Friday 5 December 2008

CB500 Winter Hack for Sale!

My trusty CB500 is for sale on Ebay. Bidding currently stands at £45.

Bid now and get a bargain!

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Domain Name Scams

If you are contacted by a company called Euro Systems then you may want to consider reading the following websites:

Domain name scam link 1
Domain name scam link 2
Domain name scam link 3
Domain name scam link 4

Interestingly, Euro System's phone number (08445442955) is listed on a website which reports scammers.

I'm not saying they're scammers, but their pitch was nearly 100% word-for-word the same as the domain name scams listed above. I'll let you make your own mind up.

Meanwhile, if you do want to register more domain names associated with your company, then I recommend 123-reg.

Saturday 15 November 2008

Along came a Spider

Well after looking for a car for about... a year now, I finally took the plunge and got one.

Say hello to my 2001 Alfa Romeo Spider 3.0 v6. Not bad for a first car!

It does about 145mph and 0-60 in 6.5s. I reckon I will be taking it a bit easier than that though as the fuel economy is terrible. Sadly I have given up my bike insurance and transferred the NCB to the car policy, so I will probably be getting rid of the bike.

More pics here.

Friday 14 November 2008

Cheques taking longer to clear

I have been waiting for a cheque from a car finance company to clear with the garage from which I am buying a new car.

So far the bank has had the cheque for 6 days and it has not cleared yet. Apparently the garage had a letter from their bank telling them that cheques would now take 7 days to clear.

Pretty scandalous, considering the OFT were meant to be cracking down on it when it was 3-5 days as standard.

Saturday 8 November 2008

Nice weather for a convertible

I was meant to be picking up my new car today, but it turns out I can't. The garage only received the cheque from the finance company yesterday and they have to wait for it to clear so I will probably have to wait till Tuesday or, more likely, Wednesday.

What a bummer. It is a pretty gorgeous day today and it would have been perfect for picking the car up. Oh well - I just hope the rest of the week is as nice.

Just as well probably as I'm no affy weel today.

Thursday 6 November 2008

Is Africa a continent or country?

Yes Sarah Palin really was a thicko thickie!

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Coming soon...


America in "Not voting in another idiot" shocker!

My political analysis: the world will now be hoping that the USA makes the transition from being a "baddie" towards being a "goodie".

Thursday 30 October 2008

Who studies fruit flies?

Just in case anyone is in any doubt - fruit fly research is the cornerstone of pretty much all genetic research which is kinda useful in medical research.

That woman really is terrifyingly thick. Amazing to think she could run the US if Ol' McCain wins and then pops his clogs thereafter.

Sunday 26 October 2008

Bike or Car?

It's starting to get cold again and as I ride my bike in to work in the mornings I am reminded why I wanted to get a car so much earlier this year.

My reasons were: sick of getting wet; sick of getting cold; sick of not being able to carry much stuff; sick of not being able to turn up looking smart to work; sick of being confined to Oxford or wherever public transport will take me.

I did try to buy a car last month, but found the credit crunch had closed the doors to all reasonable loans. I tried to apply again to the AA for a £7000 loan - the lowest they will give. Refused! If they won't give that to me who will they give it to?!

So once again I am torn by the car situation. Should I spend a few grand on a car - a depreciating asset that will cost loads to run; or should I spend a few hundred pounds on some new winter bike gear and just keep riding the bike?

Problem with getting a car is that I don't want a crappy small car. Problem with bikes is that riding them in Winter sucks.

Friday 24 October 2008

'ING rubbish!

Just got a letter from ING. Seems that since the Bank of England has reduced the interest rates they have reduced the rate on my ISA to 4.25%. That is rubbish! It is probably below the rate of inflation. Obviously the multi-billion dollar handout from the Dutch government hasn't made ING feel particularly generous.

Must look for better investment...

Sunday 19 October 2008

Biomechanical mess

I finally had my appointment on Friday with the podiatrist-type guy. Previous appointment was cancelled because he dislocated his shoulder! Turns out this had prevented him from emigrating to New Zealand. Bad for him, but, as it turns out, rather fortunate for me.

Anyway, the consultation lasted an hour. I had high hopes for this and had been looking forward to the assessment, not least because I am quite fed up of being unable to walk properly.

Well, the consultation was excellent! He really seemed to know exactly what was wrong with me. At first I had to stand there, then on one leg then the other. Some various static testing on the bed too. Then I did some walking over the force-measurement plate which feeds in to the computer. Then I went on the running machine (at walking pace!) and he watched my dodgy gait.

As predicted, I have a shockingly bad gait and my overall biomechanics are really messed up. In one of the tests to look at flexibility in my hips I got a score of -5. He was looking to see how much over 0 I scored and I was below! So, my dodgy hips turn my femur inwards and my dodgy gait turns my leg out the other way, so I have two opposing forces meeting at my knee. At least that is mu understanding of it. The problem in one leg is made worse my one leg being longer than the other.

I felt such relief hearing him explain it. Everything made sense to him, which made me feel really positive.

So he is making an orthotic shoe insert to hopefully sort some of this mess out. I should get it in about a week. I'm looking forward to trying it out!

The guy's practice is called Motion Lab. If you live in the South East of England and have any problems I highly recommend you see him before he leaves the country. I'm hoping I can get sorted before he goes.

