Friday, September 30, 2005

Cycling to Bath

Some years ago my dad and I cycled from Newbury to Pewsey, largely along the canal, to visit a friend of his. We promised ourselves that one day we would complete the stint from Pewsey to Bath and I'm proud to say that yesterday we made it.

We caught the train to Pewsey and then cycled to join the tow-path at Devizes and on to Bath. It was a fantastic ride, and the scenery - especially from Bradford Upon Avon - was simply stunning. We cycled almost 50 miles in total, including a final few miles uphill out of Bath to Tog Hill where my mum picked us up.

We were fortunate with the weather and didn't have any reliability issues either, which was good. My dad was riding the same bike he rode from London to Edinburgh when he was 17, which is very cool. I have to admit that after much deliberation I opted not to take my new Giant because I haven't mastered the toe-clips enough to deal with the constant stop-start regime that the tow-path could have demanded if it was narrow and busy. Being primarily a road-bike I also wasn't sure how well it would take the rough stuff, but on reflection it would have coped admirably. Despite the fact it didn't get used yesterday, I'm pleased to say that in the last three or so weeks I've clocked up over 160 miles on it :)

The old Falcon coped with the Bath run, even if I did get the feeling at times that it was going to fail on me before the journey was complete. It's never been the most reliable of bikes :S

Now to get on with my packing and sorting myself out for next term. I can't believe how quickly the summer has gone, but I am looking forward to being back in Oxford.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Sex Change Insurance

I went for a drink in my local (the oh so lively Woodpecker) tonight with my friend Mark which was quality. We chatted about all sorts of things and at one point we ended up talking about car insurance. Exciting stuff I hear you cry, and for the most part it was just the usual whinge about it being so much more expensive for blokes than for girls.

However, I was reminded that recently the powers that be considered making it possible for you to declare yourself as whatever gender you like - whether you are or not. All in the name of political correctness, or human rights or equality or something. It sparked a bit of a debate about public toilet labelling I think.

Anyway, the point is that if this law did come in to force (does anyone know?) then theoretically it is possible for blokes to declare themselves as women on their car insurance and save themselves a packet. Anyone brave enough to give it a go?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Some Light Relief

I don't know about you but I feel that some light relief is in order after my last couple of posts, which were quite heavy by all accounts. (Don't let that stop you from reading them at some point though).

I think I'll start by drawing your attention to the new treats in store for visitors to this part of the Blogosphere. You can now read a bit about me in the profile section. and if you like my posts you can use the new facility to email them to your friends.

Once you've calmed down from all the excitement I would like to share with you my favourite fact of the day, taken from the BBC News Page. The Japanese apparently have a word for a girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front. Should you ever have need for it, it's "
bakku-shan".

More About The Good Book

I have realised that my response to Anthropax's comment on my previous post ('The 100 Minute Bible') could pigeon-hole me as someone who blindly quotes Scripture every time I need to prove a point.

This would not be good, so I have decided to elaborate on my point, and on the Bible as a general topic. Hopefully this will pave the way for some educated debate and interesting comment.

Firstly, the Bible is not just about one thing and making any attempt to sum it up in a few sentences is bound to result in huge omissions and gross misunderstandings. For those of you who don't know, the Bible comprises 66 different books (39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New). The books range from allegory to history, from poetry and song to law and from eye-witness account to letter, and most of them were written by different people.

But that said, there are some common themes running throughout. It teaches us about God, and His character, His relationship with us and how He intends us to live.

Rabbi Hilell the Elder's attempt at summarising the Torah (the first 5 - I think - books) and the laws contained therein has much to commend it - the way we relate to others plays a crucial part in the various commandments. The biggest problem however is that it omits God completely. Many of the Old Testament commandments focus on the way we relate to God and I don't think that you can just cut that out.

Perhaps a better summary of the Law is the one Jesus gave when he was asked what he thought were the most important Commandments. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your strength" and secondly "You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself".

So why did I quote John 14 v 6 ("I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no-one comes to the Father except through me")?

Basically, assuming Jesus' words to be true, this verse has some serious implications. You can be as good to your neighbour as you like, but if you forget about God, if you don't accept Jesus then it won't get you anywhere.

Fortunately however, the converse also appears to be true. There are cases in the Bible which show that no matter how much we screw up, we can always come back to God. The guy crucified next to Jesus is one example here - he acknowledged Jesus who then promised that he'd be in Paradise.

Why not read some of the Bible for yourself (I'd recommend starting with one of the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) and draw your own conclusions?

Friday, September 23, 2005

The 100 Minute Bible

I've not talked about my faith much recently - something I perhaps ought to rectify given the interesting comments, opinions and insights that such postings produced.

