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learning to read

Books + Ideas — October 2017

Helen's school is pretty keen on getting the children reading. more

measuring exercise

Life — September 2017

After a couple of months with the activity monitoring apps on my iThing, I've averaged about 4km a day of walking and 12km of cycling. more

independence referenda

Books + Ideas — September 2017

The use of referenda decide questions of borders and sovereignty is not unreasonable - and I have no strong feelings about Scottish and Catalan independence, to take two topical examples - but the idea that fundamental changes can be made based on a bare majority of (say) a 70% turnout of voters seems insane to me. more

leaving nursery 2 (Julia Durbin 2017)

Life — September 2017

I got most emotional about Helen leaving preschool three days before it happened. When I took her to nursery on Monday, we found that her name tag had already been taken from her bag hook. more

leaving nursery (Julia Durbin 2017)

Life — August 2017

When Helen leaves her nursery (Julia Durbin) in September, she will have been there for just short of four years. There have been month-long breaks for trips to Australia and shorter holidays, and she only goes to nursery four days a week, but that's still 30+ hours a week for most of her life — all her life that she has any memory of. And she is part of a tight-knit community in her preschool, the break up of which will be a huge change to her life. [The comparable adult experiences I can think of would be shifting from one hunter-forager band to another, or retiring after having worked in the same job for one's entire life.] more

a vintage VW campervan to the Peak District

Travel — August 2017

When Camilla suggested we hire an antique campervan, I was a bit sceptical at first: I don't get excited about cars the way she does, and it seemed likely to be an expensive faff. But we had a lovely weekend in a classic old VW campervan called Blossom, spending three nights in the Peak District (five miles or so west of Chesterfield). more

Studley Green to Piddington loop walk

Travel — August 2017

Helen and I did a nice walk in the Chilterns with our friend Jude, a loop from the Studley Green garden centre to the Dashwood Arms in Piddington and back. The weather was perfect, warm but cloudy, with a gentle breeze and occasional patches of sun, and maybe half the walk was under trees. more

a big ask for Oxford cycling - Botley Rd?

Oxford — July 2017

I realise that ranting on this blog is a pretty ineffectual way of actually achieving change. But when I contemplated requesting a meeting with my local councillors (city and county), I had trouble working out what I was actually going to request from them. Two-way cycling on Howard St, or the removal of parking in cycle lanes on Donnington Bridge Rd, were asks too small to be worth the trouble. Requesting anything as abstract as "Dutch-style infrastructure" seemed too waffly, while if I was going to lobby for Broad St to be turned into a square, that was going to require more than me acting in isolation.

So my suggestion as to what we (CyclOx and others) could request as part of a concerted lobbying campaign is first-rate cycling infrastructure along Botley Rd. more

English and Australian school governance

It's interesting comparing the governance of schools in the UK and Australia (or, more precisely, in England and New South Wales). The headline figures are that only 7% of children in England attend private schools whereas more than 30% of children in Australia do so. But examination of the details makes the difference much less: many state schools in England seem closer to me to Australian private schools than to Australian state schools.
more

walking versus cycling (in Oxford)

Books + Ideas, Life, Oxford — July 2017

Last night I went to a talk by Eva Heinen titled "Why, where and how people travel" and that got me thinking about the balance between walking and cycling more

loved the Wee-Ride, can't fit a tag-along to my bike

Life — July 2017

Four years ago I posted here looking at moving-child-by-bike options, but I never followed that up. I ended up with a Wee-Ride centre-mounted seat, which I've been really happy with over the last three and a half years. more

approaching school

Life — July 2017

Helen herself is moderately excited by the prospect of school but not (I think) too much so, and we're thinking this will work out ok. The welcome afternoon a couple of weeks ago went off swimmingly, despite the heat. more