GoogleMail Tabs in Firefox

Has something changed with GoogleMail?

Perhaps the only annoying thing about GoogleMail is that it is impossible to open different emails in multiple tabs in Firefox. You can only read one email at a time. It's a pain, but I put up with it.

You can, however, open different emails in tabs if you use the GoogleMail preview on your iGoogle page. That was fine for me.

However, since this week something has changed which is very annoying.

Every time I open an email in Googlemail from my iGoogle page I get this message:

Your Google Mail account has been signed out.

Google Mail automatically signs you out of your account when it detects that you've logged out from another browser window, or when you sign in to another Google Mail account from another browser window. This is done to protect your Google Mail account, and to ensure the privacy of your information.

Is it maybe detecting that I am logged in on my other computer? I have a "Home" tab and a "Work" tab on my iGoogle page so I can use one iGoogle page for home or work. I thought that was the point. Now Google is being all pi$$y.

Can someone explain what is going on? It's very irritating!

CreditExpert Con

Since getting refused for a few loans I decided to check my credit rating at Credit Expert - which is run by Experian. This is the company that the banks use to judge whether you are worthy of their money.

Turns out my credit rating is only "Fair". Apparently the only thing that counted against me is the fact that I applied for some loans, which seems a little "Catch-22" like.

Anyway, I have since found out that Experian has a little bit of a dodgy business model. You have to submit your credit card details to access your score. That is fair enough as you need to really prove your identity. They then send you a code by post to your credit card address to log-in. Again, fair enough.

You actually don't get to see your credit rating for free - you can only see the information that they hold on you. Still seems fair.

To view your actual credit score, you have to £6.99. Okay, so I paid the money to find my score.

They then want you to stay as a paying user of Credit Expert, so you can regularly check your credit score to avoid fraud etc. Only £5.95 a month. Ummm, no thanks, just checking the once will be fine thanks.

Of course this is the same practice that the likes of Lovefilm use - entice you in, take your credit card details and then "ta-da" you are paying a monthly sub...unless you cancel. Now Lovefilm, if I remember correctly, make it fairly easy so you can cancel online if you want. That is the correct thing to do.

Not Credit Expert - you have to phone them to cancel. Now there is no good technical reason for them to have this obligation - most companies will try to do everything via the web because humans are so damn expensive (they need fed and cleaned regularly).

So the only reason to have this system is to trap chumps who never get around to phoning - chumps like me.

So now I have to try and remember to cancel this damn thing tomorrow (of course they are not open on a Sunday). What are the chances the phone queue will be rather long...

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Pins in my knee

I had my third acupuncture session this weekend. Pic is my leg with the acupuncture needles in it. This time it was a different "doctor". Tellingly, he put the needles in different places from the other guy with none in my knee at all. He stuck one of them in teh top of my foot. You can't see it in the photo, but it didn't feel too nice getting stuck in. As usual I got the "I think my leg is going to start twitching" feeling towards the end, which is a bit scary.

After about 20min he came in and I though he was going to remove the pins, but no - he was just there to "tweak" them! Argh!

Anyway, once he was done I went out, drank some Chinese tea, let the girl tell me I needed another seven sessions, then smiled as I bolted out the door. I might try acupuncture again, but maybe elsewhere.

Saturday 27 September 2008


Some people (including an orthopaedic surgeon) have suggested that acupuncture might be quite good to help reduce the swelling in my knee.

I was going to go somewhere that had been recommended to me, but I was feeling very impatient today as I couldn't find a decent knee support in Oxford, so I decided to go in to a Chinese health shop. You know the ones - slightly dodgy looking, often found in shopping centres, with questionable claims on the windows.

The only time I've seen inside them is when the likes of Watchdog have done stories about them conning people in to buying dodgy medicine after looking at their tongue.

First off, just like on Watchdog, I sat down with the "Doctor" and his translator. They then asked loads of questions about my knee, and I did my best to explain without using the words "synovial plica". They did ask how my bowels were - I reckon they ask everyone this - and I said they were fine. And of course I had to stick my tongue out and have my pulse taken.

It was then explained to me that I have three meridians flowing down my leg and that they were blocked which makes the chi monkey fall off my back. Or something like that. I was by that point just wishing they would get on with it and stick the bloomin' needles in my knee.

So they I was taken in to the treatment room and I lay down on the treatment bed with my trousers off. Once again I made a pants-related error, by not then covering myself up with the provided towel...

Then the doc comes in and brings out the needles. I think my eyes must have been as wide as dinner plates when he started sticking them in me. I think there were six in total. He stuck them in a little bit, then kinda tapped them in one movement with his whole hand. When he put the two in my knee, I was honestly crapping myself and I though he was going to go straight in to my patella ligament and I was going to then hit the roof. Actually it wasn't too bad. One of the needles in my calf felt quite uncomfortable - like he had put it in when the muscle was tense and when I tried to relax it felt weird.

So I lay there and looked at the acupuncture chart on the wall. Looking at the chart such as the eye and perineum. :S

After about 20min the needles were removed. The doc then gave me a massage with some menthol oil stuff. Although it felt like he was just randomly rubbing my knee, it did actually feel quite good... that is until he did some kind of slapping thing on my kneecap that I did not like much.

