Fred’s Eyelid Tumour (includes gross picture)

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Fred is our 14 year old Corgi x Jack Russell and is probably one of the most adorable, lovable dogs you could meet. In his youth he was a healthy boy with a remarkable stoic attitude to any form of injury or illness. However as an elderly dog he has increasingly suffered a number of health problems, he was recently diagnosed with an enlarged heart and associated murmur. He has also had recurring problems with his water works.

A few weeks ago we noticed what appeared to be a stye on one of his eyelids, while they can be painful it didn’t seem to be affecting him, so we decided to monitor it. Last Friday his eye seemed to be very watery and he had begun rubbing it and I noticed his tears were bloody, on closer inspection his eyelid now had a noticeable bump under it.

Fred Eye

This is how he looked, but by pulling back the eyelid slightly revealed the horror hiding underneath (beware this is slightly gross) We were shocked to discover a really large growth.

Eyelid Tumour

He immediately went to the vets and were told not unsurprisingly that it is a cancerous growth and Fred is booked in tomorrow to have it removed. Whether it is just psychological or not we are convinced the tumour is growing larger by the hour.

Going under anaesthetic at Fred’s age considering his chest and heart problems is not something to take likely but we have no choice. Fred has just had his final meal in preparation for tomorrow mornings operation and so we treated him to some nice roast chicken we had for our Sunday lunch. Tonight he will be spending it in the arms of either me or the wife.

Microserfs – Douglas Coupland

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A few months ago I read and enjoyed Coupland’s jPod novel. In a number of reviews jPod was described as the logical successor to his previous novel Microserfs.

The plot synopsis (from wikipedia)

The novel begins with a glimpse into the lives of employees of Microsoft: the people that create the technology that sits on the majority of office desks in the world. Microsoft is portrayed as having a feudalistic structure, with Bill Gates as its lord and the employees as Microserfs. The characters, most of them in their early or mid-twenties, share the same workplace and home in the Seattle area. They decry their employment situation and the effects it has on their social lives: their daily schedules are dictated by software product cycles.

When one of them decides to leave Microsoft and found a software company to create a Lego-like software toy called “Oop!” (a reference to object-oriented programming), the others jump at the opportunity to join him in California. They leave behind stability and job security for the relative unknowns of a start-up company. The characters are driven not only by the chance that their software product will be financially successful, but also by the chance to be “One-Point-Oh”: “To be the first to do the first version of something”. The novel examines the effects on their personal lives of their struggle to obtain venture capital and bring their software to market. Also, as one character alluded, the change of cultures from Microsoft to Silicon Valley triggers the group to grow and blossom as individuals.

Like jPod the book is in the form of a journal kept by Daniel one of the characters, it also has odd pages of random gibberish and a few easter eggs of encoded messages. It describes the period in the IT industry that occurred just before the dot-com bubble burst.

It was an enjoyable read and I can highly recommend it, it is funny, poignant and clever.

Weather ruins my Easter weekend!

As well as being a technophile my other main hobby is competing at dog agility. I share my life with my wife and my five terrier crosses, Toby (17 years old), Fred (14 years old), Charlie (10 years old), Boris (4 years old) and Basil (2 years old). They have all competed at agility a sport they love. You can see some of my efforts on my youtube.com page.

Agility has become a major part of my life, initially it was a diversion from my mundane job but I have steadily become more involved. I joined and then become the chairman of Nottingham Agility Dog Training Club. I have also become an accredited judge after taking the Kennel Club Regulations and Judging Procedure examination.

This weekend should have seen me at the Dashin’ Dogs Easter Show, four days in the heart of Cheshire on a lovely hilltop venue with views over Chester and in the distance the Queensferry and Mersey Estuaries. I was due to be judging today but unfortunately events overtook the show and it has been cancelled.

We arrived late on Thursday afternoon and it was cold and windy, the ground was a little damp but was holding up to the traffic reasonably well. I erected the windbreaks around the caravan and decided to leaving put the awning up till Friday morning because of wind. The weather forecast for the weekend was for cold, very cold weather with the risk of rain, sleet and snow.

We retired to spend the evening watching a bit of TV and went to bed. However the wind was getting much much worse, with bouts of torrential rain and occasionally hail the caravan was rocking wildly. This was a full blown storm! I was struggling to open the caravan door because of the strength of the wind and the windbreaks were leaning precariously but seemed to bearing up.

