Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A testing time for the kids

Both kids have MCAS this week. What's that, I hear all you people from outside of Massachusetts ask....MCAS stands for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, although Robert tells me that in school the kids call it the Massachusetts Child Abuse System!!!

MCAS is standardized testing performed in various grades starting at grade 3, by all public (i.e. non private) schools in MA. The subjects covered include Math and ELA (English Language Arts). The results are published yearly in the form of a league table, and are used by many as an indication of how good the schools within a town are. This is hugely important, because the better a towns results are, the more families want to move to that town, which has an upward effect on house prices.

The reason I don't like MCAS testing is that it really benefits the town and the school more than it does the child. The school syllabus reflects what needs to be taught in order to pass MCAS, rather than what needs to be taught to give the kids a well-rounded education. As an example, for the past few weeks leading up to this, the kids have done nothing but practice how to respond to example MCAS questions. I think they are too young for this - the time for exams comes later when they are teenagers.

Robert is not happy about the testing, although he usually does really well. This is the first year that Emma has done it and she is not phased at all, in fact she is really excited about it. Is it because she is supremely confident in her abilities? No....its because she has been told that the kids will be allowed to chew gum during the test because it can help them to concentrate. She always looks on the bright side, does Emma.....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Is it worth the risk?

The kids have been pestering me to get them a trampoline, so I've been doing a bit of research. I figured as a minimum I'd get a good (not cheap) large trampoline with a safety enclosure and fully covered springs etc. However, some words of warning from friends of ours has made me think that may not be enough, so I've done a bit of browsing and this is what I've found out:

The statistics in the following table reflect the number of trampoline related injuries treated in emergency rooms.

Year Number Injured Age Group
1995 52,103 Under age 15

1996 83,000* More than 75%* under age 15
1998 95,000* About 75%* under age 15

Since 1995, the number of injuries has increased between 30% and 45%.

Here's another article I found:

Approximately 250,000 injuries from trampolines are treated every year. Almost half of these are children younger that 14. That number has tripled in the last decade. Between 1990-1999, 11 people died from trampoline injuries and six of those were children.
Some reported injuries are crippling and include spinal injuries, or paralysis. These types of injuries are often associated with people coming in contact with the trampoline’s sides or edges, or with another person.
The most common injuries include foot or leg injuries, arm and hand injuries and accidents to the face, and neck. Most of these injuries happen with jumpers collide with one another or from trying stunts such as cartwheels or flips.

The statistic that I find the most frightening is that about 10% of trampoline related injuries affect the head and neck. Although many injuries are minor (e.g. bruises), some can be serious such as broken bones, blunt trauma, and paralysis.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that trampolines never be purchased for home use and advises parents never to let their children use someone else’s trampoline. Further, the American Medical Association advocates that children should never be allowed to play on a trampoline, even under adult supervision.

Pretty strong stuff eh? I'm liking this trampoline idea less and less.

Another issue to take into account in "the land of litigation and lawyers" is the financial damage that can result from being a trampoline owner. Many states, including Massachusetts, can refuse to insure the homeowner for trampoline related injuries, either to yourself, your family, or anyone else who uses your trampoline.

Here's an actual query that someone submitted to one of those free legal advice websites:

My husband was at a neighbors party and fell on the trampoline breaking his ankle. The expenses thus far have been mostly covered by our own accident policy. Those funds are now exhausted. His injury took a turn for the worse and he has to have additional surgery. The friends insur agent sent us a check for the max amount of their "medical pmts to others" portion of their policy and said that was all they could do. My question(s) are 1) with this type of accident, doesn't their liability portion of their policy take effect? This pmt will not come close to the bills this subsequent surgery will cost 2) Should I cash this check or would that signify acceptance of a settlement? 3) Should we get an attorney?

One of the responses to this enquiry was:

I am sure her husband did not TRY to break his ankle, and when the homeowners bought the trampoline they KNEW that there was a risk that someone could get hurt on it. .... you are probably going to lose some friends over this, but sue them

Nice huh? Chances are the guy got drunk at the neighbors party and started goofing off on the trampoline and fell. And now they are looking for the neighbors to pay for his stupidity!! Methinks this couple won't get invited to too many more parties!!

I could do more research and get more data but I think I've seen enough. The kids will have to make do with their swingball and basketball hoop for the summer.