Of course, I knew that they would eventually "recommend" that I buy lots of Chinese medicine and sign up for loads more acupuncture sessions. They wanted me to sign up for 10 sessions for which I would get 3 free. Hmmm... perhaps they could not detect the Scottish accent. They also wanted me to buy the oil and two boxes of medicine stuff. I agreed to sign up for 3 more sessions - I do appreciate that if it is going to have any effect it will not happen in one go - and I bought the oil stuff. They did their best to get me to buy the medicine but I did refuse on that one. I willing to accept that Chinese medicine could have some efficacy in certain conditions, but for a gammy knee I'll stick to Glucosamine and cod liver oil for the time being.

So how does it feel now? Well it actually felt quite good afterwards. It's always a good sign when my right knee bothers me more than my left. However, it's impossible to tell if the improvement is because of the acupuncture or the random rubbing afterwards.

I now stink of menthol, but I go back on Tuesday for more...

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Knee: Better then worse

Two days ago my knee felt great. Really strong and I could almost walk normally.

Then that evening I had to ride the motorbike up to Birmingham to get a new exhaust. I don't think the riding bothered my knee, but when I was up there I had to try and get on my knees to fit the new exhaust. I also kinda jarred it when I was sitting on the bike eating fish n' chips.

So now it is sore again like last week, which is especially annoying as the day before was the first time it had felt strong in ages. I have, however, managed to add about 2cm to the circumference of my thigh so I am managing to rebuild the atrophied muscle. Hopefully that should help!

Fraser - last week my knee was weaker than it was straight after the surgery - I couldn't do the exercises that I could do then. Now, my knee is definitely worse than before the surgery judging by its current state.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Knee progress - getting worse

I had another physio appointment tonight. My physio is quite amazed about how much muscle I have lost in my thigh. She thinks I may be stuck in a vicious circle where my knee is so swollen it is causing the muscle to atrophy and because my thigh muscle is weak my knee cap is out of position, which causes more knee swelling.

My knee feels so odd. I have no feedback - it feels like it could snap backwards at any time. When I do squats, I can feel the muscle in my right leg tensing, but in my left leg in the same place it just feels like jelly.

So I now have to start from scratch and treat my knee as if I have just had the surgery (it was about 3 months ago now). My main aim is to try and build up the thigh muscle again (inner thigh muscle - can't remember the name). I have to do exercises every hour and try to ice it three times a day.

I was unable to do exercises tonight that I was able to do in my first physio appointment after the surgery - so I am weaker than I was after the surgery.

I have been to the gym a couple of times this week, but I am going to start going every day (if I can get a lift!).

So I did actually broach the question of my physio - "do you think I will walk properly again?" Answer - "I hope so!"

I do feel a bit guilty moaning about this once I have spent a few minutes on KneeGuru and you hear about the terrible knee injuries some people have.

Must work on my positive mental attitude!

Sunday 14 September 2008

Pandora's box of knee problems

I had some knee surgery a couple of months ago to try and sort some pain I had when I stressed the joint after a long walk or if jogging.

Unfortunately the recovery has not been smooth.

A few weeks ago I went to see my Consultant for my post-operative follow-up consultation. By that point I had had some physiotherapy, had a full range of motion in my knee again, and had done some light walking in South-West England. The knee was still a bit swollen though, and I did still get some twinges in it. Overall it didn't feel too bad, but I also didn't feel like anything had been "sorted".

I had thought the surgeon had found something in my knee in the operation, but in my conversation with him it became apparent that although he had done some stuff in there he hadn't really found anything that made him think, "Ah - there's the problem!"

He suggested I needed to try and stress the knee again to see if it was improved. However, I never got that far.

Almost the next day my knee started to hurt more. I was getting twinges in different parts of the knee and I started to limp again. It got pretty bad, so that it was sore to walk almost anywhere, so I made an appointment with the physio again.

While I was at the physio I mentioned that I had never had my leg length measured or my hips checked. All these things are linked so that should have been checked early on. Well, it would seem that my left (injured) leg is 2cm longer than my right. How have I managed to walk normally for 28 years? Not sure...

So here are the things that are apparently wrong with me. I'll start at the bottom and work my way up. Like the song says - it's all connected!

My feet - well I have a bit of a dodgy gait. That alone can cause a whole manner of knee problems, not to mention problems with the hips and back.

Knees - well first off I've had what I now think was unnecessary surgery, so my knee is still swollen. This means I don't have very good feedback and it feels weak and unstable. Something in there is more inflamed that before so I am getting shooting pains all over the place when I walk and the original problem with the patella ligament is almost certainly still there.

Also, I have a mal-tracking patella, which means my kneecap moves kind of funny, which can stress the knee too. Combined with the bad gait, this means lots of stress on the knees. Although my left knee is the big problem at the moment, before the operation I actually had more consistent pain in my right knee.

Thighs - well nothing permanent, but my left thigh muscle has atrophied quite badly. It's circumference near my knee is about 2-3cm less than the right leg.

Hips - not necessarily related to the knee problems - but I have very tight hips. Where this does cause problems is when I ride the motorbike - I can get some really bad pains in my right hip in particular, and I can't comfortably ride a bike with a wide tank. I'm thinking Moto Guzzi...

So if that makes me sound like an old arthritic 88 year old man, well, that is exactly how I feel. I can barely walk once around my business park at work without getting in pain, and I will tell you it is not just a little scary.