Anyway, many of you will have doubtless heard about the '100 Minute Bible' which has hit the headlines in the last week. The idea is that it is a shortened version of the Bible which can be read in 100 Minutes apparently. I shall reserve judgement until I've seen a copy for myself, but if it conveys the essence of the Christian Message, encourages more people to read the Bible and improves their Biblical knowledge then it could be a Good Thing.

As the 'Have Your Say' column on the BBC News Page shows, people certainly seem to have a lot of opinions. What angers me however is the sheer ignorance (and often arrogance) displayed by many.

For example, the person who said that 'I have already released the 10-second version and I publish it here for free: "Be good to one another and you will go to Heaven"' might think that he's being clever but unfortunately he is completely misguided.

And the person who decided that he was big enough and clever enough to sum up the Bible in 10 words ('"Do as we say and do not think for yourself." There you go, Bible summed up in ten words. As for the 100-minute version? I would say that is 99 minutes and 50 seconds longer than it needs to be') couldn't have made it more obvious that he's got less idea about the contents of the Bible than I have knowledge about the Ukranian Highway Code. Muppet. Perhaps if people like him took the time to read the Bible (100 Minutes or not) then we could at least enjoy an intelligent and educated debate.

Amidst all the argument and criticism however, someone did raise an interesting point:
'Can we please have some criticism in similar terms of the Koran and Islam? As an irrelevance to the modern world, a brainwashing cult etc. I am sick of hearing my faith subjected to this sort of abuse while this other religion is sacrosanct. It's discrimination, that's what it is.'

I trust that he was being sarcastic and doesn't really wish to encourage criticism of the Koran in the same way, but I do feel that his point is justified. Personally I quite like it when people comment on, criticise and question my faith but even so I can't help wondering how many of you would do it if I was a Muslim.

There's hopefully a lot to think about in today's posting, but I shall leave it on a more light-hearted note with some related humour from YouthBlog

Sunday, September 18, 2005

You Couldn't Make This Up

It's 9.15pm and I'm at a deserted airfield where, having been driven here by a man in a dog collar in a very fast car we've broken in ...to retrieve the aforementioned vicar's glasses.

Actually we didn't quite break in; we were supplied with the code for the main gate by the man who found the glasses and left them accessible for us. To tell you that however kind of ruins the drama...

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Showtime

Today for the first time in a couple of years I paid a visit to the annual Newbury Show, and I'm pleased to report that I had a quality day. It bought back many happy memories of family days spent there when I was much younger.

Amidst the abundance of budget clothing outlets and greasy fast food trailers there was a lot to see and do. I saw lizards, snakes, owls and waterbuffalo, and enjoyed the parade of cattle. I bought a cactus and enjoyed a free ride around a 4x4 track in a Ford Ranger pickup. I saw a team parachute drop and I enjoyed sampling the delights on offer in the food tent (once I'd realised there was more to sample than organic mueseli). Another good thing I enjoyed about the Newbury Show was the fact that it's a good place to bump in to people you know (if you know people who also attend the show, of course).

Random moment of the day has to be whilst I was visiting one of the car stands. As I was walking past one of the saloon cars, another visitor appeared to point to a plastic fitment in the boot, and asked a salesman what it was for. The salesman in question responded with "it's for the ladies, sir...". If you have any idea what might have been in the boot of said car please put me out of my misery and comment below.

Moving on, following my rather geeky post of yesterday I would like to announce that my 'non-use of Linux period' is over. Windows XP singlehandedly failed to do what I asked of it, and even brought down the home network in the process of trying. Fortunately I've been able to borrow a computer which can cope with all of my Linux needs, and all is rosy in the garden once more.

Expensive (Microsoft) Software 0 - Free (Open Source Software) 1

Thursday, September 15, 2005

It's A Sad Day...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have some very sad news.

I am (temporarily) no longer a Linux user.

For a good while now, my trusty desktop, Milhouse, has been running Mandrake Linux 10.1. It would do things that Windows could only dream of. DHCP server (automatically passing my laptop network details)? No problem. Stability? Completely. Security? Like Fort Knox. Viruses? What, now?

Unfortunately I had to make some hardware changes, and setting up Mandrake again has proven impossible. My computer is too old to deal with the power management features without some fiddling around under Linux, and for some reason I can't get the NVIDIA graphics drivers to work as they did last time, resulting in an off-centre display. The nail in the coffin has been the bootloader, which refuses to load Linux at all if the configuration file is so much as opened and a complete reinstall is needed.

I've given up reinstalling Linux and have had to resort to Windows XP until I can get a more suitable computer. I have been able to test Linux on a more modern machine, and it worked like a dream. Until I can get hold of something though I am relying on ZoneAlarm to keep my shared files protected. Nice.




Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Strange English Phrases

As I came downstairs this morning, I heard my dad on the telephone. He used the phrase "it's like elephants and mating", evidently as an analogy for something. Have any of you heard the phrase before, and if so would you please care to enlighten me on it's use.

