Sunday, 28 October 2007

Traffic rant

Back to the normal routine. Yes, that means, gym, laptop in the bar, maybe a round of golf this week...

I feel strangely comfortable and unmotivated to return to work after turning some financial instruments into hard cash last week. Bad news as it makes me feel too flush...but I'm not really complaining!!!

So, what's this all about? On a roundabout over which I drive every day on the way to the said gym...not literally drive over unless I've started drinking VERY early in the morning...they have been doing some road painting. They have 'hatched' - a technical term I believe - a circle about 18 inches wide on the inside of the roundabout, thus making it technically illegal to drive on a small patch of road that serves no other purpose. No pedestrians should be there. It can't possible stop the roundabout getting blocked. It doesn't create more space for emergency vehicles.

In fact, as far as I can see it, this hatched area serves no other purpose than to make the roundabout even narrower, and forcing those on the outside lane into a minor traffic offence when cut up by idiots on the inside lane who fail to drive 'around' the roundabout and tend to go 'straight across'. And in my experience, there are a large number of those in this particular town...which we should all remember is (allegedly) the inspiration town for Little Britain.

What is the point? Job creation for the line painters? CCTV operators having a laugh? Revenue generation for the local plods to get some innocent motorists who dare to use the road to drive along?

Please, someone explain to me what it's all for...

Traffic rant number 2...
Was following a car today that 'gesticulated' at me, I can only assume because he deemed me to be driving too close to his boot. OK, I was in a hurry, but the gesture followed him braking suddenly and harshly for no reason whatsoever. What does he expect if he does that? Surely any driver would end up too close in such a situation. If I'd really been 'too' close I would have hit him. I didn't, ergo I wasn't too close! Anyway, we then approached a roundabout (a different one) that has plenty of space for 2 cars to go around simultaneously side by side as long as, you've guessed it, the one on the inside doesn't cut straight across. I was going right, overtook him just approaching the roundabout and turned right, leaving plenty of space for him. Except he was a straight-across-cutter-idiot. He beeped me! Unbelievable...(and even Mrs M agreed I had done nothing wrong...)

Monday, 22 October 2007

The seaside makes you sick...

The half-term holiday is upon us. In the moose household we're going for a split week, probably with alternating days of mooselet duty and each of us 'doing our own thing'. So I took the boys to the seaside today. A great time digging, kicking a football, eating a picnic in the car (due to light drizzle) and coffee and cake in a very nice cafe.

On the way back, #2 fell asleep and as we passed Castle Hedingham, I recalled a time a couple of years ago that I had taken them to the same beach and #2 had thrown up all over himself at that specific spot. I'd stopped in a lay-by to clean him (and the car) up a bit before continuing the drive home.

Today we got home and the mooselets watched a little TV before eating tea. Towards the end of the meal, I was called to the table by the words 'Daddy, I feel like I'm going to be sick'. Which he then was. I was just too late with the bowl. Thank goodness for paper towels and washing machines!

I am never going to Frinton ever again!!!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

The end is nigh...

I am once again on the final chapter of the book. It is currently 85,000 words and likely to be 90,000 by the time I've reached the thrilling conclusion. Well, actually, I've already written the very last scene and the Epilogue. So the thrilling conclusion has already been revealed. Anyway, I'm stunned that the second draft is one and a half times longer than the first. 90,000 is a 'proper' novel though...

The last week or so have been hugely productive on it. I'm so in the groove it's amazing. It has not been without sacrifice though, as apart from keeping up my training, I have done almost nothing else! I think it's the fear of having a proper job again soon and having no time for writing that is motivating me to get it finished. Again. Now I need to buy a ream of paper so I can print the thing out.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Who's the only man faster than a Ferrari?

So Brian Habana (South African rugby player for those in need of clarification) is so fast that he races cheetas.

How stupid is this story? I could race a cheetah. And, like Brian Habana, I would lose. Does it really matter by how much?