Heres a video off Youtube, not great quality but it gets the point across.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Chloe restaurant

Tony and I went out for a meal last night to Chloe's restaurant in Hudson ("sans kids"). This restaurant calls itself an American Bistro, and is a cut above the usual fare, the menu is changed regularly and contains some very unusual dishes as well as the usual steaks etc. They have been around for some years now, and I have spent quite a few evenings with my friends pouring wine down my neck and putting the world to rights. However last night was a bit quieter with just the two of us, but equally as enjoyable.
We both had New England cod cakes to start (fresh cod, salt cod and potatoes with a sour cream tartar sauce.) Tony followed his with a Steak Frite (Grilled Bistro Steak with Gorgonzola Butter, Homemade French Fries, Haricot Verts) and I had something created by their chef which was essentially like meatloaf stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped in puff pastry. It was really good but I was so full I coouldn't eat dessert. Bad planning I think!

This was the first time we have been out for the evening without the kids and without having to get a babysitter. We expected to find them throwing household articles at each other when we got back, but they were tucked up in bed watching TV. Another milestone I think; now we can go back to having a life of our own, at least a couple of times a month...

Dent? What dent?

I'm happy to report that my car is back to its beautiful self, and there is no sign of the dent that was in the door. Excellent job done by a local Northborough guy, Dave Furbish. Thanks Dave!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Memories of Aston University

I was thinking today about my time in University. I attended Aston University in Birmingham, England from 1981-1985. I was studying (or I believe the popular phrase used on "University Challenge" now is 'reading') Computer Science and Mathematics. It amazes me how little I can remember, and I sure this is not because I was in a perpetual drug or alcohol induced haze.

I recall some friends (some of whom I've made contact with all these years later via Facebook!): Debbie Gargett (now Buse), Brenda Scott (now Chadwick), Richard Storey. But then the names get a bit more fuzzy....Sharon from Preston, Lancashire, Lynn England(?) from Sheffield, Jane whose boyfriend was called Grant, Ruth from Port Talbot, Paul from Stourbridge(or was it Sollihull?), Michelle from Halesowen, Della Turner?, Jon from some town where they speak posh.....

I do recall stupid things though, like the excitement of having what seemed to me like a large amount of money to spend on whatever I wanted. One of the first things I did was go shopping in Birmingham and buy some Snoopy posters (hey! they were popular at the time - at least in my room they were...). I also remember constantly missing my Economics class in the first year because my timetable had scheduled a math class on campus immediately followed by an Economics class somewhere off the campus in the middle of Birmingham. It was too much of a rush. So I basically stopped going and hoped I could learn everything from a large yellow textbook on Economics, by somebody called Lipsey, loaned to me by Ruth from Port Talbot...

The point I'm trying to make is, what is it that makes you forget things like your friends names, yet you can remember the first poster you bought in college or the author of a stupid book you borrowed? Is this just me getting a bit senile in my old(ish) age? Will I soon start repeating stories and making sure I know exactly what day it was that I saw so-and-so at the mall? Is this the start of a slippery slope..memory-wise?

For the whole of the 3 years at Aston, I can only remember a handful of events, and none of them relate to the Computer Science and Mathematics I was taught!! Makes me wonder what the point of going was, and more importantly, why I am frantically saving to send Robert and Emma to college if all they are going to do is remember the crummy posters they put up on their walls....

To anyone that remembers me and reads my blog (a tall order I know), please help me fill in the blanks by commenting (as long as its something I would want to remember of course....)

By the way, the photos above are of the following people:
Photo top left, left to right, top to bottom:

Lynn England(?) from Sheffield, Sharon from Preston,
group at table (Debbie Gargett, me, Martin (?). Della Turner, someone French),
Richard Storey, me (final year),
Aston Campus, Debbie Gargett, Brenda Scott
Photo top Right:
Brenda Scott, me (first year),
Lynne England(?), Brenda (again), Michelle from Halesowen,
Jane who had boyfriend Grant, Ruth from Port Talbot, George (Long???), Jon with the posh voice.

And in the news today...

I see that one of the top news items from the BBC website on Monday was that Jade Goody died. I have just one thing to say.... "Who?"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Looks good, tastes good

After much deliberation on what to get for our Anniversary, I decided to try a company called "Edible Arrangements". They basically make flower-like arrangements out of fruit. The hearts and numbers in the picture are cut from pineapple, the tall 'sticks' are grape towers, the rest are strawberries either 'au naturale' or chocolate covered. You can also include other ingredients such as melon and chocolate-covered apple or banana slices. It looked good, tasted great AND its good for you. There's not many things you can say that about (apart from a Crunchie, obviously...well, as long as you don't have too many that is!).