Greek mythology for children

Books + Ideas — June 2017

I started reading Greek mythology with Helen a few months before we visited Crete and the Cyclades, beginning with the D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, which she picked after I read her one story from that and one from the D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths. more

from grandfather

Life — June 2017

I can remember my father Hansen taking me to the Sydney university Coop bookshop (then in the Transient building) and buying me a proper Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator. That was over thirty years ago — I'm not sure exactly when, but it must have been before I started uni — but the calculator still works perfectly (and I think I've only had to change the battery once). more

the EU can't save Britain

Books + Ideas — June 2017

The European Union can't save the United Kingdom from the effects of Brexit. Even if they give us everything we want — or the UK government accepts the ongoing payments, freedom of movement, and so forth necessary to maintain Common Market membership — leaving the EU will still be a huge shock for which we are completely unprepared. more

downsizing the UK

Books + Ideas — May 2017

I think the UK needs to consider some serious downsizing.

We should let Shetland and Orkney secede, taking the UK's rights to the North Sea oil with them. That will show Scotland. They can then join Norway, reviving historical links and getting access to the infrastructure needed to manage that oil. more

Coombe Hill walk

Travel — April 2017

Helen and I did a really nice walk in the Chilterns yesterday, from Coombe Hill down to Wendover and back. This is a loop of about 6km, with maybe 130m down and then up, offering a good variety of terrain and views. more

book update at four

Books + Ideas — March 2017

We're into short novel and chapter book territory now, so I thought I'd give an update on what I've been reading with Helen. The first short novel Helen really got into was Otfried Preussler's The Robber Hotzenplotz, which we started on Boxing Day (it was the Christmas present of one of her cousins) but finished the next day, she was so excited by it. more

Brexit and aviation

Books + Ideas — March 2017

The trade situation seems complicated, but the real complexities and dangers of Brexit lie in its effects on services. The agreements here are domain-specific and range across a huge range of areas — nuclear energy, chemicals standards, and so forth — but I've been reading a bit about aviation, something I hadn't originally considered would be affected at all. Here as elsewhere, the Financial Times' coverage is much scarier than that of the Guardian... more

Balinese music - Legong dance

Life, Travel — January 2017

Yesterday I set Helen up with the iPad, only to have her come to me after five minutes saying "Enough iPad, I want to watch some Legong Dance". And so we watched nearly an hour of Legong Lasem and Barong Taru Pramana. more

becoming British

Life, Moving — January 2017

I am now a British citizen, after a pleasantly low-key ceremony last Thursday in the County Hall. more

book update, approaching four

Books + Ideas — November 2016

An update on the books I've been reading with Helen. more

Oxford's Pembroke St upgrade a lost opportunity

Oxford — November 2016

The recently redesigned Pembroke St is attractive, but also seems a lost opportunity.

Previously it was a fairly traditional lane, with a carriageway and pavements. The new design keeps essentially the same layout, only replacing the kerbs with gentle "gutters" or brick edging, on as far as I can tell exactly the same line, and changing the (still too narrow) footpaths to a "brick" surface. The other substantive change is that the street is now two-way for cycling (motor traffic is still allowed to enter only from St Ebbes). more

a Lake District trip, staying four nights in Grasmere

Travel — October 2016

We spent four nights in the Lake District in August and had a fantastic time: driving up on the Thursday and coming back on the Bank Holiday Monday gave us three full days, and we had really good weather. more

Australian animals are no more dangerous than British cows

Life, Travel — October 2016

Living in Britain, one encounters a regular series of stories about how dangerous Australian animals are. (Otherwise, the UK media treat Australia pretty much the way the Australian media treat New Zealand.) And most people accept this as gospel, to the extent that it's often given as a reason for not visiting Australia. In fact, this is complete nonsense: cows kill as many people in the UK each year as all of Australia's "dangerous" animals put together. more

moving people around central Oxford - a shuttle bus?