The second bizarre phrase of the day goes to the old packing box I came across in our garage. According to the print on the side it was designed to contain "Mansize Banded Packs". Of what, exactly?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Once Upon a Time...

...in a castle not too far away, 'singer' Peter Andre decided to wed his plastic 'princess'.

If you believe the media, you'll think that the wedding of Peter Andre and Jordan at Highclere Castle was *the* event of the weekend (unless you're like my aunt, who thought it was the wedding of two gay men, or Big Brother's Eugene who apparently turned down his invite and went to an amateur radio club meeting).

Obviously it wasn't - that accolade goes to the annual family BBQ, which once again lived up to expectations. People, you just can't beat the combination of good company, quality barbecued meat, premium lager and nice wine in abundance; though before you cast aspertions none of us was excessively intoxicated and a good time was had by all.

Given the amount of media hype however I feel that it'd be rude not to comment about the aforementioned wedding, even though I expect that you, like me, had far better things to do.

Jordan assured the BBC News page that the wedding would not be tacky, but you only have to have seen the pictures of the carriage in the tabloids to realise that 1) she lied or 2) she needs to look up 'tacky' in the dictionary. Honestly, the carriage just added to the sheer ostentatiousness of the whole affair and made me wonder what sort of point they were trying to prove. At the end of the day we're just talking about an Aussie with a waxed chest and someone with implants, and that won't change no matter how much more money than Princess Diana they spent or how many celebrity guests attended. I kid you not, it appears that many of the celebrities on the guest list claimed not even to know the couple. Respect must go to Eugene and the others who turned the invite down.

Thankfully The Sun reported the castle as being near Basingstoke, a town much more suited to such chavishness than Newbury. This means that Royal Berkshire residents such as me can relax safe in the knowledge that our town won't be tarnished, and the sole claim to fame will still be the Bypass.








Saturday, September 10, 2005

Monopoly & Things

Hey Dudes.

I hope that you've had a good week, and are enjoying the weekend. I've had a varied week, culminating in a quality game of Monopoly last night. Really, it was great. There were six of us congregated at Marshall's (thanks guys for the hospitality) and we snacked, drunk Dr Pepper (or similar sugary drinks) and made property deals in to the early hours of the morning.

I procured Mayfair early on, but rushed my property deals and never had the cash to fully develop anything, even though I held the green set as well. Still, more by luck than judgement I came in third place which isn't bad. Roll on the next game...

Other highlights of my week include cycling on Greenham Common. It was awesome - the weather was beautiful and the scenery quite something. Sometimes there's nothing like bombing down a gravel track enjoying the fresh air. I used my old Falcon mountain bike in this instance, but I've also been making good use of my new Giant road bike - this morning I passed the 75 mile mark :)

Having cycled 10 miles this morning and also been swimming I'm feeling quite good at the moment. The effect however will be short-lived as I'm off to the annual family BBQ later, and my aunt always provides plenty of food.

Did any of you see 'No Sex Please, We're Teenagers?' this week? Given the debates going on on other blogs, I won't comment too much this week but I'll wait until I've seen the next episode. It's certainly an interesting idea and I look forward to seeing how it develops. Tuesday, 9pm, BB2. Watch it.

Time to get ready for the BBQ. Nice.

Bye for now.




Tuesday, September 06, 2005

You couldn't do it again if you tried...

I went food shopping with my mum and the bill, for 32 items, was £32.32. Maybe it's just me who's fascinated by such numerical co-incidences but I thought I'd share it with you anyway.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The world is full of criminals

As some of you are probably aware, there was some controversy recently about some new speed cameras on the M4. At the height of the debate, Roger from Newbury left a comment on the BBC News page explaining that we should have nothing to worry about because "only criminals break the speed limit".

By that logic then the world is indeed full of criminals. Sam and I were driving back from Castle Combe this afternoon, beetling along at 50mph - the "temporary" speed limit on that section of the M4, seemingly due to the presence of some pointless cones on the Hard Shoulder in recent months. Everyone else on the road however was taking advantage of the wide, three lane expanse and even an HGV cruised past us in the terrible dry conditions with poor visibility of at least a couple of miles.

Doubtless the cops will penalise some of these criminals for their unsafe driving, putting more money in the coffers in the process.

Well really. The idea that speed cameras are more about raising extra tax than saving lives is reinforced by a government idea of charging more and reducing the number of points on the license per speeding offence.

There are too many people who've been fined for 35mph where even 60 would have been safe, and far too many muppets on the roads who tailgate, swerve and slow erratically on B-Roads and know nothing about motorway lane discipline.

