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Eyeing the car upgrade

2010 BMW 5 Series Touring [F11]I blame Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocolfor having me pointlessly looking at cars again. The two hour advert for BMW got me thinking about what happens when we outgrow our current tourer (which can already barely cope with the amount of stuff we need for longer family trips).

So of course, I pointlessly configured a 5 series on the BMW website. And it came out at a ludicrous, ludicrous sum of money. On looking at the second hand options, a 3 year old equivalent is going for 25% of the cost. I don’t know why I allow myself to be stunned by the depreciation on cars, but it never fails to cause my jaw to drop.

This of course sparked me into looking into how much my car has depreciated since we bought it – and according to my Parkers iPhone app, we’ve lost about 45% of the value of the car in the year and a half that we’ve had it. So on track to lose 75% in three years. Other than initial capital outlay and absolute losses, the proportional depreciation of a new and second hand car may be more similar than I realised.

Of course, there are other factors coming in to play right now – like the fact the economy is in tatters, and replacement cars might not be the top priority on any/everyone’s shopping list… but still, somewhat surprised, as had always believed that new cars lost their value substantially more quickly than used cars. Of course, this is a one-off observation rather than an absolute trend… What’s the received wisdom here?

Sidebar: I’m not actually planning on upgrading anytime soon. In 2016, I may consider a 2013 model for an upgrade!

Posted in Cars.

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Illness and fitness

In the year before Emily was born, I was ill approximately zero times. I was in fairly rigorous training for the half marathon, running between 15 and 40 km per week for about 6 months of the year and I’d managed a reasonably healthy diet throughout the period as well.

In the 15 months since she’s arrived, the commute, working hours, and general apathy has seen all that fall to one side – I haven’t been on a run since June and my diet’s been all over the place. In the last six months or so, this has started to hit me from a cold/flu perspective, and whilst some of this is no doubt exposure to a Nursery-going toddler, I can’t help but think that there’s been a direct correlation between my fitness level and how often I’ve gotten ill.

With my recent NY resolutions, the diet (and some) fitness training has resumed, but I’ve already gotten ill  (not sure where from!) and am self-pityingly recovering from it now. At least I’ve maintained the diet (as it happens, the constant ingestion of strepsils makes most other food taste somewhat unappealing, so it actually helped!), but the 100 push-up / 200 sit-up programme may need to be restarted next week…

Hopefully a more determined, consistent fitness effort will see me steer clear of the sniffles in 2012!

Posted in Diet.

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Preparing for questions

vitruvian man leonardo da VinciEmily is on the cusp of full-blown speech. Her words, such as they are, aren’t yet fully formed, and tend to be restricted to the essentials (“more”, “blue-berry” (pronounced in the Danish fashion, Blaubaer), “Yes” (vigorous head nodding), “No” (vigorous head shaking), “bouncy bouncy” (ba ba ba whilst… you guessed it, bouncing) etc), but both Amanda and I sense a frustration that she can’t talk more and that she’s itching for conversation.

This has had me thinking – well, how will I respond to her first questions? And her follow up questions? And the follow-ups to the follow-ups? Basically preparing for the endless recursion of ‘but why, Daddy…?’ questions.

Now, my folks were always very good at taking the time to explain things to us but I’m sure I remember an occasion or two where the answer was “because I say so.” My parents, brilliant and accomplished as they both are, are neither of them natural scientists, and Google wasn’t even a glimmer in Sergei Brin and Larry Page’s collective eyes at that time.

Unfortunately for Emily, that part of my education lies ready for activation whenever anything triggers my curiosity. So I’ve been starting to think about some of the questions I might get from a rampaging toddler and mentally preparing answers, or at least the Google search strings I’ll need to type in to find out the answers! Questions such as…

  1. Why do some babies have so little hair?
  2. Why do I have to go to bed so early?
  3. Why do I need to eat vegetables?
  4. Why can’t I have more toys?
  5. Why do I have to share?

Etc., etc. The theory is that a detailed and accurate answer stemmed in the fact or philosophy of the thing will stymie further questions and hopefully stimulate some good thought. I’m sure I’ll have ‘because I say so’ moments, but I can’t deny that I’m massively, massively looking forward to this stage (even if I’m not wishing away a moment of the infinitely cute ‘ba ba ba’ stage!).