Oxford, Technology — October 2016

Oxford's centre faces rigid space constraints that, even if private motor vehicles could be excluded, create an apparently insurmountable conflict between livability and active transport modes on the one hand and public transport on the other. As a long-term solution, I propose that all inner-city public transport be provided by a mini-bus (or tram) shuttle loop, connecting to city and intercity bus services at interchanges at the Plain (or the bottom of South Park), St Aldates, the railway station, and St Giles. more

Shimano Nexus 8 hub needs service? - SG-8R31 vs SG-8R36 redline

Books + Ideas, Technology — September 2016

I've just had my rear wheel rebuilt — with a new rim as well since that was getting worn, but largely to replace the hub. And this post is mostly about hubs, about whether getting a Shimano Nexus hub serviced is a good idea, and whether a premium "redline" Nexus hub is actually any better. more

the transport geography of early childhood

Life, Oxford — September 2016

Walking with Helen to the Cowley Rd Tesco yesterday made me think back on how her development and changes in transport modes have affected our experience of Oxford's geography. more

a Chilterns walk: Pulpit Hill + Ninn Wood

Travel — August 2016

I took Helen on her longest walk yet, doing a near three mile circular walk in the Chilterns more

books at three and a half

Books + Ideas — July 2016

Somehow I missed doing a book round-up at three, so here's one at three and a half more

knocking down the house

Books + Ideas — June 2016

We've started the wreckers knocking down our house - and done enough structural damage to it that it's not repairable - but we haven't got any kind of plan for the new house, let alone started building it. more

Car-ried Away - A gondola transport solution for Oxford

Oxford — June 2016
A guest post by my workmate Rob Greenock.

This document proposes the installation and use of a cable car system along with other measures to significantly reduce congestion and pollution in Oxford.

more

Leave or Remain? a fundamental asymmetry

Books + Ideas — May 2016

I am not yet a British citizen, but as an Australian resident in the country I get to vote in the forthcoming referendum on EU membership. (Unlike European citizens resident in the UK, or British citizens who have been abroad for too long.) So I take the liberty of using "we" in what follows. more

give me the girl

Life, Oxford — April 2016

Give me the girl until she is eleven and I will give you the woman...

Neither Camilla nor I are that keen on religious schooling, but I had suggested before, only half in jest, that a good Jesuit-run school would be an attractive option. And now I've seen the closest thing I'm likely to see to this for girls, in an Open Day visit to one of Oxford's private preparatory schools. more

an Easter in Wales: gypsy caravan + owl cabin

Travel — April 2016

We had a lovely Easter outing, spending three nights in a caravan and cabin combo just into Wales, a little northeast of Abergavenny, and using that as a base for trips into the Brecon Beacons. more

teaching mathematics

Books + Ideas — March 2016

I was planning a rant about the dangers of formal assessment of mathematics in primary schools, the insanity of streaming maths classes based on knowledge of times tables at age nine, and suchlike. But there are more than enough depressing stories about the UK education system at the moment, so I've tried to make this a more positive piece, about some of the things I think children should learn about mathematics in primary school, along with a random collection of ideas for actual teaching. more

Three

Life — February 2016

Our little girl (she was "a big little girl" for a while, but now insists she is "a big girl") has turned three and moved up to pre-school. The room change was a bit stressful for the first week, but she seems to have settled ok now, I think largely because her best friends have all moved with her. more

Walking central Oxford

Oxford — February 2016

I've mostly discussed cycling in this blog, but I thought I'd turn my attention to walking, starting with a look at central Oxford, roughly defined as the region frequented by tourists. more

my commute

Oxford, Travel — January 2016

My cycle to work is about 3.6km and takes maybe 15 minutes, which I think is about the perfect length. It's enough that I'm getting at least a small amount of regular exercise, but not so long that it ever feels tedious, and even on the rare occasions when there's serious rain (or it's dark on the way home in winter) it's not too daunting. It's also an attractive route, much of it quite pleasant cycling. I begin with a description, which I follow with some commentary on Oxford cycling infrastructure, on which it doesn't shed such a flattering light. more

little friends

Life — December 2015
photo

Moomin and Koala Bear are best friends

Helen has made strong attachments to some of her peers, far stronger than anything I remember from my own early life (though I have very few memories from before school). Reminding her that she'll get to see her friends once she gets to nursery, or that we're going on a playdate, is almost always a big motivation for getting dressed and leaving the house. And having a friend refuse to hold hands with her can be enough to make her burst into tears. more

Where's the backlash against cycling in Oxford?

