Thursday, 25 March 2010

Intelligent cars

I’ve been watching a documentary titled Toyota Total Recall which, despite it’s humorous title, covers a very serious and sticky problem for Toyota (and I’m not just talking gas pedals).

I’ve seen that Toyota initially recalled vehicles because of a floormat issue, then because of a sticky accelerator pedal issue and then on a smaller number of vehicles because of a braking problem.

And then I saw something interesting.  Steve Wozniak of Apple fame was interviewed explaining that he thought that the real issue maybe software or electronics related.  A lawyer representing families of those who died in Toyota accidents seemed to be indicating that he believed this might be the case too.

Then some clever bloke explained in a completely patronising fashion that these days cars are operated by computers and that when you put your foot on the accelerator you’re telling the computer you want to go faster.

So, bearing all of this in mind, I thought I’d share something that happened to me today in my Ford Kuga.

My Kuga has a power start button.  It’s a piece of kit that negates the need to put a key in the ignition.  The car somehow knows the keys are in the vehicle (clever electronics) and to start the car the driver just pushes the power button (for safety reasons the clutch needs to be depressed at the same time).

To turn the car off is even simpler.  Just press the power button – done.

The car started without issue and I started driving to work.  I’m not quite sure why but the radio wasn’t on.  This is unusual for me as I almost always drive listening to the radio.  After negotiating a couple of junctions I thought I needed radio but I was approaching a roundabout so needed to think quickly.

I pushed a button quickly to turn the radio on.  Maybe I didn’t have enough caffeine before I left the house because I actually hit the POWER BUTTON.

Arghhh PANIC!

Except don’t panic because I was driving a Ford, engineered by Ford engineers and, just like a Toyota, it didn’t stop.  But that’s OK because I didn’t want to stop, I just wanted to turn the radio on.  The car knew I was only kidding when I pushed the power button.  It wasn’t clever enough to know that I wanted to turn the radio on but that level of knowledge would be akin to the psychic powers of Derek Akorah (or not, because Akorah is a scam artist).

I realised my mistake and pressed the radio button and everything was tickety boo, fine and dandy.

I’m not sure there’s a moral to this story, except perhaps “Pay attention when you’re in charge of a car” or “If I offer you a lift, be afraid, be very afraid.” 

Saturday, 20 March 2010


A depressing topic for a Saturday afternoon but I’ve been thinking about it, a lot, recently.
Sydney, our family cat isn’t well.  He’s losing weight and he’s increasingly lethargic.  The vet has prescribed steroids and she thinks the problem is a tumour that lines the intestine. 
I can’t talk to Syd to ask him whether he’s in pain.  I can’t ask him whether he’s enjoying life.
My internet research hasn’t really helped me, especially when I read that sometimes a cat will purr not through contentment but because it distracts the cat from the discomfort it’s experiencing.
I could get all sentimental about how Syd has always been there and how he’s been a part of our life for so long but that doesn’t help.  Basically I need to know whether now is the right time to “put him to death” as Ethan puts it.
The advice I’ve received so far is “Don’t leave it too long” which doesn’t really help because I don’t know when “too long” is.
And it’s not really my decision either, it’s a family choice.
The children understand death if it just happens but I think they’ll struggle with making a decision that will bring it forward.
I see my husband getting upset whenever we start to talk about it and I struggle to remain composed too.
I don’t know what to do, or who to ask.