It's no joke! (#1)

A penguin walks into a bar and asks the bartender "Have you seen my brother?".
"I don't know" said the bartender, "what does he look like?"

A grasshopper walks into a bar , hops up on a stool and orders a beer. The bartender pours him a tall frothy mug and says "You know....we have a drink here named after you".
"You're kidding me", the grasshopper replies, "You've got a drink named Maurice?"

A gorilla walks into a bar , pulls up a stool and orders a beer. The bartender pours him a beer and says "That'll be six bucks".
As the gorilla is paying for his beer, the bartender adds "You know, we don't get too many gorillas in here". The gorilla replies "At six bucks a beer I'm not surprised"

A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says "Why the long face?"

A pony walks into a bar and says "Give me a beer, I'm a little horse"

and my absolute favorite.....

A polar bear walks into a bar and says to the bartender "I'll have a gin...............and tonic".
The bartender asks "what's with the big pause?".
"I don't know" the bear says "my dad had them too".

The Valley of the Sun

Every year around this time, we get sick of the cold weather and start to think about going somewhere warm. We usually plan our trip so it occurs during the April school holiday. This year is no exception and we have decided to go to the Phoenix area in Arizona to catch some rays.

Arizona is known as the Grand Canyon State (no prizes for guessing why) and the greater Phoenix area is known as The Valley of the Sun (again, no prizes). The average daytime highs in April is 84 degrees, lows are 55 degrees, so we should be able to get a bit of a tan.

We plan to go pony treking thru the Arizona desert, take a daytrip to Tuscon, and also go salt river tubing (http://www.saltrivertubing.com/), visit the desert botanical gardens (http://www.dbg.org/), and Tovrea castle http://phoenix.gov/PARKS/tovrea.html . If our previous vacations are anything to go by, we will probably do none of these things and lounge by the hotel pool all day! I will report back when we return

Monday, March 23, 2009

"You can't make it up"

What is going on with the weather? Yesterday it was pretty nice considering it was March. Temps in the low 50's, sunny, blue sky. We spent a lovely day in Boston with nothing warmer on than a fleece. When we got home it was so nice "we" decided to assemble the swing we'd bought for our deck. So Tony went outside and before you could say "its getting a bit windy", the wind whipped up, the sky went gray, and it started to snow. SNOW!! I kid you not.

So Tony battled on manfully, freezing hands grappling with the wrench. When it was all assembled, he gratefully came indoors for a well-earned cup of tea. And would you believe it! The snow stopped, the wind dropped, and the sun came back out. "You can't make this up" was one of the phrases Tony uttered. Someone up there did not want us to have a swing on the deck....

13 years ago today

13 years ago today Tony and I tied the knot. Our reception was held at the Glen-Yr-Afon hotel http://www.glen-yr-afon.co.uk/ in Usk, Wales, where the ceremony was also performed. This was quite a new thing, previously wedding ceremonies could only be held in Churches or registry offices. Only immediate relatives and close friends were invited; 18 in all including us. It made for a very personal, intimate day. There was no photographer or wedding planner to tell us what to do or when to smile. All in all we had a lovely day, with lots of wine, champagne and good food.

Wedding Anniversary Customs: Traditional wedding anniversary gifts are chosen from a list of materials that are designated for each year. The first wedding anniversary is symbolized with paper, and from there traditional anniversary gifts become more precious or scarce to reflect the growing number of years a couple has remained together.

The following lists the anniversary gifts by year. Looks like I will either be getting some sexy lace underwear or, more realistically, it could be a lace hanky....

First: Paper
Second: Cotton
Third: Leather
Fourth: Fruit or Flowers
Fifth: Wood
Sixth: Candy or Iron
Seventh: Wool or Copper
Eight Bronze or Pottery
Ninth: Pottery
Tenth: Tin
Eleventh: Steel
Twelfth: Silk or Linen
Thirteenth: Lace
Fourteenth: Ivory
Fifteenth: Crystal
Twentieth: China
Twenty-Fifth: Silver
Thirtieth: Pearls
Thirty-Fifth: Coral
Fortieth: Ruby
Forty-Fifth: Sapphire
Fiftieth: Gold
Fifty-Fifth: Emerald
Sixtieth: Diamond

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mermories are made of this!

As an anniversary present for Tony and I, Rob and Emma made a slideshow of photos showing places we've been. Apart from the spelling mistake in the title(!), its very good. See for yourself...

