Saturday, 31 January 2009

"May You Never" - John Martyn, 1987

One of the saddest pieces of news I've heard in a long time was about the death of one of my favorite musicians, John Martyn, last Thursday.

John and I had the great privilege - along with GLW - of seeing Martyn in concert in Oxford last November. Little did any of us know that this would be our last opportunity to see him perform. I do recall, though, that at the time we all agreed that he didn't look well at all.

For those of you reading this who don't know John Martyn, you can take a look at his website to learn more about this very talented and equally complicated man.

I wish I could tell you that I managed to take some good concert photos in Oxford last November. We had wonderful seats. But once I whipped out my little digital camera (without flash, I might add) to take a few pre-concert shots, I got a tap on the shoulder from one of the theater ushers telling me very sternly that no photography was allowed. So this is all I got before I had to put the camera back in my bag...

Sad, isn't it? Oh well - I should have saved what turned out to be my only shot for Martyn's arrival on stage.

So to Mr. Martyn, I'll just say: May you forgotten by lovers of fine music everywhere. You are going to be missed terribly by so many of us.


Wednesday, 28 January 2009

"Just One Look" - Doris Troy, 1963

I thought all of you might like to see a shot from this evening's commute from the city centre of Oxford out to the Thornhill park and ride lot. It's the most beautiful trip to and from a workplace that I've ever had in my life.

(Click on the image for a full-sized version.)


Sunday, 25 January 2009

"Spice It Up" - Crawdaddies, 1997

Since moving to North Oxfordshire almost 6 year ago, I have learned about Banbury cakes, named for the largest community in this area. I still haven't had one, but I'll bet they are delicious. They are famous enough that one of Banbury's local newspapers is named the "Banbury Cake", after the pastries.

Yesterday, John and I actually got up early enough on a Saturday morning to go to our own village's once-a-month farmers' market. And walking home, I spotted an interesting poster on the community bulletin board.

Here's a photo of what we saw...

Banbury salsa, huh? Glad to see that Banbury's food offerings are getting a bit spicier in the new year!


Friday, 23 January 2009

"It Won't Change" - Greater Victory Temple Choir, 1992

I'm going to crawl up onto my soapbox for awhile. You'll have to excuse me. It's because of what I've done for a living for so long.

In August last year, in the midst of rising fuel prices, British Gas offered us the opportunity for a fixed-price gas contract for our home gas supply. John and I decided to not take them up on it. A "price cap" might have gotten us interested, but not a fixed price. A price cap would set a ceiling on what we would pay for our natural gas supply but would enable us to take advantage of lower prices should the market drop. That would have been worth considering, depending upon the details of the cap. But BG didn't offer that. They were simply offering to lock in the same price for natural gas, month in and month out, until the end of September 2011.

Yesterday there was a news report that British Gas had announced they will be lowering gas prices by 10%. That's great news, of course, even if wholesale gas prices have dropped more than 10%. At least it's a start.

But that alone is not the reason for this post.

One of the people interviewed by the BBC for the price-cut story was a retired man somewhere in Britain. Unlike us, he had chosen to go for the fixed-price contract last year. And he was upset that the 10% price cut wasn't going to apply to him. He said something like, "I'm so disappointed that my fixed rate hasn't changed."

As much sympathy as I have for a man who is probably living on a fixed income, I would say this to him: What is it about the term "fixed price" that you don't understand? That's the problem with a fixed price contract. It's great if prices rise, but it's not so great if prices fall. And as I occasionally had to tell my trading bosses, very few of us are clairvoyant about future oil and gas prices!

That's what risk management is all about. And we can all see examples of managing risk all the time in our day-to-day life. This one struck me as a very timely example.


Tuesday, 20 January 2009

"This Is Where It All Begins" - Lenny Kravitz, 2000

I don't need to tell anybody reading this what an important day it is. It's Inauguration Day for the 44th President of the United States. Barack Obama will make history. And he's giving America - and the world - a much-needed sense of hope.

Perhaps this is the main source of the recent blues. I feel really homesick for the US today. Although I probably wouldn't have been in DC anyway, at least I would have liked to physically have been in my home country for such a historic event.

It's the first time since Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993 that the new US President is the candidate I supported. That alone is cause for celebration in my book!

So today we say goodbye to "Shrub", and the world gives a big welcome to President Obama!

Good luck to you. You're taking over the reins of the country at a really difficult time.


Monday, 19 January 2009

"Revolution 9" - Beatles, 1968

Although it's been rumored for awhile now, reporters on BBC Five Live were talking this morning about a possible merger of Britain's Channel 4 and Channel 5, both television stations.

Of course that begs the question - what would the new channel be called?

Channel 9? Channel 4-1/2?

(By the way, my blues have lightened a bit this morning, although I still feel a bit like there's a black cloud hanging over my head. It's "Blue Monday" here in Britain. So perhaps I have an excuse for feeling a little low? Thanks, everybody, for the nice comments to my post yesterday.)


Sunday, 18 January 2009

"A Little Bit Blue" - Michael Shelley, 2005

That's me. A little bit blue. Not unhappy, just a little bit blue.

As I continue to analyze what's going on in my brain, I'll try to be more regular about posting - and, even more importantly, about reading what my favorite bloggers have been writing.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a few photos of John's from a walk we took this afternoon. There's a "bottle bank" on the road just outside our village. And since it was sunny and not too cold (maybe +5 degrees C), we decided to get some exercise by walking there rather than driving. It was good for my spirits.