Then at around 2am we were waken (we weren’t really sleeping) by beeping horns and people shouting, quickly dressing I popped outside to discover that the panic was because the organisers marquee had collapsed and another had disappeared across the field into the darkness. Around 30 people were rushing to secure the now exposed equipment and load it into vans, cars and caravans and dismantle the flapping marquees. The PA equipment van had also toppled over. As well as the marquees other peoples caravan awnings and tents were collapsing under the tempest’s onslaught. I finally went back to bed about 4am and we awoke to blazing sunshine but still howling wind!

Understandably the organisers Nigel and Emma had no choice but to cancel the show, the forecast was for continuing strong winds and it would have been negligent to risk the safety of the public and dogs in those conditions, let alone the logistical nightmare of the lost marquees. The rain and sleet had also turned the field into a potential mud bath and a number of people without four-wheel drive needed towing off.

So forlornly we packed up (difficult in the wind) and travelled home (taking it slow in the strong wind). The caravan is now sat on the drive and needs a bit of a clean inside and out. It will be off back to storage later today and then we have to decide what to do over the next couple of days! Given the bad weather it probably won’t be a lot!

The caravan in sunnier times
Caravan

Driver Improvement Training

Certificate

Back in December last year I was involved in a road traffic incident. I was the guilty party making an error of judgement that could quite easily have resulted in me and possible others being injured or even killed. Thankfully no one was and the incident just resulted in some damage to my car and another vehicle.

My car
My damaged car

At the time I put my hands up immediately and admitted being an idiot. The police attended and after their investigation told me, not unsurprisingly, that there was sufficient evidence for me to be prosecuted for Driving without due care and attention (“careless driving”) contrary to Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

The officer attending told me that in the past such incidents when referred to the Crown Prosecution Service automatically resulted in a fine and penalty points on the driving licence following successful prosecution. However for several years rather than clogging up the court systems with this punitive course of action a driver improvement course has been offered as an alternative, the aim being to educate drivers in the art of advanced or defensive driving so that they changed their attitude and improved their skills and road craft so they are then less likely to cause similar incidents in the future. By agreeing to attend and successfully completing the course a driver could avoid being prosecuted. The courses aren’t free they cost the best part of £200 but it is substantially cheaper than the alternative.

So that was that! I went home got the car repaired under my insurance and waited. At the end of January I received a letter inviting me to attend a session of the “Driver Improvement Scheme” held by Nottingham City Council in conjunction with a number of other public bodies.

For the last two days I have attended one of the courses, along with 13 other people of all ages and backgrounds, in the centre of Nottingham. The course consisted of one full day and one half day. The first part consisted of theory of what makes a good driver and attitude and it’s effects on driving. There were exercises in the art of hazard recognition and crash investigation in which real-life fatal incidents were played out using models and you could see how seemingly innocuous actions could have catastrophic effects to the outcome and with a little thought by certain parties death could have been avoided.

After lunch on the first day we were allocated to advanced driving instructors and taken out for assessment and then instruction to correct our faults and educate us in the art of defensive driving. I scored very highly in this and my main failings were a tendency to creep over the speed limit as I went along with the flow and not maintaining a safe distance in town traffic, I also didn’t negotiate speed humps smoothly.

Today was the second day of the course and involved a test on the highway code, instruction on defensive motorway driving and a final assessment. The idea being that on this final part you showed significant improvement compared to the previous day. Before we started the second session of driving we were given the results of our initial assessment and I was pleased as punch by the comments on mine!

“Good attitude, Andrew is keen to learn. His car control is excellent but respect of speed and limits can be improved. He is well on the way to being an advanced driver”

I am pleased to say I passed and can say I have learned an awful lot, it was very friendly, relaxed and informative and well worth attending not just because it meant escaping prosecution. Following this I am serious considering taking one of the advanced driving tests offered by RoSPA or the Institute of Advanced Motoring.

A National Disgrace!

Two prats

Taking a break from housework this afternoon I watched the Budget. That bizarre looking buffoon Alistair Darling acted like a ventriloquists dummy with Gorden Brown sitting by his side as he gave one of the most boring and shortest reports on the economy I have ever heard. Short on any ideas and crucially detail (leaving the pundits and analysts to wade through the redbook for the figures) it was however full of spin, buzzwords and re announcements. Despite this it did little to hide the fact the economy is heading for trouble and the government have done little to prepare for it. It also failed to mention the economy’s potential exposure to the Northern Rock fiasco.