So what am I doing? I am still seeing the physio and I have exercises to try and build up my thigh muscle as well as stretch my hips. I have taping to adjust my patella when I am doing exercise. Next week I will go back to the gym and try to build up my legs.

I am applying ice to my knee once or twice a day and also taking the diclofenac (NSAID) that I was given after the op. I also went to Holland & Barret and bought Glucosamine, Chondroitin and Cod Liver Oil. I am also open to the idea of acupuncture and anything else that might remotely have a chance of helping.

I am trying to get an appointment with the podiatrist and will probably end up getting an orthotic.

It has only been like this for a few weeks, but at the moment it feels like a life time. I should never have had that surgery. I really thought the problem was some specific damage to the tendon, but it is now clear it is all biomechanical. The problem is working out what caused what...

I'm hoping the orthotics will be the biggest benefit. I really do feel like one leg is really long at the moment. Presuming one of my legs hasn't suddenly got longer or one of my hip joints collapsed, I'm not sure how I can have walked like this normally for so long. It's not that an unusual problem - David Beckham has it - Patrick Vieira has one leg 3cm longer than the other. I am not yet walking in circles!

At the moment I am just hoping I will be able to walk properly again. I also wonder if ski-ing will ever happen again. I'm kind of assuming that eventually I will get proper arthritis in that knee.

Meh - this sucks!

Monday 8 September 2008

Car Finance Vultures

I was intending on buying a car this weekend. However, I did not take the credit crunch in to account.

Last time I applied for a loan, when I was a student, I went to Cahoot and had the money in my account within a couple of days at around 6.5% if I remember correctly.

Now that I'm earning a decent wage I presumed getting a decent car loan would not be a problem, despite the global economic situation. Admittedly the advertised rates are a little higher - Sainsbury's seemed best at 7.7%.

They refused me! They then referred me to another company which offered a loan at 15%! I then tried my own bank - Alliance & Leicester - who offered me a loan at 18%!!

So then I tried filling in one of those car finance applications online at the Autotrader website. Big mistake.

Since then I have had a non-stop stream of phone calls and text messages to my landline and mobile. These finance companies are like a kettle of vultures, desperate to get me to take a loan. I have just started telling them that I have already bought a car and don't need the money any more. In fact, today I just stopped answering the phone.

I think I'll just buy new waterproofs for my motorbike instead!

Monday 25 August 2008

Stone Balancing

Krishna' Butter Ball
Originally uploaded by major_grooves
One of the favourite sights ever when travelling abroad was in India - Krishna's Butterball, - a chuffing huge rock which is seemingly ready to roll down a hill and crush people.

When I was in Dorset the other day I saw a guy doing stone balancing on the beach, and it reminded me of it... but on a slightly smaller scale!

Balancing rocks make nice pictures as you'll see if you look at his website. I would have bought one if I had me own flat to put it up in.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Kevin McCloud

I must confess I do like those property programmes, or "property pRon" as they are often referred to. I dont, however, really think it is fair to blame Kirstie Allsopp for the country's current economic woes. She is far too yummy (well, that's the sort of thing they say to descibe her) to be responsible for that mess. Blame Gordon Brown (non-yummy).

Anyway, one of the best shows is Grand Designs, because it shows that sort of houses that I aspire to but will never be able to afford. Oh.

However, I'm not a fan of Kevin McCloud. It's not because of the slightly arty/theatrical, patronising tone he uses most of the time, it is because of his name, or more specifically his surname.

McCloud. "Son of Cloud". Yes that's right, Cloud, that famous Norse King who ruled Skye. What's that you say? Some people spell it "McLeod". Maybe the name means "Son of Leod"? Hmmm?

I resent whoever it was that decided it would be a good idea for their family branch of the McLeod tree to change McLeod to McCloud. Must have been Americans. I would have less problem with McLoud!

Britain in "Not Completely Sh*t" Shocker!

I'm confused. This is Britain. We're meant to be useless at most things, especially in sports.

However, we now stand at 3rd in the Olympic medals table, behind China and USA, whose combined population is 8 million times that of ours. If your powers of deduction aren't that good, that means that, yes, we are beating both Germany AND Australia. Take that Boche and, ummmm, sports-mad exile convicts!

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Where the Hell is Matt (2008)

Well I posted a link to the original video about 2 years ago, so in the spirit of nice internet videos, here is "Where the Hell is Matt (2008)"

He still doesn't seem to have been to Scotland!

Friday 27 June 2008

New hospital policy

So as I mentioned in the previous post, my consultant decided I needed surgery on my knee. The procedure is called arthroscopy.

So I got the bus down to the hospital for the surgery. It is minor day surgery, albeit with a general anaesthetic.

I had a private room, and was just relaxing waiting for the nurses to prep me. The nurse came in and gave me the surgical gown and a few other bits and bobs, then left to let me get ready. I put on my surgical gown fine (no - I didn't put it on back to front!) and put on a hairnet and a single TED stocking.

I then lay there watching TV for a while, waiting for the consultant. While I was waiting, the nurse popped in once or twice to see I was ok.

After a short while, my consultant came in with the senior physiotherapist. The consultant kind of gave me an odd look when he came in and said something about "new hospital policy". I wasn't sure what he meant, but then lay there listening as he and the physio described some of the aspects of the surgery and recovery.

Towards the end I asked him if I really needed to wear the hairnet for the operation.

