Catching Up

March 3, 2009

Life at the moment is manic. Between my day-job, photo-work, generally attempting to be less of a part-time parent / neglectful husband as well as captaining a failed rugby team it would appear I have been rather poor at doing my part to fill the internet. Moaning about being busy is neither entertaining nor unusual, <OverlyEnglishAccent>but one must do ones duty what what…</OverlyEnglishAccent>

Brief highlights:

  • To say Maggie is now crawling would be an overstatement, but she is definitely now mobile. Gone are the days of putting her down and expecting to find her where you left her 🙂 . She is our resident Sniper. She also seems to have developed a sixth sense for things she’s not allowed to play with – marbles, shoes, Lego, pens … These are problems we never had before as when we last had a Sniper in the house Bart was still on quite child friendly toys where as now it seems everything they have seems to have removable this and detachable that.
  • I Offered to host a family photo day for my children’s school, in order to raise funds for the “Parents Society” (PTA). Have now learned that I might have been better to have kept my big mouth shut as I have jumped through sooo many hoops already and it’s not until Sunday … Note to self … Do not offer self up as human sacrifice in future! Bad Idea! Not even to raise money!
  • Bart and Lisa’s reports came through … much as expected.
    • Lisa’s report gushed about this angelic child that works hard, self motivated, plays nice with others … all the thing you want to hear.
    • Bart’s report clearly points out, although through a vale of Teachereese that Bart needs to clam down and concentrate more. He is too easily distracted and could do better. However they then begrudgingly point out that he as aced his exams. – What reaction am I expected to give to that? He should be working harder … but he got 100% in verbal reasoning … so I would probably loose the argument anyway 🙂
  • Swimming, swimming, swimming … I seem to spend most of my otherwise free time, shepherding one or both of my children to/from swimming. Bart had time trials to get into the swim team, but being that he has spent the past year staunchly refusing to use his legs as anything other than an anchor, I fear it may be a long-shot. On the plus side is that Lisa just got moved up a class in her Sunday swimming lessons and will be swimming at the same time as Bart … which should reduce the time spent by up to 2 hours … unless Bart does make the team and then all bets are off.
  • I attended a belated Darwin Day lecture last Tuesday by Professor Armand Leroi which was fascinating. Once I found the lecture hall that is. I wondered if it was some form of selection along the lines of “You have to be at least smart enough to get to the lecture, in order to attend” Thankfully I just about scraped in 🙂 They obviously don’t have a cartography department in the university!
  • It is almost spring so I have been harassed encouraged to sort out our gardens. We bought the house with a very nice, fairly large, well maintained garden. Since the purchase I now understand that to mean “Time Sink”.
  • I reclaimed some of this time by “reading” The Time Traveller’s Wife via audiobook whilst doing the gardening. This book was amazing (I will talk about it separately), however it did result in a lesson on audiobooks. You must pay attention to where you are going to listen to certain books as I power-washing the front drive whilst crying over a certain section of the book some of the spray came back and collected around the vicinity of my eyes.
  • Mrs Geek has been arranging our summer holiday. Scouring the internet for camp-sites in the south of France in order to play catch-up on some of the sunshine that we are so desperately craving here in Not-So-Sunny Northwest England. I refuse to wish my life away (especially as everything to do with the kids seems to be so temporary) but I am SOOOO looking forward to three solid weeks of sunshine (barring unreasonable freak weather conditions!)

I am sure there are probably many other things that I have overlooked, but I will stop here or it will never get posted.

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The Kite Runner

February 18, 2009

A number of weeks back now, I listed my favourite books and I realised that I had not actually read any fiction since LAST APRIL! So I decided that I would force myself to read something.

The Kite RunnerI was keen however that I was not to end my “book fast” with another disapointment, so I took comfort in numbers. I think I am probably the last remotely literate person on the planet to have read it, as I think everyone has recommended it to me at one time or another, but I finally decided to read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

I will start by saying that it was an incredibly powerful and compelling book, but not one to read if you want cheering up. Set against a potted version of the sad history of Afghanistan, the book tells the story of a Pashtun boy named Amir and his attempts to gain the affections of his father and his relationship with his Hazara servant/childhood friend Hassan.

Amir starts as a difficult character to like as we repeatedly see him make decisions that, be it through spite or through cowardice, would directly or indirectly cause harm to Hassan despite Hassan’s relentless unwavering loyalty. However over time I found that his circumstances and the heavy burden of guilt that he carried caused me to soften my dislike for him. It is hard for me to condemn someone for their poor decisions during childhood. (Not that I did anything all that bad, but we all do things we may grow up not be very proud of … )

There are however times when the story line seems to creak a little. For example there are numerous occasions where the story gives away Chekhov’s gun way too easily, and when the story’s true villain, “Brass Knuckles Assef” tells Amir that “This is not over” and “I’m a very patient person” the author seems to go beyond the realms of coincidence to make this seem like cunning foreshadowing.