What other questions should I plan for, lovely parent-friends?

Postscript: Hrm, Randall at XKCD seems to be having parallel thoughts to me today (albeit with different conclusions!):

Posted in Dadblogging.

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A blueprint for family life

Blueprint Whilst we owned our last flat in London, it was a basement property with limited prospects for change, and we were never in a position to do any substantial work to it – the vast majority of the work we undertook was managed (and I use the term loosely here) by our eccentric but largely effective builder Kris, and involved decoration rather than renovation.

Now, with a proper home, and with the European investment market shot to hell, and the property market more than slightly wonky as well, we’re looking at the possibility of investing in our own place a bit – and have taken on the step of engaging with an architect rather than just charging a builder with adding a room onto the house.

We had a fascinating conversation with him the other day – about how living habits have changed, about the way mums are with kids in the house, about the many practical compromises we make around the house that we internalize and forget are compromises – such as going up and down a step and carrying the baby when you go to get the laundry, or ducking out of the kitchen every few minutes to check on the toddler’s rampage around the living and dining room. Do it long enough, it feels normal and you can forget there could be any other way.

It’ll be really interesting to see what he proposes (and what we can afford!), but it’ll be an exciting year in our house… if possibly a bit dusty!

Posted in Home improvement.

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Four months of reading, TV and film…

In the four months since I went dark on the blog I’ve been ploughing through all sorts of fiction.

On the literary front, I ploughed through the back-catalogue of Jack Campbell, reading through his militaristic space-opera. Readable, entertaining, and demolished at great pace, if not of any great literary merit. I read the Peter F Hamilton short story collection, Manhattan in Reverse (some great concepts in there), two Ben Aaronovitch PC Grant novels (great dark urban fantasy set in London, reminding me lots of Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books), the latest Terry Pratchett (wonderful, wonderful – more sophisticated and engaging that some of his other recent Discworld books), and a book by a client’s wife, Death at the Chateau Bremont – a fun murder mystery set in the South of France. I’ve got through more of Brandon Sanderson’s back catalogue (including the fantasy/Western the Alloy of Law – great fun!), and now I have a stack of books to get through from Amazon’s 12 Days of Kindle (currently reading the End Specialist about a world in which death is cured (99p on Kindle!), and the final Eragon novel) and from various Christmas presents (including the new Holmes, and some exciting fantasy and SF from Arvind).

TV-wise, thanks to my brother I’ve gotten into Modern Family (funny ‘cos its true), Community (funny ‘cos its off the wall and geeky), and via other recommendations/my own recognizance, Transformers Prime (after the horror of Michael Bay, this was a true wonder of storytelling – absolutely brilliant), Young Justice, Batman: the Brave and the Bold (thanks Arvy, brilliant) and Fringe (trashy but entertaining). I’ve dipped into Terra Nova (meh, Outcasts with dinosaurs) and Parks and Recreation too (not sure yet). I’ve been enjoying the Christmas specials too – Doctor Who nearly made me cry, Eastenders had me on the edge of my seat, and the AbFab specials gave me pause to giggle. Our sole cinematic expedition was to Mission Impossible 4 (a great ad for BMW, and fun as you’d expect it to be), and we watched Kung Fu Panda 2 on DVD on the bank holiday Monday. The Inbetweeners Movie awaits me on DVD…

So I’ve not been idling from that perspective, at least! More recommendations / comments on my reading/viewing history appreciated!

Posted in Books, Film, Television.

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Art for Christmas

300I’ve never been particularly interested in art. When I was a kid, visiting the UK with my family, I remember near-terminally long visits to the National Gallery – the principle purpose of which always seemed to be to buy prints from the Great Masters (Van Gogh, Constable etc) for our house in Malaysia. I was always hopeless at actually creating anything, which I think served to dim my interest and aspirations in that direction, despite Mr Kwan and Miss Genting’s best efforts at our art classes – at home and at school.

However, in my Urusen fan-dom (of which you’re no doubt familiar), I grew quite fond of the artwork on the album covers, done my my friend Ben’s cousin, fellow band member and professional illustrator, Peter Beatty. Amanda bought me a print for Christmas which now has pride of place in our living room, and suddenly (alongside the comic book art I’ve long since been a fan of) I have slightly more engaged artistic appreciation. Is that what I needed to kick me off on a trend of artistic collection and appreciation?

