Wednesday, April 30, 2008


PSS fun day out

Every now and then Microsoft puts the boat out and organises a team building exercise. The morale budget is a reasonable pot to spend so the events can be good fun (although I'm in technical support, not sales, so everything really needs to be kept in perspective).

To keep the department going, one half went yeesterday and the other today. As the rain started to fall, the coach rolled out of Microsoft campus and on to Chalfont Heights Scout camp. I managed a little snooze on the coach as we sat on the M4 waiting for the Reading-to-London traffic to move.

The schedule for the day was participating in 7 outdoor activities, competing for prizes at the end of the day.
· Chariot building
· Rifle Shooting
· Rage Buggies
· Diffuse (sic) the bomb
· Archery
· Hovercraft Racing
· Grand Finale : Human Table Football

The chariot building was standard team event stuff - get the team from A to B using 2 planks and 3 beer crates, build and pull the chariot, return from B to A. This went flawlessly although slowly - some teams were light on members and fitting five people on one plank, especially women, looked pretty easy. Our team of six blokes managed reasonably well but I have no idea how a particular group of my colleagues managed yesterday with eight including one woman several months pregnant!

I find it mildly surprising that scout camps have rifle ranges, admittedly only firing 0.22" lead pellets. Decent rifles, though, with telescopic sights which seemed reasonably unnecessary con sidering the relatively short distance to the target.

As the rain had been falling yesterday too, the ground was a bit muddy, especially for the Rage buggies. To keep the speed down, the track was small and winding which tests your skill but doesn't pump the adrenalin through the system. We did manage a pretty good pit crew routine, piling one new driver in the left as we yanked the old one out the right side.

Defusing the bomb was a mixture of general knowledge, memory and mental arithmetic with some props (walky-talkies, camou netting, explosive charge) to give it some character. Despite being a bright bunch of individuals, the general knowledge required some help from the organisers - do people still watch Big Brother?

I enjoy archery although, like the air rifles, the targets weren't too far away which means it wasn't too hard to get a reasonable score. I was impressed how far the arrows went through the straw targets - easy to imagine the penetration through a squishy human body.

I had been looking forward to the hovercraft but was a little let down to realise that one of the pair was being fixed when we arrived which means half the time as both teams share the same craft. Just like with the buggies, the course was a slalam to keep the speed down and these engines were not limited so 50 mph would have been possible (before or after hitting the trees, though, we didn't know). Steering was not too hard - 30% using the crossbar and 70% leaning to left or right - but you had to remember to keep pressure on the throttle to avoid gently settling on the grass.

Lastly, we all gathered round the inflatable human table football and watched our teams slip and slide in the mud while walloping foam tootballs around.

My team didn't win anything but the day was fun and, for some reason, tiring although the amount of time being active wasn't too much.
As we got back on the coach, the rain finally cleared away.


Sunday, April 27, 2008


Down to the wire

Football certainly brings out the geeky statto in people.
Here’s the portion of the Championship table that matters.

PlayedGoals ForPointsGoal Difference
Crystal Palace455368+11

Wolves must move up one place to get into the playoffs and a chance at a year in the Premiership (where they can then emulate Derby).
The remaining games are:

• Wolves v Plymouth
• Palace v Burnley
• Blackpool v Watford

If Wolves LOSE then Doom – it doesn’t matter which way the other games go.

If Wolves DRAW then Palace must lose by a tonne of goals (eight) so that their Goal Difference (GD) drops. If the GD is equal for both teams then Goals For becomes important. Crystal Palace are currently on 53 goals while Wolves are on 52 but Palace would need to be losing only 7:0 for that to start to become important.

If Wolves WIN thenWatford WinWatford DrawWatford Lose
Palace WinDoomWolves must win 3:0Playoff
Palace Lose or DrawPlayoffPlayoffPlayoff

As above, the “Goals For” comes important if Watford draw and Wolves are only winning by a 2-goal margin. In that case, Wolves would need to score 10 more goals than Watford do on the day.
There will be a Play-off match to decide who gets to play in the Play-offs in the following unlikely situations:

• Wolves Draw, Watford Win but Palace lose by exactly 7 goals and score one less than Wolves on the day
• Palace Win, Watford Draw but Wolves Win by exactly 2 goals and score 9 (nine) more than Watford on the day

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Time-lapse photography

Just seen this page on the BBC site. Two people have build a display that takes photos in a 360 degree fashion over three days and plays them back inside on flat screens. When you go inside the building (which looks like a large urban toilet) you can review the photos - moving towards one of the screens moves you back in time for the corresponding camera and moving away brings you to the present. Simple but marvellous.


Friday, April 11, 2008


Andy Parsons


Sunday, April 06, 2008


We need a better camera

Walking round the lake, we sometimes see some fauna we don't recognise so usually take the trusty camera with us. This bird needed the later analysis of several photos to work out it's a Nuthatch:

The RSPB says "The nuthatch is a plump bird about the size of a great tit that resembles a small woodpecker. It is blue-grey above and whitish below, with chestnut on its sides and under its tail. It has a black stripe on its head, a long black pointed bill, and short legs." and "Best looked for in mature woods and established parkland ..., on the sides of tree trunks and underside of branches."

Friday, April 04, 2008


Lucy Porter


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