I propose two things:

1) Let's have some sense about speed limits. There are some blanket limits which actually ought to be lowered in places, and there are some which should be raised. If the Germans can manage to cope with high Motorway limits in dry conditions and lower ones in the wet why can't we? And is 42 mph over the Hammersmith flyover really dangerous at times when there's little traffic on the road?

2) Let's have more cops monitoring the standard of driving. Human judgement is more sensible than that of a computer, and they'd be able to rid us of those who drive badly and dangerously.

Live from Castle Combe

This posting comes to you live from Castle Combe racetrack, where my cousin and uncle are hosting one of their trackdays. They both have Caterham 7s and they've very kindly taken me out for some fast laps. Caterhams are quite something anyway, but my cousin's is devoid of windscreen, doors and a passenger seat. Fortunately, patio chair cushions and a 5point racing harness kept me secure and comfortable, seat or not.

Thanks must also go to the dude who's just taken me out in his Honda S2000. Despite not being as stripped down as a Caterham it was still really exhilerating-it revs to 9000rpm! And tailing an original M3, also pushing it hard was quite something.

Aside from some Caterhams, an original M3 and a couple of S2000s there are a few more sets of tasty wheels around, including a tuned Datsun 240Z and an original Audi RS Estate. Someone has also turned up in a Ferarri, but evidently doesn't plan to put in on the track. What's the point in spending all that money if it's only a pose-mobile?

Amongst the excitement there have sadly been two minor casualties. Firstly there was the woman who spun her Caterham; she was fine but her car sustained a bit of damage (ironically there was a sticker on the damaged mudguard for www.crash.net). And secondly there was the bug which juiced itself on the visor of my helmet whilst I was being driven by my cousin at speed. Nice.

And now to sign off - some more fast Caterham laps await me :)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Checking in briefly

Evening All.

Aware that I've been a bit poor at blogging recently I thought I would stick my head above the water again this evening, albeit briefly.

It's been a quality week, containing everything from Careers meetings in Oxford (in an attempt to solve my latest course choice headache) to lunch on the Isle of Wight in hot sunshine.

Regular readers will be pleased to know that after what seems like an age of deliberating and test riding bikes my 21st birthday present arrived on Wednesday. I am now the proud owner of a Giant CRS, kitted out with mudguards, handlebar ends and toe clips. She looks beauitiful in black, and - more importantly - goes like a dream.

Time now for some sleep methinks, but I'll try and get in to a routine of posting a bit more regularly as the summer draws to an end and the academic world wakes up.

Friday, September 02, 2005

More Controversy

Today I have decided to air some of my views on the NHS. If you are a regular visitor to this part of cyberspace it won't surprise you to know that I think that the government is making a bit of a hash of it.

Following my recent political post about the honesty (or lack thereof) of our current government I would like to reiterate that I am under no illusion that any government recently has been completely honest - yes Anthropax, I have heard of 'Tory Sleaze'.

However I maintain that our current government is particularly dishonest and the NHS is another area in which this shows itself. I will now attempt to convey why in my experience and in my opinion I think that all this talk of improvement is yet more lies and spin. Let the debate commence...

I happen to know several people who work in the NHS in various different roles, and all of them feel that morale is low and that the governmental targets and pressures are all about statistics and not the health of the patient. I'd be interested to find out if anyone out there has different experiences but rather than dwelling on what people say let's look at some specific examples.

For a large market town it might surprise you to learn that Newbury lacks a proper hospital. For years we had a small cottage hospital in the town centre, but for anything major it was normal to head to Oxford, Reading or Basingstoke.

Recently however a brand new hospital was opened. With much media attention you'd have thought that this was finally an improvement, and that Newbury would at last have proper facilities.

A year or two on however let's look at the reality behind the spin of 'investment and improvement'.

1) The hospital is situated out of town on the A4 towards Reading meaning that for many it is still no more convenient than Basingstoke or Oxford.

2) Despite all the shiny new buildings the hosptial still doesn't offer that much. The management of course have palatial offices but for most people the conditions are no better than at the old hospital. In what to me looks like a planning cock-up some departments are outside in "temporary" buildings.

3) To cover funding problems elsewhere, cuts are being made. The local paper is full of controversy surrounding the closure of some departments forcing yet more patients to go elsewhere. Administrators are no longer allowed cover for holiday or illness, which has increased pressure and workload. What tops it all however is the news that although Doctors are no longer able to perform certain operations in Newbury but have to have spurious appointments with the patients concerned anyway just to meet governmental targets. Ludicrous.

Whilst being contraversial I thought you'd like to know that further to the cinema malarky I reported on recently, the Newbury Weekly News have published my letter. Beautiful.

Word Verification

I have decided to try out the new word verification feature for leaving comments in this corner of the Blogosphere. It may be more hassle than it's worth, but it should at least ensure that things stay spam free.

Do try it out, and let me know what you think - by leaving comments of course.