Monday, December 31, 2007

Reflections on 2007

MD and Offspring in Seattle Last Week (in case anyone dares suggest this is a studio picture, I can tell you that we nearly got frostbite getting this shot).

Well there's another year gone (and don't they just fly by these days -one of my resolutions for 2008 will be to not blink). 2007 was by no means bad. Several longstanding personal issues were finally resolved and in many ways closed a quite painful chapter of my life and opened a new one which promises to be very exciting in 2008 and beyond. Work was very rewarding and also moved up a gear: I'm certainly not short of projects for the next year or so. Travel was highlighted with four major international trips taking in Ireland, France, Greece, UK (x3) and Thailand and as many more domestic jaunts. A quick glance at the calendar tells me that things will be just as frenetic in 2008. Let's hope health and sanity hold out over the next 12 months. Now enough introspection -it's time to drink some champagne!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A White Christmas!

White Christmas

Well it wasn't exactly a blizzard but we did have a significant snowfall here in Seattle today (even if it was a bit wet and rainy too).

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

I don't want to overdo this YouTube cross-posting business but in keeping with an encroaching mood of pre-Christmas insouciance (or is it hysteria?) here's a clip of total genius featuring the incomparable  Noel Coward.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

'Fings Ain't What They Used To Be

Mad Dog, at school side door, 1967

John 2007
Mad Dog, at school side door, 2007 (note to self: don't tuck a scarf into a buttoned up jacket as it makes you look fat)

Somebody, maybe Chertz, said "...depression is the price you pay for nostalgia...". Sometimes true, perhaps, but not always. It depends on the circumstances. If it were, I'd be reaching for a catering pack of anti-depressants by now. On my recent trip back to the UK, I met up with my brother and for a morning we indulged in a shameless walk down memory lane including visiting our old school in surburban Surrey. It was a training day and the building was closed (sounds like a skive to me -these things didn't exist when I was a pupil). The caretaker noticed the two middle-aged men lurking suspiciously in the driveway and after we had convinced him we weren't hooligans he invited us in. Well nostalgia is not a strong enough word to convey the emotions that followed. Still there in the entry hall were the boards with the gilt-enlaid names of all the Head Boys and Girls. The main hall itself, the scene of maybe a 1000 assemblys when I was there, not to mention plays concerts as well as some mass interrogations from the Principal (a future blog topic), looked exactly as it was 40 years ago. The place even smelled the same. Oh memories, what thou art?

Never mind the Prozac, I'm off to pour myself a stiff single malt...!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Monte Carlo Countdown: Start -45 Days

I can't explain the allure of classic rallying. Something about challenging myself but Heaven knows that there are less elaborate and certainly less expensive ways of doing this. But trying to maintain a steady speed of 45 Kph (accurate to 1:100th of a second up a snowy mountain road, often no wider than a cart track) is as exciting as it is physically and intellectually demanding. This clip from the 2007 event captures the gestalt.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Another Sidebar Cleanup

It's time for another tidy-up of the sidebar. Thus I've purged dead links and also removed some that no longer quite pique my interest. And I've added a few new ones although sensible suggestions for fresh and exciting sites are most welcome. I've also got rid of a lot of junky buttons that mostly didn't work.  Anyway here's the summary:


Baghdad Burning
Writer and family have left Baghdad for safety reasons. Poor buggers.

No longer about science.

Mini Crazy
Stefan –where did you go?

Rockall Times
Tag line “There’s f*** all on Rockall”. Blogging finished a long time ago and now there’s just f*** all.

This excellent site was brought down by malicious hackers. Bastards. Now it’s reverted back to its roots (Shakespear’s Sister).

Tiny Voices in My Head
Dawn has given up blogging to be a rock star. Best of luck (said without irony).

Two Glasses
The posts were more and more about sports I don’t understand (y’know, the American ones) and less and less about politics.

Walking the StreetsMr. Stickers has moved to Canada and now only operates a closed blog.