Oxford — November 2015

It's true that every Oxford Mail article about cycling gets the usual complaints about red light jumping, people cycling without lights, and suchlike, but I've seen no sign of any kind of backlash against cycling infrastructure. And this is easy to explain. There is no cycling infrastructure in Oxford. That is to say, nothing that gives people on bicycles any real space of their own, nothing that substantially inconveniences cars, buses, trucks or taxis. more

early second language learning

Books + Ideas, Life — November 2015

I've tried speaking in German to Helen a few times in the last week and she's really fascinated by it. If I stop she says "say something" and wants me to keep going, and this morning she requested some German quite spontaneously. And Camilla and I have started thinking about the options for her to learn a second language. more

an extra day with Helen

Life, Oxford — November 2015

I had had to take the day off work to look after Helen yesterday, since she was home after after having had the runs at nursery the day before. But we had a really good day. more

DSLR to mirrorless CSC: Olympus E-1 to E-M5 ii

Technology — November 2015

I recently acquired my fourth digital camera, an Olympus E-M5 II. This is not a replacement for my third camera, a little Canon Ixus 220 HS point-and-shoot bought in 2012 which I will keep as a carry-everywhere camera (and with which I took the photos below), but for my second camera, an Olympus E-1 . That was released in 2003, so is now something of an antique, but is still a fine camera and I have no plans to get rid of it yet. more

cross-country: Oxford to Cambridge or Northampton

Books + Ideas — October 2015

Southern England's transport networks are radially focused on London, leaving poor public transport options for many trips that seem like they should be quite simple. more

growing independence

Life — October 2015

Helen has starting talking about how she's a big girl (sometimes "a big little girl") and getting bigger, and has made what seem like big strides towards greater independence in the past month. more

male carer "tend and befriend"?

Books + Ideas, Life — September 2015

There are many areas in which becoming a father has had surprisingly little effect on me, but caring for Helen has clearly changed my social behaviour and probably my neurochemistry more

A tale of two schools

Books + Ideas, Life, Oxford — September 2015

It's early days yet, even for the UK where children start formal schooling between 4 and 5 years old, but we've already started thinking about schooling for Helen, and as part of that we visited two primary schools. The first was our local state school, the one we're actually in the catchment for and (since it's just around the corner) could be relatively confident of getting a place in (due to a baby boom, there's such pressure on schools that even being in the catchment is now no longer a guarantee of a place). The second was the prep school for a prestigious private Oxford girls high school. more

Helen's first demonstration

Life — September 2015

I took Helen on her first demonstration today, a rally in central Oxford in support of refugees. more

NCT class followup

Life — August 2015

Our NCT (National Childbirth Trust) parents' group wasn't so useful in providing an immediate support circle, largely because Helen arrived early, before the classes had even finished, but it did provide the foundation for a longer-term social network. We have made friends with two additional parents with similar aged children, in the same demographic (they have NCT groups of their own): I met Parker's mother through a cycling advocacy mailing list and Frieda's through her blog. But I've also spent many afternoons or mornings with Helen in East Oxford playgrounds, meeting interesting parents who I never saw again. (Though perhaps if I'd had no existing parents' group I'd have got better at asking strangers for their phone numbers or email addresses.) more

the Story Museum

Oxford — August 2015

I finally got around to taking Helen to the Story Museum. This is all about stories and learning from them, and runs regularly changing exhibitions. Last summer Helen seemed too young at one and a half to appreciate their 26 Characters exhibition (though it ran until February and if I'd thought about it again I'd probably have taken her then). The downside is the price: it's £7.50 for an adult and £5 for a child, so that was £12.50 for me and Helen. But there's a lot of fun stuff and we ended up staying there from 1pm to 5pm when they shut (including maybe an hour for afternoon tea in their cafe), so I'd have to say it's worth that. more

the default gender

Books + Ideas — July 2015

I've noticed over the last few days that Helen is defaulting her pronouns to feminine. Even "daddy koala bear" is her/she. more

