Sunday, December 31, 2006

Reflections on 2006

Olivia Graduation
Olivia receiving her degree at the University of Washington Commencement Cermony, 10th June, 2006

The past year was great. There were quite a few memorable "highs" and not too many "lows". Possibly the best moment was daughter Olivia's graduation from University of Washington with a very creditable Bachelor's degree in Psychology (with loads of additional honours for rowing, leadership etc) back in June. Definitely a good outcome after 21 years of conspiracy/worry. Well done, O, -now just make sure you get into medical school. I'll post a resized photo in due course. Something seems to be awry with my scanner just now and I doubt it has anything to do with the amount of champagne I've just consumed -in any case I'll try to fix it on the morrow.

Have a great New Year's Eve, everybody and stay safe (if in doubt take a cab).

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Forty Years Ago Today

First car
Mad Pup with first car; a pedal-powered Maserati -the only type of this marque I'm ever likely to afford.

While we're on the topic of things automotive, it was 40 years ago today that I passed my driving test. It was my first attempt. I was also the first person in my class at school to gain my driving licence and gained minor celebrity status as a result. Forty years though, it doesn't seem possible -doesn't time fly when you're having fun!?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Mad Dog Rallying Update

Rallying in snow
Mad Dogs on the Winter Challenge Rally 2001 (2nd in class, 13th overall)

Several people have asked me about rally plans for 2007. Earlier this year I proclaimed that the Mad Dog Rally Team would enter the 10th Monte Carlo Historique (MCH) event to be held in January, 2007. The repair of PRX 720B was completed and a rebuild mapped out with Bill Richards. Lots of upgrades to performance and safety (especially considering out altercation with a wall in 2005) were planned. Better still we obtained very valuable sponsorship from a major parts supplier as well as a US-based automotive magazine. But despite this promising start things slowed down mid-year and we failed to secure an additional major sponsor. It's an expensive business to be competitive in the MCH and in the absence of a personal fortune external funding is essential. Following this letdown I felt quite despondent about the future of the car and decided that one rally every couple of years didn't justify the the expense of keeping it in cosy lockup the rest of the time, so relcutantly I put it on the market.

I received quite a few enquiries including one or two that were serious. The publication of advertisment corresponded with a trip to the UK and needless to say I popped in to Bill Richards racing for a chat. In retropect this was not the most sensible thing to do if I'd wanted to remain objective. After sharing several glasses of good shiraz with Bill being exposed to an evening of his infectious enthusiasm I decided to pospone the sale for now and agreed that we will definitely enter the 2008 event (just one year away). The rebuild will start in January and I can assure you that the next iteration of PRX will be seriously hot: faster, stronger, safer and more reliable than ever before. The team is all on board and the sponsors are happy. Now we just need one more major investor to cover the entry fees (3000 Euro). So if any deep pocketed readers want to back the team in return for some substantial publicity please let me know.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cultural Observations: No.1, Phonophilia in the UK

English phones
Passengers on a UK train indulging in the national pastime.

What is it with the English and their phones? Stand one of them alone in a room/train/bus for more than 30 seconds and I guarantee they will pull out their mobile. Sometimes a phone call results but mostly they fiddle. I'm not sure what they do: check messages? check texts? write texts? web surf? play games? all of the above? Possibly they have cooler phones on the other side of the Atlantic or they've become more adept at SMSing (which seems to have just caught on here: I think the US is about 6 years behind Europe on this particular fad). Whatever it is the behaviour seems quite compulsive and much more evident than in the American counterparts. If you have any theories on this social phenomenon please feel free to speculate below.

P.S. And in case you were wondering it was I who took the photo of the above two gentleman with my own phone: they were clearly too absorbed in their telephonic twiddling to notice what I was doing!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Storm damage
A view of some of the storm debris at Mad Dog's kennels.

Earlier in the month I made a lightning pre-Christmas trip to the UK to organise some collaborations. While there I survived a tornado in North London and radiocactive contamination (I hope -at least I don't appear to be glowing, yet) from polonium 210 at UCL Hospital where the unfortunate Mr. Litvinenko met his recent demise. On the night of my return to Seattle I was, in a slightly self-congratulatory manner, I admit, contemplating my near misses before retiring to bed quite exhausted. I was woken up at 2.00am by the most violent wind storm and noticed that the power had gone out. The next morning, still without power, I surveyed the damage. It was quite unbelievable. Trees were down everywhere and millions of people were without electricity in Washington State, a wretched situation that continued for over week for some unfortunates. It took me a whole weekend to clean up the mess in my garden and heaven knows how long it will take me to dispose of the piles of debris. Oh Lord, I promise I won't be smug ever again...!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Everybody!