Of course all this will be hidden from the ignorant general public as the media will concentrate on the headline announcements on fuel/car tax (which won’t come in till 2010) the cynical stealth tax on alcohol which will do absolutely nothing to curb binge drinkers and the one-off (curious that the media are neglecting to mention this fact) rise in the OAP fuel allowance and bizarrely the prospect of adopting the Daily Mail’s “Banish The Bag” campaign to reduce plastic bags in landfill.

Opposition leader David Cameron gave a polished if well rehearsed response to the statement but rather than listening to his valid arguments both Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling showed their contempt and disrespect by talking between themselves or to their chums, grinning and gurning throughout both his and indeed Liberal Democrat Clegg’s reply. The BBC budget report microsite contains links to the parlimentary video so you can see for yourself.

If that wasn’t enough Labour frontbencher and Minister for Children Ed Balls acted like a child and heckled through out but was brilliantly put down by Cameron. See Guido Fawke’s site for the video and his crimson red face! He also faced further embarrassment after being accused of shouting ‘so what?’ as Cameron said the public were paying more tax than ever before.

All I can say to the Labour front-bench “You are a disgrace! Get some manners and show respect to your fellow MPs and the public”

Expensive car parts!

Nissan x-trail

Spent most of yesterday wandering around the dismal streets of Grantham passing time while I waited for my car to have some repairs. It is a 2003 Nissan X-Trail which has now done over 93,000 (approx 150,000 kilometers) It had developed a rattling sound which I suspected was related to the exhaust and the rear wiper had stopped working. I was willing to live with both of these till the next service, but last week I noticed one of the rear brake disks was badly rusty which indicated that the brake was inoperable/seized. I pumped the brake hard a few times and it seemed to do the trick as the rust subsequently disappeared. However I take no risks with brakes and booked it in to the garage to have them checked and have the other problems sorted.

The problem with the brake turned out to be due to one of the pads jamming in the slide (no idea what that means!) and had badly worn as a result. The pads have been replaced and the brakes checked. The rattling was a loose shield protecting the exhaust which was easily rectified.

The problem with the rear wiper was a seized motor, now came the shock…. a replacement is £200 plus half an hour of labour + VAT – total quote £270!! So now I am trying to find a second hand one (from a breaker, ebay etc) or failing that I may attempt to repair mine. Thankfully it seems the rear wiper doesn’t form part of the MOT test.

Finished decorating

Decorating

At the weekend I managed to complete the decorating in the kitchen and the adjoining room. It has taken me slightly longer than I expected, but it has made a difference to the rooms as it is now much airier and less oppressive than before. I was dreading doing the wallpapering as I have always had problems in the past when doing this room – it must be jinxed or haunted (thinking about it the room originally had a wooden floor but a previous owner has poured a concrete one to replace it!) It has been a few years since I last did any wallpapering but like riding a bike it seems you never forget.

Surveillance – Jonathan Raban

Surveillance

SPOILERS WARNING!

I saw this book in the on-approval section of my library and must admit I was attracted to it by the numerous positive quotes from reviews that adorn both the front, back and inside covers . But after reading the book I did wonder whether I had read the same book, or the copy I had was somehow missing the second half!!?

It starts well enough with the aftermath of a terrorist attack, which after a couple of pages turns out to be an elaborate and expensive civil defence exercise. This is one of the main themes of the book, nothing is exactly what it seems. America is in the grip of paranoia, no one takes anything on trust any more.

The main character is Lucy a journalist attempting to find out if a reclusive author really lived through the wartime events he described in his best-selling book, she and her daughter befriend him and discover his reclusiveness is actually a marketing ploy.

Unknown to Lucy, the new landlord of her building is watching and secretly lusting after her while her friend digs into the past of the landlord to see if he has stolen a dead man’s identity. At her daughter’s school a stereotypical hacker unleashes a virus that causes widespread disruption, his motivation solely to become famous. All the time in the background the State watches it’s citizens and liberty are curtailed by increasing security measures. Everyone spies and everyone is spied on.

300 odd pages in and the characters and paranoid atmosphere have all been developed nicely, but nothing has really happened and just when it starts to get interesting, the author kills the story stone dead with an earthquake!

The ending left me feeling cheated. Nothing is resolved and it just finishes as if the author Jonathan Raban lost interest. The ending is probably meant to be meaningful and arty but I fail to see it. As some other reviewer said “what promised to be a great book, but turned out to be a damp squib.” – I agree!