I'm sure the man himself wouldn't approve of the media coverage, after all, he did it to highlight the endangered status of the cheetah - an admirable cause.

But for the media to make such a big thing of it is a little strange, when he had a 10m headstart and lost "by a whisker". And to describe his speed as superhuman is also quite inaccurate, since he has 'only' clocked an impressive 10.2 seconds over 100m. I can't remember how long ago the world record for 100m was that 'slow'. We even have some British sprinters, probably drug free, that regularly beat that mark.

Fast yes.
Superhuman no.
Faster than a cheetah no.

Maybe we could come up with some other useless comparisons:
I'm so thin, I'm thinner than 50% of all Americans.
I'm so fit I can do an Olympic triathlon faster than the world triathlon champion (in the over 75 age group category).
I'm such a great writer that my writing is much better than the output of a chimpanzee bashing randomly on a typewriter. (I'm reasonably confident it's also better than the output of a human bashing randomly on a typewriter.)
I'm so smart that I'm smarter than most 10 year olds (just a shame I wasn't smart enough to come up with that idea!)

Any other offerings?

PS by the way, Gilles Villeneuve is the answer, according to a sick joke in the 70's when he died in a Formula 1 crash...

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Out of the mouths of babes...

While tending a bonfire yesterday, I was having a great conversation with Mooselet #2 - 4 years old, remember.

They had both been at a birthday party during the afternoon while I sweated some excess weight off in the garden. When they got back, #2 came and chatted with me. He told me that James (one of the kids at the party) was mean. I gave my usual response based on the Primary Attribute Error. Although I don't use those words (I may be obsessed but I do remember he's only 4), I explained that we all did mean things but that didn't make us mean people. I reminded him that he was sometimes mean to #1 but that he wasn't a mean person. I said that I did mean things sometimes but that I wasn't a mean person.

That's when he said it. "You are mean, daddy. You leave all the work to mummy."
So it's survey time. What to do?
  1. Swallow my pride, say nothing, keep going, trying to be positive and doing all I already do and more if I can.
  2. Ask her how it's possible for our four-year-old son to come out with a statement that sounds exactly like that which would normally come from a 40-year-old woman.
  3. Rant and rave a bit and get it off my chest.
  4. Some other suggestion.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

"Stupid is as stupid does" - Forrest Gump

I do like Monday night TV for getting my juices going...and no, I haven't subscribed to Naughty TV or anything.

Usually it's Tonight followed by Panorama that does it. I must be getting old when Martyn Lewis and Jezza get me all worked up!

Still, last night my musings were on the evolutionary, or possibly counter-evolutionary effects of stupidity.

My conclusion is that sub-prime mortgages are not only named for the credit rating of those that take them out. It seems to me that the between the ears functions of these people are also somewhat sub-prime. I know that I grew up with Maffs and stuff and work(ed) in Finance, but the concept of an interest rate isn't too tricky, is it? And even if the mortgages were mis-sold, which they probably were and the culprits should be punished, I'm really not sure that excuses the stupidity that some people exhibit.

"The interest rate went up and we couldn't afford the repayments any more." Doh!
"The broker told me to lie about how much I earned and I just followed his advice." Doh!
"They wanted to give me a half a million in mortgages even though I only earn £30k and I took it." Doh!

If we were to follow evolutionary thinking to it's logical conclusion the argument would run as follows: if people are that stupid, they will go bankrupt, not be able to feed themselves and die. Then the fittest (cleverest?) will survive. Is there anything wrong with that?

Except it doesn't work like that. The stupid people also tend to have lots of kids, or, to hark back a couple of posts, be overweight smokers who have all sorts of health problems, and therefore use a lot of the resources of schools, NHS etc that the clever people (or at least those earning money) pay for.

So by paying taxes we are stopping the forces of natural selection from weeding out the weak in society. Worse than that, we are actually weakening the average set of genes in the pool by allowing them to breed too much.