I’m cheating here as I quietly added this one a little while back. Anyway, an excellent bio-science/medical blog by Tara Smith.

Arse Poetica
Great political commentary.

Canadian Cynic
Excellent snarky socio-political commentary from a hilarious Canuck.

English Soldier
Fascinating diaries of an English soldier in WW1: I love this historical stuff.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What's in a Name?

View over the Vercors Plateau last week

You have to love the way the French name places and geographical features. While the English have some delightfully eccentric places such as Pratts Bottom, Foul End, Great Snoring and Thong, the French seem to have a much more literal approach. As Bill Richards and I drove around the mountains in south central France last week on our rally recon some of the places we passed through had a wonderfully muscular nomenclature. Col de la Homme Morte, Col de la Machine, Col de La Morte and especially Die all jumped off the map and seemed very appropriate for rallying (maybe just "Feels like you're about to Die" would be preferable). Anyway, the scenery was stunning as it always is in this part of the world although the weather and road conditions were severe (see below). And it's only December; Heaven knows what it will be like in the first week of February when the snowfall peaks. One thing is for sure it won't be a dry run. We'd better get those snow tyres sorted out.

Col L'Eschassarone
The Col L'Echarasson always seems to be like this

White Out
Snow and freezing fog equal white out in the Ardeche

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stairway to Heaven

BackpackDave was there. The rest of us are jealous. Thanks for the post, Dave...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mazel Tov!

Sara & Tom

Congratulations Sara and Tom. It was a fine wedding and I wish you every good fortune on your journey together.

Monte Carlo Countdown: Start -53 Days

Maps for the Monte

I've now been back in the UK for three days. So far I've been to Oxford to discuss a project and also seen my brother for some family business. I've also been to Stamfords's in Covent Garden and bought all the maps necessary for the rally. Later this afternoon I have to attend a wedding but before I don my tuxedo I'll do some basic route plotting in preparation for my reconnaissance with Bill later in the week.

Tomorrow I'm going down to the Bill Richards workshop and I'll go over the car which is undergoing the finishing touches to its preparation. I'll write an update on that in my next post.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Max Yasgur's farm, Bethel, NY, August 1969

No time for a proper post as I'm once again running to the airport. So here's a YouTube filler from an aeronautically-inclined bunch. Unfortunately even the wonderful Grace is not immune from the ravages of the ageing process but her wit is most definitely intact.

Stay tuned; with any luck the next post will be from somewhere in Europe.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


black macbook
Mad Dog's new productivity tool

Well according to the Geniuses at the AppleStore, the faithful old iBook is in a bad way and it will take another week to complete the repairs. It needs a new hard disk and a DC input card. And this is on top of the wireless card, the bluetooth card and the motherboard that were replaced in the summer. The hard disk was pretty full and the machine was due for replacement anyway -I just hadn't planned on doing it it this side of Christmas. but now I have no choice, unless I want to go unwired for two weeks. This is not really an option so I pulled out the debit card and shelled out for a new Black MacBook with IGb of Ram and a 160Gb hard drive. Precisely double the memory (in each area) of the poor hospitalised thing. I'll pick up the new one on this evening and thus will have it for my trip on Wednesday. Fingers crossed the data transfer goes OK...

Oh, and Blackberrys are an experiment for another occasion. I'm still not quite convinced that I want to be always "on"!

P.S. After Christmas I will upgrade to 2 Gb of RAM and will purchase the Apple Procare service agreement -after five years of hammering a couple of iBooks this is a must.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blackberry and Apple Pie

I've really tried to resist society's current demand that we are always available for communications. The last time I relished being away from email was my Grecian vacation back in September. Yet despite enjoying the concept of being unwired for two weeks, the reality was that after two days I cracked and was to be found typing away in an internet café. Now, with another trip coming up, Christmas bearing down and rally planning to do my trusty iBook's hard drive has decided to come apart at the seams. This is inconvenient to say the least. I have two days to sort things sort before I head off to the airport once more. I may have to invest in one of these or these. Or even both. In the meantime posts will be minimal.