"That's not a hairnet," he replied, "that's your pants!"


Yes - I was sitting there in front of my consultant and the senior physiotherapist... with my surgery pants on my head!

So I then burst out laughing, as did the consultant and physio. I was laughing so hard that I strained a muscle in my neck. They had quite impressively managed to be completely serious with me till that point. The consultant had thought someone was playing a joke on him ("new policy"), then when I didn't take them off, figured he would let the physio explain to me once he had left.

As I said to them - I had wondered why it had a hole in the top, but thought it maybe doubled as a beard net too. I didn't notice that it had two holes (for me legs!).

To say I was embarrassed would be a slight understatement.

Even once they left I kept bursting into spontaneous laughter every time I thought of it.

I have since told this story to anyone who will listen, and pretty much everyone is reduced near to tears!

So anyway, I've now had the surgery. The consultant thinks he found the problem and has sorted it. I am now off my feet for a couple of days, and hopefully in a few weeks my knee will be back to 100% normality!

Sailing and surgery

Ok, It's been a while since my last post.

To summarise the more significant events of the past few weeks:

1) I went to Chicago for a conference and visited Kev. Greg and Cara came down from Toronto and we had a very good time. Conference was pretty good too. I had a speaking slot which went quite well.

2) My consultant decided that I needed surgery on my knee for the problem I've been having.

3) I went to another conference in San Diego last week. That was a very cool conference with around 30,000 people there are around 6,000 exhibitors. What was even cooler was that my company chartered a yacht, which I got to go out sailing on a couple of times.

So that's the last couple of months summarised. See next post for something more... amusing!

Saturday 26 April 2008

PhD Nightmares

Shredded Paper
Originally uploaded by bartmaguire
I was telling my colleagues at work that I still have dreams/nightmares about my PhD. They are usually quite similar - it turns out I have to do just one more viva then I have my PhD, or I just have to re-write one more chapter to finish, or I just have to do a few more experiments to get done. My supervisor usually features...

They're quite anxious dreams, but I do wake up with quit a sense of relief when I realise I've done it all. Bear in mind I finished the PhD nearly three years ago. It would seem I have trouble recovering from stressful situations. I occasionally have dreams that I agree to do one more shift at Burger King, and that ended over ten years ago!

Well, this weekend W "persuaded" me to clear up some of my papers. I didn't really know what I had in the boxes, but in one of them I found all my old PhD notes. There were methods, and notes from seminars, and thousands of "scores" from when I had been counting yeasties on the microscope. I must have counted tens of thousands of the wee buggers over those four years.

I think the PhD notes might have been giving out some negative energy, so I have cleansed the flat by putting all PhD related notes in the recycling bin.

I figure I should hang on to the thesis though...

Saturday 12 April 2008


I recently spent two weeks in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India for work. I did get the chance to take one day sight-seeing.

I went to see a crocodile park and some ancient temples, but the most impressive sight for me was Krishna's Butter ball. Nice bouldering challenge. V. diff?

I've been trying to find out some info about this huge boulder, but all I kind find is similar tourist photos. I presume it was dropped by a glacier. Or a giant. I was told that the British tried to move it with 14 elephants during the Raj, but failed to budge it. Good. Why would you want to move it? I love it - it looks like it's about to start rolling toward you Indiana Jones-style. Depending on the angle of the photo you can see that it is beautifully balanced. In fact, in some photos you can see that it is in fact chopped in half. I wonder if the other bit is lying around there somewhere too.

See some of my Indian photos on Flickr.

Scotland is quite good at...


Wow - possibly the only sport that we are consistently good at. Not quite up there in terms of Football and Rugby in terms of global impact, but hey, at least it's something.

The Scottish Men's team is through to the final of the World Curling Championships.

Good luck to the boys for today's final!

I've tried curling a couple of times on the winter rink at Lochgoilhead Hotel. Great fun, but I never could get used to the slippy shoe!

Saturday 22 March 2008

Gammy knee

As I mentioned at the start of the year my gammy knee has been flaring up.

I decided to take advantage of my work's private healthcare insurance and see if I could get it sorted out.

It's actually slightly more involved to get an MRI scan privately than through the NHS as they insurers want you to be referred by a consultant rather than the GP. From those I've spoken to, the main difference is that getting that first scan appointment is much faster once you go private.

Anyway, I've now had the scan, and the consultant has taken a look and can't see a thing wrong with any of the structures in my knee.

The next step was to try a cortisone injection in my knee to see if that would stop whatever was getting inflamed in my knee.

So on Wednesday I went in to the hospital and got a mixture of anaesthetic and cortisone injected in my knee.

Soon as I got home from the hospital I thought I would go for a run to test my new steroid enhanced knee...

YOU DID WHAT?! what everyone has said to me when I tell them that.

However, the idea is that the anaesthetic acts immediately where it is injected, therefore I needed to go for a run to test whether the injection had been in the correct place. If I felt no pain then the anaesthetic was in the correct place, therefore the steroid would also be in the correct place.

Well, it's fair to say everything expect my knee hurt during the run. Mainly my lungs. I was missing my little W pace-setter!

As the anaetheic wore off in the afternoon I could feel my knee a little bit, but nothing bad (remember last time I went for a run I couldn't walk in the afternoon).

on Thursday, however, I was in a fair bit of pain and was limping about in the office.

