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Well it is finally over and everyone has returned to their normal life. We had a great and very busy family Christmas with my little sitting room bulging with nine people on Boxing Day. My secret Santa present from work was a box of trivia questions and some charades cards, timer and score cards. These were put to good use. Fastest charade of the season goes to my nephew who when miming – film, one word, was raising his hand to his face as someone shouted Jaws. Most bizarre mime must go to daughter number one, who throttled herself, then lay on the floor dead, and waved her arm about – obviously the phrase, ‘over my dead body’


Kate in action

We had also been loaned youngest daughter’s Wii console. Oh what fun it is to wave remote controls around. I scored a hole in one at golf and the shrieks of delight could probably be heard across the Pennines. One day, the girls went off riding and so one of the boyfriends and I were pottering about the house. After lunch, I suggested a game of ten pin bowling – oh dear. By the time the girls were back we were on to game number 15 and I couldn’t move the following day.

Quotations of the season have to include my answer to the trivia question – ‘Who are the four evangelists’ and I just automatically started – ‘John, Paul, George – err?’ and finally, ‘Which Hebrew prophet went to heaven in a chariot of fire?’ – stunned quizzical faces.

Give us a clue’

‘He has the first name of the hobbit’

‘What Bilbo – the prophet Bilbo?’

‘No Elijah’ (Elijah Wood played Frodo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy)

Thanks guys it was a blast.


In 1955 the Sears Roebuck and Co shop based in Colarado Springs advertised a ‘Santa Hotline‘ with a telephone number for children to call and talk to him. Unfortunately they included the telephone number not of their store but of the Commander in Chief of the Continental Air Defense Command (CoNAD). Rather than disappoint the children that were calling to speak to Santa, the military men and women gave them the location of Santa as they tracked his progress on their radar. They have done it ever since. Of course it is now much more than just a radar track and you can follow his progress via google maps. The site has lots of games based around Santa’s trip. The whole thing is now manned by volunteers and funded by contributions from businesses and individuals.

I’d like to wish a number of people Happy Birthday for tomorrow, December 18th.  Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones is 64, Steven Spielberg director of ET as well as many more films is 61 and Brad Pitt, ahem, is 44 and I am older than Brad and younger than the other two.  So happy birthday to you guys and also to me!

I didn’t have tickets for the reunion concert at the O2 arena last night but would have loved to have gone.   Having seen some of the video footage and the reporting it seems they were as good as they ever were.  They were one of the best bands I ever saw live and I saw them twice in one week along with Wishbone Ash .  I don’t think my ears stopped ringing for a week.  At the end of one of the concerts, I ran onto the stage and the late John Bonham handed me his drumsticks – and I still have them.  As they so succinctly put it – been a long time.  Nostalgia’s great isn’t it?

The town of Portland in Oregon in the United States has a campaign to rename one of its streets after the sadly deceased writer Douglas Adams. For the man who told us that the answer to life the universe and everything was 42 it is apt that 42nd street is the one that has been designated to become Douglas Adams Boulevard. The organisers, Geek in the City along with the specially formed have the following message on their website.

“Transforming 42nd Avenue into Douglas Adams Boulevard will reflect upon all those who live and work in the City of Portland.

It will reflect Portlanders’ commitment to the arts.

It will reflect Portlanders’ respect for the environment.

It will reflect Portlanders’ desire to provide technological access to all.

It will reflect Portlanders’ passion to further education to all people.

It will remind all Portlanders’ the most important lesson in times of uncertainty and fear…


What a great idea and a tribute to a superb writer and thinker. I heard the radio series, A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy way back in the late 70’s and have been a fan ever since. He was one of the few authors who could make me laugh out loud and I once embarrassed myself quite badly reading by a pool in Southern France and almost crying with laughter – it was from the ‘Long Dark Teatime of the Soul’ I think. One of his creations is ‘The Meaning of Liff’ with John Lloyd. This is a list of placenames which do nothing other than sit on signposts telling people where to go and have no other use so it’s quite apt that he may become one. They took these words and combined them with the hundreds of feelings, situations and objects which we all know and recognise but for which no word existed. So for example, if you were woking, you would be standing in the kitchen wondering what you came in for, or Gallipoli – the behaviour of the of lower lip when trying to spit mouthwash after an injection at the dentist. You’ll find hundreds more here.

So good luck to I hope you’re successful.

Last week the rest of the team went to a meeting in South Manchester. I had to stay in the office so instead of missing out on my words of wisdom, I did my presentation via Instant Presenter. We have a corporate account with the site but had not used it much before. Surprisingly, it went very well. When I’ve used if before, it has been to an ‘audience’ who were all sitting at an individual computers. This time it was on to a big screen with speakers and a microphone. One real disadvantage, is that when set up like this you get no feedback at all and it is really disconcerting just talking into a cyber silence. When it is linked to individual pc’s the participants can use a chat facility at the bottom of the screen so you do get some response. But all in all it was a successful trial and we are going to do it again for subsequent meetings if one of us cannot be there in person.

I’ve written quite a bit about malaria and the campaign that Tukae are running to raise money for a clinical officer and technician to be based at Emau Hill for a year. They will provide free malaria treatment for all children under the age of 13, following Tanzanian government guidelines. So I was interested to read in the latest copy of Scientific American that a company is developing a chemical that kills viral pathogens but also suppresses the development of the plasmodium parasite that causes malaria.

The so called ‘provector’ will use visual, olfactory and chemical signals to entice the mosquitoes to ingest the antimalarial and antiviral treatments. They haven’t finalised the delivery method yet, but it looks like it might be in the form of an artificial flower which while being shielded from other insects, will have a protective surface that will allow the mosquitoes’ proboscis to get through to reach the petals. This is a totally different way of looking at Malaria prevention, in that they are targetting the pathogens themselves, rather than the mosquitoes, which are just the carriers. Whatever it takes, it is important that this killer disease is conquered. It can and does kill children in the East Usambaras where Steve and the team are working. The World Health organisation fact sheet on malaria has the chilling statistics – ‘an African child has between 1.6 and 5.4 episodes of malaria fever each year’ and every 30 seconds a child dies of malaria.

Animoto seems to be all over the blogs at the moment. It’s a great site that creates professional standard videos from your photos. There are a number of music tracks you can choose and you can do a 30 second video for free. See here for my trip to Emau Hill.

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December 2007
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