fractal generations

Books + Ideas — July 2015

An illustration of how deeply the concept of fractals has entered into popular culture is that it makes an appearance in the song "Let it go" from the film Frozen, in the line "My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around". So Helen was trying to sing the word at two! more

ten books that changed my life

Books + Ideas — May 2015

A friend tagged me on Facebook with one of those "list ten books that had an impact on you" memes. This has turned into more of a "books that were influential in my life" list, ordered chronologically; it verges on being an intellectual history and probably has way too much detail for most people, if indeed it's of any interest at all.

Short list: The Lord of the Rings, Latin in Three Months, Life: Cells, Organisms, Populations, an unknown year 9 maths textbook, Tactics of Mistake, The Peloponnesian War, Shardik, Community, Anarchy and Liberty, Firewalls and Internet Security: Repelling the Wily Hacker, The Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatrice as Chronicled by Her Minstrel Laura. more

toddler book update (two years old)

Books + Ideas, Life — March 2015

Following on from the previous post on baby/toddler books, some of Helen's favourite books - the ones that have been read dozens of times - at two years and two months more

Oxford cyclists, imagined, actual and potential

Oxford, Travel — February 2015

A dual network strategy for cycling only makes sense if we have a bimodal population of cyclists. To illustrate this, consider Frideswide Square, where the planners are clearly picturing something like this. more

civil liberties, cycling, sinking lifeboats and the shoulders of giants

Books + Ideas — February 2015

I was an active civil liberties campaigner in Australia: I led two protest marches through the streets of Sydney in the 1990s and was a board member of Electronic Frontiers Australia for twelve years. Here in Oxford I've become involved with cycling advocacy instead. more

Donna, Donna, Donna, Donna

Life — January 2015

The lullaby I use most regularly with Helen is the song "Donna, Donna, Donna, Donna", one of the few songs I remember from my own childhood. more

language at two

Life — January 2015

Her vocabulary grows apace, but Helen has made little progress with syntax or morphology, with most utterances consisting of just two or three words lacking any inflection. more

cycling Cowley Rd

Oxford — December 2014

The term is amorphous and vague, but Oxford's forthcoming redevelopments at the Plain roundabout and Frideswide Square continue to follow some kind of "shared space" ideology. So it's interesting to look at how previous incarnations of that have worked for cyclists. So Cowley Rd more

not cycling in Oxford

Oxford — November 2014

I have three friends who I use as a litmus test for cycling. They don't cycle in Oxford, even though it would often be convenient for them if they did — one of them walks two miles to work instead — largely because they find the environment too hostile and unpleasant. more

toddler jigsaw puzzles

Life — October 2014

At first I was skeptical that Helen would cope with jigsaw puzzles, especially as she had a lot of trouble even with the little two-piece puzzles we tried her on first. But she's really taken to the two 24-piece puzzles she has more

Herbert Gintis on general equilibrium and inclusive fitness

Books + Ideas — October 2014

Oxford draws some great visiting speakers and last week I made it to two lectures by Herbert Gintis, who I knew from his recent book with Sam Bowles, A Cooperative Species. The first talk was a look at General Equilibrium in economics, arguing for an approach with private prices and adaptive expectations and presenting the results from some agent-based modelling. The second was a salvo in the debate about how all-embracing inclusive fitness theory is in explaining evolutionary adaptation. more

walking and cycling: relative risks

Books + Ideas — October 2014

In the UK, the averages suggest that you are slightly less likely to be killed cycling two miles to the shops than you are making the same trip on foot, but slightly more likely to be seriously injured. more

a conference on the Great War

Books + Ideas — September 2014

I spent the weekend at a conference "The Meaning of 1914", organised by the New York Review of Books to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, but held at St Antony's College here in Oxford. more

reading German

Books + Ideas — September 2014

I have just finished reading my first full-length book in German, a bundled pair of short crime novels (around 130 pages each) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt: Der Richter und sein Henker and Der Verdacht. more

colours! shapes! phrases!