This meant one of two things: the steroid probably was in the right place but had made no difference, or this was the initial reaction to the steroid injection (which, I was warned, meant my knee might hurt for 24h).

So now my knee feels fine. I will probably try another run next weekend to test it again. Fingers crossed... then my international rugby career can recommence.

On Monday I go off to India for work for a week. Should be interesting!

(pic above is not my knee!)

Sunday 16 March 2008

Why Scotland are so Rubbish at Rugby

It's really tough supporting Scotland at rugby. Really difficult watching them play and thinking, "that is the best our nation can do". The thing that gets me, is that Scotland's backs never look like breaking the line. Whenever Shane Williams or Jason Robinson gets/got the ball, you were always expecting the jinky little gits to magically weave their way through lines of defenders. Instead our backs take the ball at what seems like incredibly slow speeds and kind of bash in to the defenders.

Why do they take the ball so slow? No-one else does? Is it a tactic? I don't get it. If this is our international level, what do they do at club level? Walk?

Sean Lamont seems to be well admired and he does make a fair number of line breaks, but when he gets the ball, you are never expecting him to do some little side-step and dash through to the try-line.

I would give anything for a Scottish Shane Williams in the team. I find it hard to believe that he plays on the opposite wing to Nikki Walker. I know which wing I would be passing to.

Nikki - 11 trys in 45 games for Ospreys. 24%
Shane - 35 trys in 78 games for Ospreys. 45%

Anyhow, I've always reckoned that the main disadvantage that Scotland has is the number of prople playing rugby that it has to choose from. Scotland - 5 million people; England - 45 Million - so they's 9 times more people to choose from. As for Wales and New Zealand having less people than us - well the Welsh are just rugby mad, and the Kiwis have the Maoris.

Ian McGeechan once said that New Zealanders were just Scots who had learnt how to win.

Anyway, with regards to the number of people to choose from, I found an interesting article that suggests it is worse than the simple population stats would suggest. Put simply - not very many people in Scotland play rugby compared to other countries.

I've summarised it below (figures include women and children):

England - 1,000,000 players
France - 212,000
New Zealand - 141,000
Japan - 126,000
Ireland - 100,000
Argentina - 81,000
Zimbabwe - 55,000
Italy - 45,000
Wales - 42,000
Scotland - 24,000
Spain - 17,000
Madagasgar - 17,000
Chile - 16,000

It's worth reading this article, in which it is suggested that on the basis of the above numbers, Scotland actually punches above its weight. I would tend to agree.

So basically the problem is that we are a lazy nation who can't be arsed to play sport. That, or we just don't like rugby that much compared to football. I remember when I briefly played club rugby in Scotland and it was always a struggle to get 15 people together for the game. Half the team couldn't be bothered turning up because they were hungover. Quite sad really.

There are more deep-rooted problems with the SRU, but I won't go in to that now.

Saturday 8 March 2008

Small Town Oxford

Another night out in Oxford, another night blighted by an idiot. This time, some guy itching for a fight in Escape. He's just lucky I didn't go Kung-Fu on his ass.

Could be the bad choice of clubs that is the problem.

Monday 3 March 2008

Man vs Machine...

...Man loses.

I love Doritos Chili Heat Wave crisps.

What I hate is when I go to the vending machine at work and the damn thing thinks that the row with the Chili Doritos is empty.



Alright then, I'll have some normal Cheese and Onion crisps instead. Pah! My night has been ruined.

Saturday 1 March 2008

Stornoway at Jericho Tavern

After Greg's recommendations, W and I went to the Jericho Tavern last night to see Stornoway play.

Special credit to Franziskaner for making nice beer.

Anyway, the music... I had briefly listened to theiur MySpace page and thought they were a kind of folksy Belle & Sebastien style band.

Very pleased to see that some of them started the gig wearing masks. In particular, you can't complain when a man wearing a horse head plays the trumpet. Very surreal in a kind of pagan-trippy-hippy kinda way. Like the Wickerman or something. Reminds me of the time I saw a man with a Zebra head walking past my lab door...

Although I was coming to see them I was expecting to see two support bands, but no-one else seemed to play. I wouldn't mind if it was a free gig but when you've paid money you kind of expect artists to turn up. Never mind, it was Stornoway we wanted to hear.

Their two songs of particular note are "The Good Fish Guide" which is worth listening to simply because it is a bit mental. "Here Comes the Blackout" is a fantastic song, surely worthy of a bigger stage. Go to their page just to listen to that song alone (don't forget the fish though). I'd consider buying their E.P. for that song alone.

One thing that I really hated about the gig was when horse head took off his head to reveal that he was in fact human. Unfortunately he started to read poetry. It really was the most pretentious, contrived crap I have ever heard in my life. He obviously thought he was quite good judging by the enthusiasm he put into the performance. I can only assume it was a friendly crowd familiar with this tosh, otherwise I would have expected a few pint glasses to be projected towards him. I hope horse head sticks to the trumpet when they gig outside of Oxford.

So, one song I really love, and I might buy their E.P., but I doubt I would see them play again thanks to horse-head.

Picture credit: Stornoway Fish Smokers - Stornoway's premier supplier of smoked fish, kippers, salmon, and shellfish.