There's a lot to be said for the 'Brave New World' approach where the gene pool is carefully controlled, the lower echelons are stupid and ugly and would never get a mortgage of any sort, while the rich and beautiful people enjoy all the priveleges.
Then we could just use the stupid and ugly for our entertainment, putting them on TV to display their ignorance to the world. They'd probably do it willingly to get their 15 minutes of fame.

Have to go now, Jeremy Kyle is on...

Wednesday, 3 October 2007


Wrote this yesterday but did the falling asleep on the sofa til 4am trick last night so only just got to post it now...writing going swimmingly this week. The short story is finished in the first draft and reduced to the requisite number of words in the second. I'm letting it lie for a few days/weeks before I go back for the third go. I've written 7,500 words of the book over the last 2 days. I am in the groove, on a roll and in the zone all at the same time!
Oh and the swimming is also going swimmingly - how else could it go? And the rest of the fitness/triathlon training...if only I could get the food and weight part of it back on track...

My thoughts today turn to the issue of self-centredness. Maybe it's not wholly new as the point yesterday re paying taxes is a little of the same.

(By the way, welcome back Dr JMcC! Long time no see...I have been avoiding Cambridge since that night out with Dr Booth, but still get a shudder when I hear a Polish accent.)

So, today on the JV show, there's a lady on complaining that lots of people cut up the funeral cortege when she was burying her father. Most of the comments were on the lines of how disrespectful we have become as a society. Now, firstly, this is undoubtedly true. I am sure that the vast majority of the 'bad' drivers that the lady observed were simply so wrapped up in their own lives, their own deadlines and their own little world, that to pay a thought for someone else's grief didn't come into question. The precious few seconds they lost because of a slow cortege were just too important to them. Self-centred.

However, I took something else interesting out of the discussion too. Not once did the lady concerned mention the possibility that one or two of these drivers may have had a legitimate reason for being in a hurry. A reason would be legitimate in this sense only if the overall social view of the circumstances were known and an assessment could be made that their need to hurry was indeed greater than the lady's need for 'respect' to be shown during her father's funeral. I'm not saying that the chances of this are very high. They are probably very small indeed. But what if someone had just heard that THEIR father had just had an accident and they were rushing to be with him. Wouldn't the still living father take precedence over the already dead father? And what if the accident or illness were a child instead? I'm sure there are many other situations we could imagine, all of them rare but still possible. People buy lottery tickets with only a 1 in 14 million chance of winning because it is just about possible. Why then is it so difficult to imagine a calamitous event with probablilities of say 1 in a million, happening to someone else?

My point is not that this was the case in the lady's funeral situation. My point is that it didn't even seem to cross her mind that it might, just might, be the case. She was, quite understandably, wrapped up in her life, her deadline, her little world.

I recall that one of the signs of emotional intelligence that Daniel Goleman refers to in his book is the ability to assume that those who cross you, and he uses the roads as a specific example, have a legitimate reason for doing so. It is emotionally intelligent to let it go, to think the best of others, to assume there might be a legitimate reason for someone else's 'bad' behaviour.

So no matter how justifiably self-centred we could be, surely it's better to forgive and not judge.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Controversy in the Moose household

There was much heated debate in the Moose household yesterday evening, sparked by Panorama. After disagreeing on what we thought Jeremy Vine's BMI is we moved on to the real debate.

At first sight it seems appalling to discriminate against fat people or smokers. They have, like everyone else, paid their National Insurance contributions for years and should expect the same level of care as anyone else. Whatever next? Will we turn people away from A&E when they've had a car crash if they were driving over the speed limit? Not treat the long term unemployed because they haven't paid in as much as people in work? Except of course unemployed alcoholic smokers who have paid much more in duty?

The fundamental issue though, is that we do not fund the NHS properly. It's too easy to argue that their are massive inefficiencies within the system. Of course there are. But even if it was the best run health service in the world - a more realistic target than a perfectly run service - there would still not be enough money to treat everybody of everything, and that straight away with no waiting lists.

