Greg's Occasional News & Views

3 January 2010

Good morning and a Happy New Year to you all. We ushered in the New Year in our usual sedate manner – by the time we finished our celebrations the fireworks were going off in Paris. Too bad we live in the UK.

Actually, staying awake until 11.00 was quite an accomplishment for us. Normally, we are snoring by about 10.00 so generally we get to welcome the arrival of the new year with our friends in Helsinki, Tallinn, Vilnius, Minsk, Kiev, Odessa, Belgrade, Bucharest, Sofia, Athens, Istanbul, Alexandria, Cairo, Lusaka, Harare, Gaborone, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Maputo, Durban & Cape Town (to name but a few). This year we made it to France and, essentially, the whole of western Europe (France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, etc.). Interestingly, (well, it was to me anyway) although Portugal shares the same time zone as the UK and Ireland, the western part of Spain and, in particular, the far northwest corner of Spain is actually considerably further west than we are. Indeed, even further west than Dublin which just goes to show, I guess, that time zones are somewhat arbitrary.

Having lasted all the way to Paris, we did have the “enjoyment” of our own fireworks in the village at midnight which caused a brief hiatus in our slumbers – just enough to wake us up and cause to wonder, WTF? before recognising the sights and sounds of controlled explosions being detonated somewhere in the vicinity.

And what a moon! Clear and bright and large as a dinner platter.

New Year’s Day dawned clear and bright with a formidable frost. The snow has gone in spite of the predictions of life-threatening blizzards forecast earlier in the week. They’ve had snow elsewhere but we’ve not had any following the downfall we had the week before Christmas.

We had a fun, if somewhat brief, video chat with Ben and Adam on New Year’s Eve afternoon. Adam had set up a video server which allowed a four-way video chat which we had experimented with on Christmas. However, it was a bit slow mainly, we think, because it was located in China behind the Beijing firewall. So, Ben set one up somewhere else which actually worked tolerably well. We had hoped to have all three boys in the chat but Nick and Lucy were on their way to Bristol to spend New Year’s with friends so Nick was unable to join us on this occasion. Good fun but somewhat challenging to organise – our thanks to Ben and Adam for setting it up and to Ben for getting out of bed at the unreasonably early hour of 9.00 am and for Adam for staying awake until 1.00 am New Year’s morning. Perhaps we’ll do it again next year but, in the meantime, the one-to-one video conversations we can have with Skype will have to suffice.

Yesterday (Saturday) I was able to enjoy a day in a manner very similar to those we used to enjoy in our youth – New Year’s Day means college football bowl games (well, it used to but now everything is stretched out). Still, yesterday was very similar to those New Year’s Days gone past at least in the sense that we (actually, just me although I would have happily saved a spot in the bleachers for Ms Playchute) were able to watch the Rose Bowl followed in moderately close proximity by the Sugar Bowl. Not live, of course but the recorded version is every bit as exciting, provided one has carefully avoided looking at any web sites which might carry the results. Just a few more to get through before the Championship Game back at the Rose Bowl later in the week.

Thursday’s post brought an amusing little diversion – we received a Christmas card we had dispatched, kindly returned to us by a grateful but incorrect recipient. As it happens, the card had been dispatched to the wrong address. Not only that, but we had been sending cards to the same recipient at the same incorrect address for the past ten years. The message inside the envelope said, “Just to let you know that XXX hasn’t been at this address for at least ten years! I regularly receive one of your very-well-put-together yearly updates and keep meaning to inform you of this.” I don’t know which is more significant – the fact that the incorrect recipient had received our cards and Christmas message for ten years without informing us or that he/she considered them to be “very-well-put-together.”

And finally, here’s a challenge for you. A Japanese gentleman, Takuo Toda, has set the world record for a paper airplane. One he made and “launched” stayed in the air for 26.1 seconds. All you need to do is to design and make one which stays in the air a bit longer. Shouldn’t be too challenging. You can read about his achievements here.

Love to you all,

Greg

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