Books + Ideas, Life — September 2014
photo

the pink magnet pair is "mummy",
the orange one "daddy",
and the blue one "helen"
(I don't know why)

It's just over two weeks since my last post on language development, but in that time Helen has:

  • produced her first two word phrases: "more cherry" and "daddy book". more

the language explosion

Books + Ideas, Life — August 2014

There's supposed to be a spurt in language acquisition around 18 months, and Helen is doing that pretty much right on schedule. more

baby + toddler books

Books + Ideas, Life — August 2014

This is by no means comprehensive, but I thought I'd write a bit about some of the books we and Helen have enjoyed most over the last year or so. Some of these have been given to us or recommended to us by friends and family, some of them I found reading online reviews and lists. more

teaching small cardinal numbers to a toddler

Books + Ideas — July 2014

I occasionally play at teaching Helen the cardinal numbers one to five, not in any organised fashion but every so often when she seems alert and curious and there are no more obviously interesting things for her to play with more

improving Oxford cycling

Oxford — May 2014

Oxford is pretty good for cycling, at least compared to most cities in the English-speaking world, but there's huge room for improvement, those improvements aren't happening fast if at all, and I feel we need a change of focus to advance further.

In particular, I feel we need to ditch a "dual network" approach which is incapable of growing cycling much beyond its current share of transport and making it an option for everyone. Education and training, encouragement and so forth are important, but to make cycling significantly more popular than it is already we need to give people the option to cycle with minimal interaction with fast or dense motor traffic. more

making Oxford's Broad St a central square

Oxford — May 2014

The Plain is being rebuilt and ambitious plans to redesign St Giles have been floated, but for me the most obvious redevelopment for central Oxford, the one that will cost the least and deliver the most, is Broad St. All that is basically needed is to remove the car parking, remove the kerbs and resurface the entire area, drop the speed limit to 5mph and time-restrict loading access, and Oxford could have a showpiece central square. more

not all birds are ducks

Life — May 2014

As well as "mama" and "da" and "bye bye", Helen has spoken approximations to "duck", "up", "ball", "cat", "dog", "bird", "banana" and (at nursery) "nappy". more

cycling costs

Life, Technology — April 2014

I've been cycling for four years now in Oxford, so I thought I'd look at the costs involved. more

a new camera?

Technology — April 2014

I'm thinking of getting another camera (what would be my 4th digital camera). I've had my Olympus E-1 for just shy of ten years now but it's still going strong; I love using it and it takes fantastic photographs more

the joy of walking

Life — April 2014

Helen's been walking between Camilla and me for some time, and using walkers, and for the last week she's happily walked to other people. But now she's getting up all by herself and heading off without anyone in sight! We have a toddler! more

Modern Art Oxford

Oxford — March 2014

I took Helen to Modern Art Oxford the other day. more

climate science in the Andrew Wiles building

Books + Ideas — March 2014

On Friday I made my first visit to the Mathematical Institute's shiny new Andrew Wiles building (on the old Radcliffe Infirmary site). The occasion was a talk by Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the IPCC AR5 Working Group 1, presenting an overview of their recently published report (that's the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's The Physical Science Basis). more

baby moving equipment

Some notes on equipment we've used for moving Helen around, in case our experience is useful for anyone else. more

The Wheels on the Walrus go Round and Round

Books + Ideas — November 2013

The lyrics of any children's song can be improved by changing a key word to "walrus". more

Harcourt Aboretum + Warburg Nature Reserve

Travel — November 2013

Taking advantage of the last few weeks of nice weather, we visited Harcourt Aboretum on the last Sunday of October and then Warburg Nature Reserve on the first Sunday of November. more