So the inconvenient truth is that we have to make choices about who we treat and how long we make them wait. We are not living in the ideal world of free treatment for all at the point of need. We possibly could be if people weren't so selfish and were willing to pay the higher tax rates that people pay in countries that do have better health services than we do. My personal experience of Germany highlights this. Marvellous health care. And very expensive it was too - both directly for my health insurance and indirectly through an average tax rate in excess of 50%.

And if we have to make choices about who we treat and how long people wait then somebody is going to be 'discriminated' against. Personally, I don't think it's too unreasonable to 'discriminate' against those who in some way have contributed to their need for treatment through their lifestyle OR who have contributed to their poor chances of recovery from certain treatments through that same lifestyle. And if we are not to pick on the fat and the smokers, who will we pick on instead? For as long as the NHS remains underfunded, the one certainty is that we will have to choose not to treat some people.

Having said that, BMI is clearly the wrong measure. And I'm not just making excuses for myself...although I do fall into the category of people whose BMI is in the upper reaches of the zones and still would be even if I were to lose a reasonable amount of weight. I cannot deny that I am overweight. If a doctor told me I had to lose weight in order to qualify for treatment, I'd actually think it was fair enough. I might even appreciate the added incentive!

Unfortunately many don't see it that way. For example, the woman on Panorama who waited 2 years and then went to Malta for her op - what on earth was she doing during those 2 years? How much weight could she have lost if she'd focussed her energy into that instead of into insisting on her right to be treated even though she was too heavy? I appreciate she couldn't exercise, but that's probably only 10% of losing weight. They should have shown what she ate in an 'average' week - Dr Gillian McKeith stylee - I would wager a considerable sum that people's opinions would probably have changed then!

Monday, 1 October 2007

What a day!

I feel like I've gone through the wringer and reached the heights today.

It all started a little strangely, getting up just after 6 to head for the gym before my meeting up in London re a job. I did my Swim only session of 12 minutes crawl and 3 minutes breaststroke, 2 reps, 30 lengths in total. I was feeling good about being able to do the 12 lengths crawl without stopping - a real breakthrough for me in my swimming.

Off I then went to London, had a good meeting and things look very positive for a start in December/January, doing something I am good at but is still a challenge and interesting for me. For decent money.

I then headed for a well known sandwich chain, got myself a green tea, sat down in the corner with my laptop and attacked my daily diary (catching up on a couple of weeks with no comments!) and then my short story. Nearly three hours later (thanks to my new laptop battery which has massively increased my flexible working ability) I shut down having got to 3,100 words and then trimming it down to 2,900. Another 400 cuts to go. The thing that made me feel like I'd been through the wringer though, is that to write it I had to get inside the head of my protagonist, who of course is a rapist and murderer. Boy that made me feel strange. Let me just, for the record, reiterate that this really is a work of pure fiction!!!

I jumped on a bus to avoid the pouring rain back to Kings Cross. Bought a cornish pasty as a treat...and stopped eating about two thirds of the way through and threw the rest away. What on earth was I doing? OK, the right thing because I'd had enough, but seriously, throwing away a pasty?

Got back to the car and decided to head back to the gym. The idea was to catch up on my alternative triathlon (sauna, steam room and jacuzzi) that I didn't have time for this morning. I went into the steam room for about 10 minutes and then the strangest thing happened. I thought to myself 'Now why don't I get in the pool and have another swim?'

Great idea, so I got in and thought. 'I know, on the back of my success this morning I'll just swim crawl until I can't do any more.' I guessed I'd last 20 lengths. I went past 20, then 30, then 40. At 50 I stopped, not because I really had to, put because I started to think it was a bit silly and I might knacker myself out for tomorrow morning's Bike and Run session (which is, apart from the full triathlon, the toughest of my sessions). 50 lengths, what was I doing? Non stop. Crawl!

I thought I'd throw in another 10 of breaststroke so that I'd completed a full 1,500m. I'm tired this evening and completely incredulous that I did what I did.