You can click on any of the photos to see a full-sized image.

View across the valley.

It's me - with the emply bottle carrier under my arm.

A nice view of our village, as we walked back in around 4pm today.


Monday, 12 January 2009

"What You Mean to Say" - ctrl K, 2001

Although I'm sure this blog doesn't always reflect it, I have always appreciated words and tried to make sure those I use convey what I really mean to say.

As an oil trader, it was critical to make sure that my trading partner - on the other side of the telephone, and perhaps the other side of the world as well - understood exactly what I was agreeing to do with him/her. As a classroom instructor, I was also very careful to try to express myself clearly. But now I'm dealing almost exclusively with written training materials. And language has become, perhaps, even more important.

After all, if you were to spend the money to take one of my employer's web-based training courses, I would want you to clearly understand the material. Unlike classroom training, you don't have an instructor sitting by your side, as you are at your computer, to answer questions about confusing or misleading English.

So I've become especially sensitive about how information is presented. I'm not horribly picky about correct English (although John might disagree), but I expect people to say what they mean to say. And I'm becoming more and more surprised how often even the well-respected BBC are making silly errors...especially with news headlines.

Let's look at two of this morning's radio news headlines. I should quickly add that these may or may not be exact quotes. But they are close enough to real quotations to give you the idea what I'm talking about.

Kate Winslet surprised herself with her two Golden Globe awards last night.
Does this mean that in each of the two instances, Kate marched onstage and gave herself an award that she hadn't expected to receive?

Airports in Scotland have lost around 500,000 passengers in the last 10 months.
I'm familiar with the problem of lost luggage. But lost passengers? You'd think there would be a major investigation if that many people have been misplaced, wouldn't you?

Any examples from my readers would be welcome. Sadly, John and I are starting to notice examples of this problem all over the place.


PS If any of you are really interested in the two news stories that I mentioned above, here's a newspaper link to the Kate Winslet story - and one for the "lost passengers" story as well.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

"Baby's Love for Parents" - Raimond Lap, 2005

John and I recently bought a scanner for our study here at home, after wanting one for a long time.

During some of my newly-found free time, I started going through some unpacked boxes in our spare room upstairs. One of them contained some of my mother's photos, and the box hadn't been opened since she died in 2001. (My father had died years earlier, in 1987.) Some of the photos were so fascinating that I began scanning them.

I found a photo that I don't believe I've ever seen before. It's of my parents - probably taken soon after they were married, in the late 1940s. Here it is...

(Click on the photo for a full-sized image.)

I've been pondering what to say about this photo all day, as I'm quite touched by it. But I don't know what to write. Perhaps this is one time I should just let the photo itself do the talking.


PS (on Monday morning the 12th) - I've just realized that I posted this lovely old photo on their wedding anniversary...which I think was in 1947. I so wish that one or both of them were still alive to share the coincidence with me!

Monday, 5 January 2009

"I Don't Like Mondays" - Boomtown Rats, 1979

I'm not fond of Mondays at the best of times. This particular Monday morning, however, was much worse than usual. I'm sure I'm not the only person returning to work today for the first time since Christmas Eve.

Now, I should not have been such a big baby this morning for several reasons. Given the precarious state of the world economy, having a job right now is a great thing. Also, I had a really enjoyable Christmas/New Year break and should not be so whiny today. And last, but certainly not least, effective this year, I'm no longer going to be travelling all over the place to teach and I'm also no longer going to be working at all on Thursdays and Fridays! What a change that's going to make in my life.

So what's the problem? Well, I guess I'm just not quite ready to leave the fantasy world of what we Americans call "The Holidays" and get back to real life.

Things could certainly be worse. Although very cold here (we even had a very generous dusting of snow on the ground at home this morning), the sun is shining. It's nice to catch up with colleagues about their Christmas and New Year's exploits. The web-based training course that I'm currently updating is interesting work. It was also nice to commute into the Oxford park and ride with John this morning - something I think we can do most of the time now, which will help with our household's petrol bill as well as making the trips more fun.

But my biggest source of pleasure so far today was when I glanced up to the wall beside my desk for the first time this morning. You see, my office-mate Gavin was my Secret Santa a few weeks ago, and he found me the perfect gift. Have any of you ever seen the "Water Skiing Westies" calendar? Well, here's my copy, up on the wall next to my desk...

(Click on the image for a full-sized version.)

Who could be too down with that on the wall next to them? Thanks, Gavin, for one of those gifts that will "keep on giving" during all of 2009!


Sunday, 4 January 2009

"#3 (Third)" - Damon Zick, 2006

I won't write much today, as it's our 3-year wedding anniversary. We have a little celebrating to do!

I'll honor the day by posting a photo of a book which was one of the Christmas presents I received from John's brother and his wife...

OK. So how many of my readers grew up on the original Janet and John books?

And, by the way, we're not the only "Janet and John" couple in the world. Look what I stumbled upon while finding a link for Janet and John books!


Saturday, 3 January 2009

"Another Cup of Joe" - Low Road, 1996

Our beloved Bodum coffeemaker bit the dust a few days after Christmas. We were unable to replace the model we had. so we decided to go with a completely different type of machine.

Here's what we decided to get...

It will probably be ok. I have to admit I'm a little apprehensive about the idea of drinking digital coffee, though.


Thursday, 1 January 2009

"New Year's Day" - Ravi, 1999

Happy New Year to anyone reading this Lord Celery entry!

Let's hope that 2009 will be happy, safe, prosperous, healthy, and full of joy for all of us.