Friday, March 20, 2009

They don't make 'em like that anymore

I've just been showing the kids episodes of "Roobarb and Custard" on YouTube, a show I used to watch back in the 70s when I was young. They loved it.
For years, just before the 6 O'Clock news on BBC1, a five-minute cartoon was broadcast that acted as a bridge from children's television to the news. One such show was 'Roobarb' which began in 1974, and was narrated by none other than Richard Briars of "The Good Life" fame. It was completely off the wall. The star of the show was called 'Roobarb', a greenish colored dog who lived in a garden along with 'Custard', a shocking pink cat and some hyperactive multi-colored birds. The plots usually followed a pattern - Roobarb would have a great idea, such as trying to fly with the aid of homemade wings, manufacturing fizzy lemonade, or becoming a great musician, retire to his shed to put his idea into practice, emerge triumphantly and the whole thing would then fall apart in seconds, much to the amusement of Custard and co. It was created and written by Grange Calveley, and often contained humorous quotes that were surely lost on its typical 6-10 year old audience.
As this was made well before computers became commonplace in animation, the whole thing looks like a child's drawings come to life. Marker pens were used to create the illustrations, which resulted in an wonderful 'wobble' effect, giving the show much of its charm. Only one series was made, but its popularity kept it being repeated for years. Here's a couple of classic quotes from the show:

"Roobarb paused for a moment, as all dogs do before embarking up the wrong tree.."

"Roobarb decided that the whole idea of disguising himself as a loaf of bread had gone a bit stale"

"Sound travels at night...because its cheaper"

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Don't believe all you see on TV

I recall many years ago watching a TV show in the UK. It was one of those "magazine" type shows that mascaraded as a serious science, health and technology program. The presenters introduced a female guest whose hair was covered up by a headscarf. The topic being addressed was the body's ability to regulate itself, and the way that we interfere with that process. The example used was the fact that we mess up our hairs natural oils by constantly washing it. The guest had been told not to wash her hair for 2 weeks. She took off her scarf and, of course, her hair was all bouncy and shiny, causing her to vow that she would never wash her hair again!

After having a bad cold recently and feeling so ill I did not wash my hair for 4 days I can now categorically state that either:

(a) this woman had cheated and sneaked in a quick shampoo & set before the show or,

(b) I should've waited longer than 4 days. Obviously my natural oils had not yet re-balanced themselves.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Today is St Patrick's Day and strangely enough, IMHO, seems to be more cause for celebration than Christmas Day in the US. Many dress up in green clothes, there are town parades across the country, In Chicago the river is dyed green. Lots of festivities. This celebration is presumably because many American immigrants came across the Atlantic from Ireland.

Therefore in honour of the occasion, I thought I should post a few facts about St Patrick. The most interesting fact (to me at least) is that St Patrick, birth name Maewyn Succat, was born in Wales and was educated at a Welsh monastery in Llantwit Major. When he was 16 he was captured by Irish raiders and taken from his native Wales as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After entering the church, he later returned to Ireland as a missionary in the north and west of the island, but little is known about the places where he worked and no link can be made between Patrick and any church. By the eighth century he had become the patron saint of Ireland.

So what is a patron Saint I hear you ask. Well according to Wikipedia, its a saint (i.e. a human being who has been called to holiness) who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, or person. So in English that means that St Patrick is a mediator, a go-between, negotiator, spokesperson between the Irish and God. A bit like a lawyer I guess.

There are patron saints of many things. St David is the patron saint of Wales so is a little closer to my heart than St Patrick. Another well known patron saint is St Christopher, the patron saint of travel. Some of the more unusual patron saints are St Basil the Great (patron saint of hospital administrators), St Genesius of Rome (patron saint of lawyers!) and spare a thought for St Rita, who as the Patron saint of impossible or lost causes must surely have the hardest job of them all.
Neat video below from YouTube showing the dyeing of the Chicago river.
Happy St Patrick's Day to all you Irish or wannabe Irish!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Gwyn!

A belated Happy Birthday to Tony's uncle Gwyn who was 21 again yesterday. Hope you had a good one Gwyn!