Friday, 19 March 2010


I'm on a Eurostar train that smells of fresh fart. I'm in my allocated seat near the window, and to move anywhere I'd have disturb the lady next to me. I'm looking around the crowded carriage trying to figure out who the guilty party is. Not that I will be able to do anything about it but sometimes it's nice to know who to blame for one's discomfort.
There are two men, clearly colleagues, sitting at the opposite window. They've been discussing at length, and at a not inconsiderable volume, the deals that they nearly did, but didn't.
There is a couple nearby in which the man is clearly dominant. He's not just talking to his wife/lover/colleague, he's broadcasting to a wider, disinterested audience.
There's a young guy opposite me whose rucksack is spilling into my space while he reads a book titled Mijn COUNTDOWN. I think he might be a student because he's covering the pages of the book with orange highlighter and pencil. Oh, and he has one of those little triangular beards immediately below his bottom lip. It's less beard, more tuft and I think he thinks it makes him attractive. He's wrong.
I would quite like a cup of tea if it weren't for the fart smell, which is being refreshed quite regularly, and the long walk to the bar, and the fact that the lady sitting in the aisle seat next to me is asleep.
I wonder what I'd be talking about if I had someone who'd enjoyed the same conference as me, sat next to me.
Would we discuss the shared experience and reflect over the last couple of days? Maybe we'd share iPhone applications or talk about what we had planned for the weekend. I wonder if we'd complain about lack of time, resource and corporate will to implement any of the interesting ideas we've seen over the last two days, whilst secretly making plans to leapfrog the competition.
Student boy is eating a floury bread roll with white chocolate which, to my mind, confirms his student status.
The noisy businessmen have tired of one another and have fallen silent avoiding eye contact.
I haven't bought my guilty mother gifts yet. I looked but couldn't find anything. My children didn't want me to do this trip. They didn't want to go to the Breakfast and After School clubs. Ethan kept asking me why I had to go and, when I explained, he told me I should be more assertive with my boss. It's difficult to explain that I did and didn't want to do this trip.
The information gathered is very valuable and I have a long memory for this type of presentation. It does help me with my work and I would like to spend more time learning and understanding.
But I miss home and I feel so guilty about disrupting the weekly routine. My husband has taken some time off, I've missed Hannah's parent's evening at school, and the children have had to spend time in a club that would normally be home time.
So I will probably stop at Bluewater on the way home to buy the guilt gifts. But if I do that I might miss the children before they go to bed. I don't think I can win. It's a lose lose situation all round.
Thank God it's Friday.

Friday, 12 March 2010


I’ve just tried this recipe and it was easy and tasty, my favourite kind of recipe.  Oat and Raisin cookies:

Makes variable amount depending on how big you want them to be, but roughly 24 biscuit sized or 12 giant cookie sized cookies.


  • 140g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 80g caster or granulated sugar
  • 80g soft dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract (not flavouring)
  • 190g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 60g rolled oats
  • 110g raisins

Preheat oven to 170 degrees (150 degrees for fan oven) and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, mix thoroughly and then add vanilla and mix again.

Measure out flour, salt, bicarb, cinnamon, and oats and stir with fork.

Add to butter mixture and mix well then add raisins and mix again.

Roll balls of mixture about 3cm in diameter and place on baking trays.  You need to leave a gap between cookies as they will spread when cooking.  To get an even thickness during the cooking process, lightly flatten the dough balls with the palm of your hand.

Cook for 15 mins or so.  I think it’s best to judge by eye when the cookies are done. 

Leave them to cool on the baking sheets for a while as the cookies will be soft when they come out of the oven and will firm up a little as they cool.

If you want you can finish off the cooling on a wire rack, or if you are as impatient as me you’ll start eating them before they see a wire rack.

If you can resist eating them all, then store in an airtight container and save for later.

Perfect with tea, coffee, hot chocolate, wine, beer, gin…  Enjoy.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Surfing in the bath

I was using Twitter the other day in the bath when I happened to see a tweet by Ed Fraser who describes himself on Twitter as: Senior Programme Editor, Channel 4 News/Online. Covered Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Soham, Tsunami. Seriously Scottish

The tweet that caught my eye was: “Watching #Tsunami live on mac is amazing. Only in the 21st century via #hitsunami.”

I’d heard about UStream but couldn’t remember seeing it in action so I thought I’d check it out.  It sounded like the sort of tool that might be useful.

I knew Ed was viewing on a Mac but I had an iPhone and they’re both Apple so the experience would be the same - right?

I can’t remember the exact sequence of events but I ended up having to download the UStream Application and creating an account.

I then went back into Twitter and clicked on the link again.  I am not sure exactly what choices I was presented with but remember having to choose between Live and Local.  As it was a live event I wanted to view, I clicked Live.

The next thing I remember was the screen changing to look a little like this:


Remember I’m in the bath.

The next thing I know, the shutter is opening and I can see my bath through the shutter aperture and there a little message saying “Streaming to http:// …”

I didn’t wait to capture the web address, which is just as well.  I think I may have been streaming live images of my bath onto the world wide web.  I think all anyone would have seen would have been bath, water and bubbles.  I hope all that anyone would have seen would have been bath, water and bubbles.