Thursday 21 February 2008

Space Pirates vs Ghostbusters

Is this the best remix ever? I've never even seen this "Space Pirates" programme (it's on CBeebies!), but I can't get this mix out of my head. Man.

Credit: the Chris Moyles Show.

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Page 6

Page 6 are a Dundee band. Andrew has been trying to get me to listen to them for a few years and at first I didn't really like the music.

However, when I was back in Dundee at the weekend I went to see them perform a small gig in Drouthy Neebors and now I'm thinking they're pretty good.

Andrew also has an amusing cameo in one of their videos, which I think is worth a watch/listen as it's a pretty good tune. Have a listen to their MySpace page and let me know what you think (Jo - this means you!). They've got a few songs that I think wouldn't be out of place in the Top 40 (not that that is necessarily a good thing these days).

In case you wonder which one Andrew is he is the tall, dodgy dancing guy in a suit. Ha ha!

Hopefully they can make it big and replace "The View" as Dundee's musical envoys.

Check out this video: Dancing Boy

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Anyway, I just bought their album through their MySpace page. I'm sure it's this post on my blog that will be their big break. I will accept royalties...

Saturday 16 February 2008

Gilbert O' Sullivan

Gilbert O' Sullivan
Originally uploaded by major_grooves
As promised, Andy and I did some Sleeveface photos. Have a look here to see all our photos.

Check out the whole Sleeveface group on Flickr.

Friday 15 February 2008

What sandwich have you got?

Cheese baguette of course!

Annoyingly, whoever put this on YouTube managed to miss the first couple of seconds. Allow me to fill the gap - one of the builders asks "what sandwich have you got today?" and they all answer thus:

A legendary clip me thinks. It opened up a whole new world of Chemin' the Fat to an international audience (some more enthusiastic than others!).

I'm about to ride the bike up to Birmingham Airport to catch a flight to the Mothership. Still not sure what I'm going to do with the bike helmet. Hope the ride's not too cold.

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Current Account Interest

They say you're more likely to get divorced than change your bank account. I've been with Natwest since I was 17. That £50 they gave me to join when I was starting Uni basically paid for 7 days drinking in freshers week. Inflation hasn't been kind to that offer since I joined in 1997 and last I saw they were offering about £25 to join the student account. Shows I didn't study economics as that looks like the value has gone down, not up.

Anyway, I think I get an almighty 0.1% interest on any balance in my account. I checked out a price comparison site and found Alliance & Leicester were offering 8.5% (until April 2008) on current accounts. Anything is better than 0.1%. I don't quite understand how Natwest can have any customers when other banks will throw money at you to join.

Anyway, if anyone else fancies joining A&L, they will give us £50 to share as introduction fee. Just let me know and I'll give you the form to complete! :D


I'll have to go through Dad's record collection when I go home this weekend.


Sunday 10 February 2008

Cloverfield vomit fest

We went to see Cloverfield at the cinema tonight. It was a great movie - has to be experienced on the big screen!

What wasn't cool was that someone actually threw up in the cinema while we were watching it. There were signs on the way in to the cinema warning that some viewers may experience motion sickness, because all of the movie is filmed on a hand-held camera.

Yes, towards the end of the movie, the putrid smell of vomit overwhelmed us. I had visions of a "Theme Park" (remember that game?) style vomit chain reaction. Luckily W went and got someone who walked through the cinema spraying deodoriser, which masked the smell till the end. Kind of like flying Ryanair in a really wide plane, with in-flight entertainment.

Wednesday 30 January 2008

Starbacks is here!

Oh yippee.

Things in Summertown are hotting up. We lost our post office to a Costa Coffee in the past year. Many would argue that you don't need a post office. Why have a local post office that you can conveniently use, when, for greater expense and inconvenience, you can make a trip in to the main post office in the centre of town? What I especially like about the city centre post office is the queues. Somehow the transaction once you reach the counter seems so much sweeter if you have spent 15min in a queue beforehand. Only a few months ago I had to tell some odd looking bloke that he really shouldn't be smoking in the queue in the post office. He was most apologetic and didn't stab me or anything!

I'm really glad the government privatised the Royal Mail. The government is cleverer than us plebs and realised quite early on that people actually hate having local amenities, particularly if they help support a community.

Anyway, the reason I started this post was to mention that, like a slowly spreading cancer, Starbucks is moving in to Summertown on the other side of the street from Costa. Hoorah! The shop they are taking over was a sanctuary for abandoned cute kittens. Or something like that.

So we are now another carbon copy suburb with two major chain coffee houses opposite each other. It's kind of sickening really, but, hey, that's life!

Sunday 27 January 2008

Fighty Oxford

I'm not sure what it is about Oxford, but I have probably seen more hassle out when drinking here than I ever seen in Dundee or London.

From sectarian nob-heads and breaking up attacks on foreigners, to my amniosity-attracting Mexican amigo there always seems to be something going on.

Sometimes I wish I had little brother's fighty skills. Last night it would have been handy as I would have smashed some arrogant git's face at The Turf. Some coward threw a pint over the barman for asking everyone to leave the pub at closing time. Not really the sort of thing you expect at the Turf. As he slinked off, twat-face bully-boy started berating the barman when he mistakenly accused him of throwing the pint. Alright it wasn't him but it was his pathetic mate. Classic bully, saying "Everyone's laughing at you for this". They weren't - everyone was looking at him thinking "what a twat", and if they were like me they were probably thinking "I'd love to smash your arrogant face in."