Anklung + Anna Bolena

Books + Ideas — October 2013

Due to flooding in the music faculty, my (Javanese) gamelan group wasn't able to rehearse last week. So we met at our leader Pete's place instead, where it turns out he keeps an entire Balinese gamelan anklung in the loft. And this week my sister took me to the opera as a birthday present, to a production of Donizetti's Anna Bolena by the Welsh National Opera. more

a proto-toddler

Life — October 2013

Helen went to Australia a baby and has come back a kind of proto-toddler. more

Wheatley windmill + Bishop Edward King chapel

Oxford, Travel — August 2013

A few weekends ago I went on a short cycle trip, with someone I had met on an earlier cycle tour, to two sights I hadn't known about: Wheatley windmill and Bishop Edward King chapel. more

handedly handling the baby

Life — August 2013

Camilla and I are both right-handed, but we hold the baby in different orientations. She holds Helen with her head to the left, I with her head to the right. more

Why is Venice so attractive a city?

Travel — July 2013

The Grand Canal is its greatest attraction, but the reason Venice is such a fun city to explore is not the canals but the complete absence of cars more

Kettler Spirit city bike - first impressions / review

Technology, Travel — July 2013

What is it? It's a Kettler Spirit, the product of a respected German company which sells online into the UK (though they do have a showroom in Redditch as well). Basically an upright city bicycle: what one might call a "Dutch bike" or a European city bike, though it's fundamentally pretty similar to my other bike, a thirty year old English three-speed roadster. more

the National Childbirth Trust and the class system

Books + Ideas — June 2013

The National Childbirth Trust runs ante-natal classes for prospective parents, which midwives and friends all recommended to us, and we dutifully signed up for one. The classes themselves were vaguely useful, though I only made it to two of the five since Helen arrived early, but the big attraction is not the formal instruction but the chance to get to know a group of new parents with babies of the same age, living in the same area. more

a new bicycle?

Life, Technology — June 2013

I've been very happy with my old three-speed over the last three years and it's still a fine bike for getting around Oxford, but I'm thinking about buying a new bike. more

halogen to LED conversion

Technology — April 2013

Our new house was somewhat overlit when we moved in: if all the lights had been working and turned on at once, they would have drawn nearly 1.5kW. There were twelve lights that weren't working, because of dead transformers or blown bulbs, but such was the redundancy that replacing those didn't seem urgent. It did, however, give me an opportunity to switch a huge variety of halogen bulbs to LEDs or compact fluorescents. more

cycling with a baby/child

Life, Oxford — April 2013

It's early days yet, but I'm starting to look at the options for moving Helen around by bicycle. The basic choices seem to be a front-mounted child seat, a rear-mounted child seat, a trailer, or some kind of front-load cargo bicycle or tricycle (bakfiets-style or modern variants on that). more

a pregnancy with the National Health Service

Books + Ideas — April 2013

When you spend five hours in A+E (Accident and Emergency) to get something looked at, or have to wait two hours after a scheduled appointment for an ultrasound, it's easy to get frustrated with the National Health Service (NHS). But one of the other sides of that is having access to an obstetrician and assistants, an anaesthetist, paediatricians, and assorted midwives for the delivery of a premature baby. more

Gary Kasparov on innovation

Books + Ideas — March 2013

Three weeks ago I went to a lecture by Gary Kasparov, one-time world chess champion, on "Reviving the Spirit of Innovation". more

religion in Oxford

Oxford — March 2013

A cosmopolitan city, Oxford has a religious diversity to match. more

John Edward Aston, practical chimney sweep

Oxford — February 2013
photo

outside the house, with colleagues
the front aspect hasn't changed in fifty years
photo

a page from the passbook

One of the things we inherited with our house was a folder of photos and documents of an owner from the 1950s, in one of which the house carries a sign "J. E. ASTON PRACTICAL CHIMNEY SWEEP". more

gender imbalance in the translated canon?