We’ll see…

Posted in Culture.

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And an eBay new year!

We shared gift-lists over Christmas, and the resulting gift exchange was – whilst perhaps slightly less surprising than it otherwise might have been – extremely satisfying for all involved. We got things we wanted or needed and there’s less clutter in the house.

I’ve been making a concerted effort to get rid of old tech and other bits and bobs we no longer need, much of which is cluttering our garage and spare bathroom, and eBay will be my friend this year. My iPad (loved but unused since the Macbook arrived) and my Sony eReader (now second fiddle to my new Kindle and Kindle app on iPhone) have gone that way (part-funding the TV), and more will follow.

I’ll look to make a list this weekend, and if anyone wants to make me an offer for anything before it hits eBay, let me know…!

Posted in Technology.

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A new LED world

sony40My parents’ TV was reaching a certain age (I bought their Samsung Plasma in 2005), and I’d been longing for a new LED TV with enough HDMI ports for my consoles, Internet connectivity and some other good stuff. A seasonal cash back offer from Sony later, and a quick bit of horse trading with my folks, and we’re the proud owners of a new Sony KDL40EX723BU LED TV (catchy name, eh?).

Now, it’s hardly a dramatic world away from the old TV in terms of picture quality (the last TV was an LCD HDTV from Sony), but the frame is substantially smaller, and the software is a WHOLE lot cleverer; Wifi-enabled, the IPTV services are great (although my ADSL still sucks), the picture-in-picture Nav is awesome and the integration with our Sony DVR works much better.

I’ve not (and am not really intending on) bought any 3D glasses, despite the fact the TV is 3D capable. I’m not that curious about the format, so we’ll have to see whether anything really compelling happens in time to help me make the jump there. I have got, in my ageing but evidently still useful PS3, a 3D Blu-Ray player, so am ‘future-ready’ – assuming the future is 3D… but I’m open to persuasion!

Posted in Technology, Television.

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Steeled for 2012

2012 AustraliaCrikey, four months and a whole new year before Division6 got an update; I can only apologize; it’s genuinely been so busy, between work, visiting family, the arrival of a new nephew and a dozen, dozen other exciting, important things, that I’ve struggled to find the time – and on those occasions when I had the time, I struggled with the motivation. I do have a list of posts planned that’ll see a lot of new stuff on here in the weeks ahead…!

All continues well in our worlds; after a slightly virus-laden Christmas, we all recovered and have had some wonderful times with friends and family, including our second (possibly third) night away from Em on NYE (thanks parents!) and much more. Amanda made our house a Christmas paradise this season and – whilst its approaching time that it all comes down – it is with the child-like sadness that I note the passing of a delightful holiday season.

A few resolutions for 2012, doubtless which will have an impact on my posting here.

  1. Regain healthy eating and exercise routine. It’s been six months since I last went on a run and I’ve ignored my diet for about 15 months. It’s had an adverse effect on my weight, fitness, and how I feel in general. I’ve reinstated my draconian calorie counting (although and working my way into the draconian control over my food intake) and started the 100 push-ups programme again. When I get back down to a 32″ waist, I’m getting rid of the ‘fat jeans’ as Amanda calls them, and planning on buying a new suit in the summer. Expect more soup reviews…
  2. No procrastination! Over Christmas I sorted out filing dating back 9 months, responded to emails from the same period, finished tasks around the house that dated back an age and more. This’ll be a tough one to keep, but hopefully ‘action now’ is a motto that will serve me well.
  3. See our friends more. We’ve been a bit rubbish about this in the last year as we adapted to parenthood and country living, but we will make this change!

That’s it – a short but substantial list of resolutions. I know most NY resolutions falter but hopefully the fact that I’ll be sharing my progress on some of these fronts at least on Facebook and here will add to my motivation! Certainly I’ve had enough of feeling slightly tubby, so will be determinedly fighting that one!!

Photo via Tim Phillips on Flickr.

Posted in General update.

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It’s almost my birthday, buy me stuff

I’m normally pretty careful about having a list of things I want, but this time around I’ve got most of the things I can imagine so my wish-list is rather uninspired. Unless, y’know, people want to crowd-source me an iPhone 5 when that launches next week…

Posted in General update.

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