Other than that… I hesitate to take my history from fiction, but as someone that had heard of Afghanistan but prior to 9/11 could not have even placed it on a map, I found the abridged history contained within the story to be fascinating. A story of a people oppressed by regime after regime in a horrifying downwards spiral reminiscent of an Orwell novel.

So despite the odd minor criticisms, this book is a real page turner. I will however point out that to say that this is not exactly an uplifting book would be like saying that the Mamiya DL28 is a bit pricey … a serious understatement, make sure you are in an emotionally stable enough place before starting out on this book 🙂


A Little Daydreaming

February 11, 2009

I seem to have something against people reading my blog, in that each time I start getting new readers I then have an attack of life getting in the way and the next thing I know I have been absent for [insert large duration here] and I find myself back to where I was before.

So in an attempt to stop the blog from going any colder than it already has, I will do what I often do in these situations and unscrupulously steal borrow inspiration from somebody else 😆

Today Just A Mom asked

If you could take off for a day all by yourself where would you go and what would you do?(please click here … it will ease my conscience over the theft repay the gift of inspiration 🙂 )

I replied, with a scaled back version of what is below, but it got me daydreaming and I decided to share 🙂

Jardin-Du-LuxembourgFor me, there is a park in the centre of Paris called Jardin du Luxembourg.

Whilst being surrounded by the some of the most beautiful architecture and statues, with un-ignorable history in every direction, whilst being in one of Europe’s busiest cities as well as having many small children playing nearby, somehow this place feels like the most tranquil place on earth.

Chess in Jardin Du LuxembourgThis is where I would spend the day. With the aid of a good book and the odd trip to a local café for hot chocolate, I would spend my hours luxuriating in this blissful stolen peace, amongst the elderly French men playing chess and more fountains than you could shake a stick at.

I would round the day off by returning to the street restaurant on the Champs-Élysées that Mrs Geek and I visited when we were expecting Lisa, where I would once again sample their divine culinary skills by indulging myself with a very rare steak followed by crème brûlée.

I think the only thing to mar this day would be the fact that the original question stated that I was to be “all by yourself”, and as much as this would be an overwhelmingly good day, I think I would struggle to get past the fact that I wanted to share the day with Mrs Geek who I know would probably enjoy the above at least as much as I would.

While I am conscious not to wish my time away (quite the opposite), I do look forward to one day taking this particular daydream and turning it into a reality.

So am I just a freak, or do others have little snapshots of life that they have tucked away until a more suitable time?


Damn you Bloglines

January 29, 2009

Arrhhhh!!!

Why is bloglines failing me? I like many others love the convenience of bloglines for keeping all my feeds together, and I therefore keep up to date with all of the blogs that I follow. But for some reason it has started to rebel against me. I know I have a lot going on in there, but I am sure I am not a power user if such thing exists.

It has been totally overlooking some people’s posts, even dropping feeds altogether. Why bloglines why! I trusted you! And now I what shall I do … I am not about to start doing things manually, but my work blocks Google reader, does anyone know of any other decent ways to keep track?

P.S. If you feel I have been ignoring you lately, I apologise and blame it all on bloglines! Give me a kick and I will ensure it is back in there 🙂


On a Lighter Note

January 28, 2009

Well actually not that light … that is the point.

OK so I may have put on a little weight. I don’t see how. I have formulated a diet based on an extensive use of Google to come up with the diet I was most likely to stick to. And I feel I have, yet it seems not to have worked. Now I have no experience of Weight Watchers or any related schemes, so maybe I am doing something wrong, so if any of you do have and can tell me where I am going wrong I would appreciate it 🙂

The principles I have been adhering to are as follows:

1. If you eat something and no one sees you eat it, it has no calories.

2. If you drink a diet soda with a candy bar, the calories in the candy bar are cancelled out by the diet soda.

3. When you eat with someone else, calories don’t count if you don’t eat more than they do.

4. Food used for medicinal purposes NEVER count, such as hot chocolate, brandy, toast and Sara Lee Cheesecake.

5. If you fatten up everyone else around you, then you look thinner.

6. Movie related foods (Milk Duds, Buttered Popcorn, Junior Mints, Red Hots, Tootsie Rolls, etc.) do not have additional calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one’s personal fuel.

