bomber's body parts, but it isn't going to stop the attack. Decent human-intelligence is needed for that. Isn't this just a stealth way of building a national database of DNA without a review of the civil liberties questions involved?

Let's add another twist. It's already recognised that the UK is one of the heaviest users of CCTV, and on top of this there is a lot of working going on on facial recognition (examples here and here) to improve the ability to track and identify people. On top of this, we've now got a new proposed road pricing system being developed that will allow the government to track the location of every vehicle at any time. (Here.)

Am I getting paranoid, or is it possible that Orwell's 1984 is finally starting to come true with new technological development spearing on the changes? Is "Big Brother" starting to watch us all?

And the scary thing is that most of the UK political parties see this a a good thing.

Happy New Year!

A happy 2006 to you all! May it bring all you want!

Cheers, Dom

Letters from the Past

I've just added a new section to the website – family letters from the 1940s. They're scans of two letters that my grandfather received from his brother in 1940 and 1942. I've kept them as part of the family heirlooms!

Birthday Presents

I was fortunate that I received a number of CDs for my birthday, some of which have been really great. I also picked up some more to add to the blend.

Madness - The Dangerman Sessions Vol 1.
I used to love Madness when I was young but kind of lost touch when I got into rock, except for a brief encounter when their Greatest Hits Album came out while I was at Uni. This album is a real feel-good one. It's a lot of covers - tracks like 'Lola' and 'Shame & Scandal' really put a smile on your face. As a friend put it - 'Real Friday Afternoon Music'.

Simple Minds - Black & White 050505
Now, I'm not sure what the 050505 bit is all about, but this is a continuing return to form from a band that I used to love a decade ago. There was a real dive in quality in their albums after 'Real Life', but I was re-inspired by 2002's 'Cry'. So much so that we used a track in our wedding disco start up. Black & White is a different beast to its more electronic predecessor, but an excellent album all the same. The first two tracks - 'Stay Visible' and 'Home' are punchy and enjoyable, with an energy that has been missing for a while. 'Stranger' reminds me too much of Madonna, but after that there are classics like 'Underneath the Ice', 'Different World' (which really reminds me of the Good News album) and the final track 'Dolphins'. It's not going to set the world alight, but it's a fine album.

The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers
It's a crime that this didn't win the Mercury. This debut album is upbeat, fun, harmonious and well made. Fantastic quality. The band are two pairs of brother/sister singer songwriters, and the whole album is uplifting and leaves me with a smile. Truly excellent, and I look forward to their next CD. What did annoy me was the way that EMI had set this up on iTunes so it can't be bought as an album fro £7.99. You have to buy the songs as individuals which makes it £11, so I bought the disc rather than the download. Had to wait an extra day, but it was worth it.

I've also got Goldfrapp 'Supernature' and Gwen Stefani's new album, but I haven't listened to either enough to have an opinion yet.

Cats & Board Games

I settled down with my new board-game 'Hammer of the Scots' tonight, half watching the Liverpool match (as it wasn't especially exciting), with the idea of getting to understand the rules.

Sadly, I made the mistake of setting up on the floor. This meant, just as the first game year came to an end – with the Scots in control of the area around Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the English pushed to the extreme north-east – the cat noticed the new game. I'm not sure that his move was legal (encircling and knocking over the English blocks with his paws, and trying to pick up and bite Wallace) but it was quite funny. Perhaps he thinks he's a special UN peacekeeper! He ran off when I challenged whether he was cheating!

Compare and Contrast...

Well, firstly, kudos to Symantec. The day after I last posted, they sent me an update saying Norton Anti-Virus X had shipped, and then the package arrived on Tuesday. As it was too big for the mailbox, I went and collected from the Post Office on Wednesday. Once I got home, it was the usual safe boot followed by an hassle-free install. My first impressions are that Norton AV is finally starting to get it together for the OS X. It looks a lot better than either AV8 or AV9.

Anyway, onto compare and contrast. In this case, the US Postal Service / UK Royal Mail, and UPS. Recently, I've ordered two different items from the US, one of each came into the UK via each service. Let's see how they compare.

Item 1 - a case and USB cable set for my Treo 650 Smartphone. I bought from the US because the Treo is established there and only just became available here in the UK. The perils of being an early adopter! Total value was just over £12 and it wasn't VAT exempt, so unfortunately customs charges ensued. UPS arrive with the package, demanding £18 for clearance and VAT payment. No warning, and, no, they don't give change. Not to mention that the VAT total is only around £2 of the £18 charged! The attitude of the driver really sucked. The whole experience compares well to my previous interaction with UPS, and also to my better half's experience of them a few years ago. Sadly, UPS wasn't optional.

Item 2 - two block games total cost of around £60 from Columbia Games in the USA. I bought these direct from the manufacturer as they don't do distribution anymore as they've been stung by collapses too often. The package came via US Postal Service, and then Royal Mail. I got a note through the door with the charge details and went to the local Post Office to collect the same day. The service was polite and helpful, and the clearance handing charge was around £4 plus £10 for the VAT.

So, in this case, the state owned services win over supposedly customer focussed private industry!