Of course violence solves nothing, so I proved my superiority by letting him go unscathed. That will teach him!

Wednesday 16 January 2008

Official - Dundee is pure dead clever

According to the Intelligent Community Forum (based in New York), Dundee is one of the most intelligent cities in the world.

Dundee-born professor of international politics at Heid the Ba' University, Elsbeth Broon, made the following statement:

"Eh always k'ent eh was mair cleverer than thon gadgies fae Glasgae"

Sunday 13 January 2008

Not Running Man

One of my New Year's resolutions was to get some decent running shoes and go running with Wendy. My aerobic fitness has always been rubbish, and I though that maybe if I tried running I might be able to get back in to rugby eventually.

So yesterday we went to a running shop in Oxford and I bought a pair of Mizuno running shoes for £75. This morning Wendy and I went running for about 45min.

Now I can barely walk. My knees, in particular my left one, are killing me. I've always had dodgy knees (since a fall at Kev's - kitchen/water pistol combination) and then I hit my left knee pretty hard when I fell in Spain whilst climbing.

So apparently I can go back to the shop and get a free consultation from the physio there. I reckon I have two choices - no more running ever again, or some kind of surgery. The sort of surgery where the NHS will try to fob you off with "rest" and painkillers for a few months first. Meh.

Saturday 12 January 2008

3D Wii games

A bit nerdy, but still very cool. This PhD student has made a 3D system using the Wii. Games would be so cool with this. More proof that Wii rules!

Saturday 5 January 2008

Can you deep fry it?


I never seen, let alone eaten, a deep-fried battered Mars bar. However, I am quite a fan of deep fried pizzas. I thought I would post up a photo of this delicacy for those of you who may be curious. Bought from the Fish n' Chip shop in Monifieth.

On a different culinary level, we went to the But n' Ben in Auchmithie. Never been there before - great place! I had the Arbroath Smokie Pancake, which was delicious. Highly recommended.
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Thursday 3 January 2008

Charlie bit me!

We keep watching this video again and again:

and if you like that one, then watch this one too:

Tuesday 1 January 2008

Anyone got a spare £500,000?

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Just over 7 years ago, I was suffering from a monster hangover. It was the day after my 21st birthday and towards the end of the previous night I had engaged in some discussions with the porcelain gods.

What better way to get over the lingering feelings of nausea than going on a drive along some winding Fife roads. The point of this journey was to pick up my 21st birthday present - my kilt outfit.

Accompanied by my then-girlfriend, Donna, Mum drove us over the Tay Road Bridge and through Fife to Caledonia Highland Dress in Abernethy (as an aside I looked for their website so I could link to it - they don't have one, so this will have to do, but I did find an amusing kilt-related story which quotes the owner).

On the way to the kilt shop, Mum had to pull over a few times so that I could, umm, admire the views.

At one of the stops I saw the building in the picture above.

At the time I remember thinking that it was a fantastic looking old building and would be a great project to restore and turn into a big house.

Over the following seven years I always meant to try and find it again to take a proper look - if it was still there.

So last week, Dad, Fraser and I took another journey over to Fife. I couldn't remember exactly which route we had taken. I could only remember that it was about 50m from the road and that it was a building surrounding a kind of courtyard. It was amazing when we finally found it - we were starting to think we would not find it - perhaps it had already been knocked down.

Was was more interesting was that there was a for sale sign up outside it. It seems it has recently been put on the market. We guessed that it might be for sale for between £100,000 - £180,000, but in fact it is up for a cool £275,000. It does have planning permission to convert it into three residences and it also has a fair plot of land, but even still it seems a tad expensive for what it is.

At a rough guess (based mainly on watching Grand Designs and the like!) we reckon it might need around £250,000 spent on it to turn it into three decent residences, bringing the spend to £525,000. So to get a decent return you'd probably want to sell each residence for about £250,000 to get £750,000 in total and make a decent £225,000 profit (30%) with some room for overspend.

Things is I don't think you'd get £250,000 for the properties. I do, however, think the current property is overvalued. Maybe I can get it for £150,000. Perhaps it needs more properties to be build on the land includes in the plot. That would lower the value of the original building conversion and there is no planning permission to do that. Plus it would be rubbish in that stereotypical "greedy property developers who cram as many rubbish modern building into small plots of land thus ruining nice existing buildings" way.

I've checked my finances and I have £250 to invest. So I am looking for a co-investee to invest £524,750. The co-investee gets all their investment back, but profits are split with me 50:50, coz it's my idea. It's an unusual investment proposal, but I think it can work.

Anyway, the reason I posted all this is just that I think it is cool that I have been thinking about this place for seven years, with only a vague memory of it, and now we found it. I hope somebody does buy it and do a good job in restoring it. I would love to go back in a few years and see three nice homes there.

Have a look at the rest of the photos:

Happy New Year!

Well, a very Happy New Year to those of you who ever read my ramblings here!

I had a great night last night in Carnoustie at Cara's parent's. Was great to see Greg and Cara and a whole bunch of other faces that I hadn't seen for a while.

About now I should be thinking about what New Years resolutions I should attempt to stick to. Of course I can't mention them here, otherwise I would be admitting to vices that I probably shouldn't have in the first place. I will stop doing wheelies on the way to work...hmmm...