Books + Ideas — February 2013

A decade ago, M.A. Orthofer at the Complete Review found that only 13% of his reviews were of books by women. Some sampling of my reviews suggests that my fraction is a bit better than that, but not much - still under 20%. more

photos of Helen

Life — February 2013

This post is just for comments on the photos of Helen which I'm putting online elsewhere (I hate all the WordPress gallery options, because I want to edit text in a real editor). more

one month

Life — February 2013

Camilla made Pavlova to celebrate Australia Day, Madeleine visiting and Rosalind's birthday, and that went down a treat. And Helen slept peacefully through the whole event. more

utility inefficiencies

Technology — February 2013

When I set up a landline with British Telecom, back when we started renting Catherine St in 2010, I enabled a number of features. A few days later I received five different pieces of post, each informing me that a particular feature had been enabled, along with separate pieces of mail informing me that my account had been set up and the landline activated. more

Week 2

Life — January 2013

Home at last! more

are parents happier?

Books + Ideas — January 2013

If you ask parents they almost universally say they're much happier being parents, that children are the best thing that happened to them, and so forth, but there's clearly some reporting bias here. At least among my friends, the ones who understand retrospective and sunk cost biases and base rate neglect are the least gushing about the wonders of parenthood... more

Helen Ip Yee

Life — January 2013

I don't expect most of the planet to have any interest in this, but it's here for family and friends and the idly curious.

Day 0

"Sooner would I stand
Three times to face their battles, shield in hand,
Than bear one child." - Euripides, Medea (trans. Gilbert Murray)
more

ice photos

Oxford — December 2012

Some photos from the cold snap last week. more

what's in my bag?

Life, Technology — December 2012

I've always carried a small backpack with me pretty much everywhere I go. This is perhaps a hold-over from school and uni, continued because I always want to have a couple of books on me. These days, however, there's a lot of other stuff in there as well. more

an allotment!

Life, Oxford — December 2012

Our new house backs onto a large area of allotments, and in a fit of madness Camilla signed up for half a plot - about 60 sqm - last weekend. more

Pirandello's The Mountain Giants - Hartley, Ionian Productions, the O'Reilly Theatre 2012

Books + Ideas — November 2012

The Mountain Giants is a complex play, further complicated by having been left unfinished by Luigi Pirandello. more

Binsey fete

Oxford, Travel — September 2012

Pete was running the Chicken Beauty Contest at the Binsey Fete, so I cycled up the Thames Path to see what was happening. more

ultrabook or Air?

Technology — August 2012

My little Acer Aspire One netbook is increasingly feeling underpowered, so I'm contemplating getting an ultrabook. more

Olympics

Travel — August 2012

We ended up going to two Olympic events, the archery and the table-tennis. more

Didcot A Power Station

Technology, Travel — July 2012

Last week we went on a tour of Didcot A. Commissioned around 1970, this is a coal-fired power station capable of generating around 2GW, with four 500MW units. The tour lasted more than two hours and we got to see at least something of most of the parts of the station. more

Breaking up Oxford

Oxford — July 2012

A View from the Cyclepath has an interesting account of how Groningen in the Netherlands came to be the world's number one cycling city. more

the other place

Travel — July 2012

Last month Camilla and I went to Cambridge - known in Oxford as "the other place" - for the day, to meet up with one of her PhD supervisors who was visiting from Australia. more

a new camera: Canon Ixus 220 HS

Technology — June 2012

I've just acquired my third digital camera, a Canon Ixus 220 HS (aka Elph 300 HS in the US). Comparing this with my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot S330 bought almost exactly a decade ago, provides a nice illustration of how much camera technology has improved. more

places to eat in Oxford

Oxford — June 2012

Some of the places in Oxford we've eaten in and recommend. more

theatre: the Odyssey + the Story of the Four Minute Mile

Books + Ideas — May 2012

We saw two plays last week, both of them rather non-traditional. The Odyssey was an aleatoric reworking of The Odyssey, while The Story of the Four Minute Mile was told as the audience walked around the racetrack where Roger Bannister ran the first four minute mile in 1954. more

drive-by regression

Books + Ideas — March 2012

"Drive-by regression" is my phrase - I think an original coinage - for describing what economists (or statisticians or physicists) do when they pick some other field, grab some convenient data, take it out of its context and perform some statistical analysis on it, preferably finding some kind of counter-intuitive result, and then depart, leaving the locals to deal with the resulting mess. more

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Travelogues << Danny Yee