7. Carrot cake is a vegetable and counts as one of your 5 a day.

8. Cookie pieces contain no fat– the process of breaking causes fat leakage.

9. Things licked off knives and spoons have no calories if you are in the process of preparing something. Examples are peanut butter on a knife making a sandwich and ice cream on a spoon making a sundae.

10. Foods that are frozen have no calories because calories are units of heat. Examples are ice cream, frozen pies, and Popsicles.

11. Foods that have the same colour have the same number of calories.
Examples are: spinach and pistachio ice cream; mushrooms and white chocolate.

NOTE: Chocolate is a universal colour and may be substituted for any other food colour.


Stop Jenny From Hurting Others!

January 23, 2009

OK. So my last post was a silly one, make no mistake this one is Deadly Serious.

I will again start with the disclaimer that, with this post, I hope to neither cause offence, or to patronise. However I am aware that it is a hot topic, and those that disagree with my position may feel that I have done both.

I remember when we had Bart there was a big controversy over the MMR vaccine (Measles, Mumps and Rubella). Was it safe? Did it have links to autism?

Bart was born back in 2000, just a couple of years after Andrew Wakefield had published his paper on the link between MMR and autism, and so we were making the decision during the peak of the controversy. Even though every radio show and TV talk show was giving equal credence to both sides, once you scratched the surface it was clear which side the evidence was accumulating. Wakefield’s initial study was based on 12 children who had developed autism spectrum disorders soon after having their MMR vaccination.

While this was cause for concern and reason for further investigation in itself it proved nothing. That is the way science works … a hypothesis is formed based on initial observation, it is then followed by a detailed study to prove or disprove the hypothesis.

Each subsequent study hopefully being subject to tighter controls and applied to a statistically significantly larger test group, and therefore increasing its reliability and therefore relevance to the debate.

In this case, when you look at this evidence, the tighter the test, and greater the test group, the less deviation these tests showed from the statistical average.

This strongly indicates that MMR presents no statistically significant increased risk of autism. Let me repeat that … MMR PRESENTS NO STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT INCREASED RISK OF AUTISM!

Thus Bart got his Jabs, and subsequently so did Lisa and now Maggie.

The problem is due to the controversy and the way the media insist on giving balance, you still get programs where you have one person from each side giving their point of view. The problem with this “Balance” is that the overwhelming weight of medical opinion is being represented by one person, and a fringe few by another. This was bad enough.

But now we have celebrities entering the fold. Jenny McCarthy, yes with her MTV medical credentials, has decided to take the anti-Vaccine fight to the public. So now we have one anonymous doctor who is representing the majority of medical opinion verses a celebrity mom who blames the vaccines for her child’s autism. Now I feel very sorry for Ms McCarthy, and I understand her desire to have somebody/entity to blame, but she is consequently endangering innocent children.

Last year in the UK alone there were 1,217 cases of measles from January to November. This has caused the UK to be labelled as “one of the worst countries in Europe for measles”.

I will stress that obviously this is not by any means a medical blog, it is merely that this subject captured my attention 8 years ago and only seems to become more and more important. I also understand that you would be even crazier to take medical advice from “Some Bloke on the Internet” than Jenny McCarthy (Although not by much), but I do urge you that if you are in any doubt whether to immunise, do some research, read some of the following.

stopjenny.com More on the surrounding of the Jenny McCarthy story and why she is wrong.

The Times article on Wakefield’s conflict of interest.

Wikipedia list studies since Wakefield’s Lancet publication overwhelmingly indicating there is no link between MMR and vaccination.

Phil Plait talks about the American problems of the Anti-Vaccine movement

Or for far a more detailed look at this topic than I can begin to offer, Autism’s False Prophets by Paul A. Offit

Please note that I am not attacking parents that have chosen not to vaccinate their child, I am sure that they have made the decision based on the evidence presented to them at the time (although I do hope to direct them to more recent and scientifically accepted evidence). I know it seems to be the default fall back, but I do feel much of the mainstream media have indeed let parents down (Don’t get me started on Oprah!).


Miracle Landing By Super Pilot

January 20, 2009

OK. We all heard about the plane crash where they all walked away last week, right?

Emergency LandingEveryone has rightly praised the pilot for pretty much single handedly saving the lives of all the passengers. However, since then people have been throwing out statistics such as there is only a 2% chance of the plane not breaking up on contact etc …

Am I the only one to notice the implicit challenge in this? There must be blokes everywhere thinking … “I could have done that” … and the worrying thing is a small percentage of them are probably pilots. MSNBC is even giving instructions

I for one will be avoiding air-travel in the near future … at least until the testosterone levels have returned to normal and the pilot is once again deemed to be mortal!