Isn't technology wonderful :-(

Ahh-ttishoo!! So here I am at home on a Monday with a stinking cold. Headache, shivers, runny nose, sneezing, eyes watering....the label on the bottle of cold/flu medicine could've been written just for me. But never fear! I have my handy, dandy secure ID card for remotely accessing my work account, which means that I can do a full days work from the relative comfort of my own home, thus saving vacation time (no such thing as sick time in the US). Now is this a good thing or not? Just because I can do this doesn't mean I should. I should probably be lying in bed with a hot-water bottle, sweating and snoring peacefully. But instead I'm beavering away doing salary planning and keeping up with my numerous emails (apart from taking this brief interlude to write this blog entry, obviously). Talk about being shackled to my job...pass me the Kleenex somebody

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grumpy old men

We've started watching a series, originally shown on British TV, called Grumpy old Men. Its obviously been around for many years, because John Peel is on it, but we've only just found out about it. The TV show basically consists of interviews with 'famous' Brits (specifically men in the 40-55 age range) commenting on all the things in life that irk them. If you've ever thought to complain about it, its covered. Examples are : Men with pony tails, CDs whose wrappers refuse to come off, the way teenagers raise their voice at the end of every sentence making everything sound like a question, Reality TV shows, confusing markings painted on roads, cellphones, feminists, kids who need a good slap, political correctness, abbreviations used in text messages......you name it, they complain about it.

It cracks me up - it HAS to be based on Tony! Either that or his pal Neil Roberts (http://ncrobo.blogspot.com/)...

Would you Adam and Eve it?!

Its amazing really. Neither Tony nor I are religious, yet Robert has developed an interest in the stories of the Bible. I think its because some of it is being mentioned in history class ("social studies" as they call it nowadays). I used to learn all this stuff in school, either in RE class or at the daily school assembly. Since the schools stopped teaching religion for fear of offending someone, there is no way children can learn unless parents teach them. So I bought him a book which retells the main bible events/stories, and he seems pretty interested in it. I was surprised how many of the stories I knew - those bible readings at Assembly must have done its job. Or was it watching "The Ten Commandments" with Charlton Heston that did it?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Better off now than we've ever been?

New research in Wales, UK indicates that most adults would not swap their childhood for one today because of a lack of freedom. I think I agree with this. Children are "wrapped in cotton wool" nowadays out of necessity unfortunately, but they do miss out because of it. In our neck of the woods, you are not allowed to play ball games on the street. Children have pre-arranged play-dates, they don't just walk to a friends house and take a chance of them being at home. I used to play in the park with my friends, with no parent in sight. The swingset rested on a square of tarmac (not bark mulch or recycled tyre flooring). The swings were hard plastic rectangles, not soft plastic slings. We rode the rocking horse so high it almost came off its hinges (nothing to restrain its movement!) and swung manically on the Witches hat (now banned-see pic above) to see if it would come off its pole. Everthing is so safe now - where's the fun in that!

I was amazed and delighted to find some clips on YouTube of some of the TV shows I used to watch as a kid. Do you remember them...?

Monday, March 9, 2009

60 years of British rock and pop music

I read that a new visitor attraction charting 60 years of British rock and pop music has opened at the O2 in London.

The BBC reports “The British Music Experience combines cutting-edge displays with memorabilia loaned by stars like Amy Winehouse, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Oasis. “

Amy Wine-o! What will her memorabilia display be like? A used hypodermic on a velvet cushion in a glass dome perhaps?

Other activities include the chance to Dance the Decades, in which visitors are taught routines ranging from the macarena to voguing by a virtual instructor. (Voguing? Ummm, what?)

“The British Music Experience opens almost exactly a decade after the launch of the National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield.
That also promised an interactive journey through UK music history, but shut after 16 months after failing to attract enough visitors.” Hmmm, sounds like there's a demand for this then.....

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Has Spring Sprung?

Today, it has been nearly 60 degrees F and sunny. People have been out walking. Coats has been discarded and Robert and Emma are playing swingball on the deck. The clocks went forward last night and it feels like Spring is on the way.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is :

Mar 9
Rain and snow in the morning, becoming all snow in the afternoon. Temps nearly steady in the low to mid 30s. Winds NE at 10 to 20 mph. Snow accumulating 2 to 4 inches.

Oh the joys of living in New England...

Craig is a good guy

Are you familiar with Craigslist (http://www.craigslist.com/)? Its is available in many countries and there is a local version for each area. It is basically a website for the sale of second-hand goods, similar to the "for sale" columns in the local newspapers. The differences, and advantages are that it is free to use and you can post photographs of the article you are selling. It is widely used in the US, but I noticed that it also has versions for other countries, including the UK (mainly London though).

Yesterday afternoon I posted our old swingset for sale. I attached some photos. An hour after posting I had two people who wanted to come and see it. By early evening I had 4 people interested and this morning there was a list of 6. Needless to say, by mid-morning it had gone from 'For Sale' to 'Sold' and I am now $350 better off than I was yesterday, plus the swingset has been moved from my property and I did not have to lift a finger to do it. Can't complain about that!

While trying to post my listing, I discovered my pictures were too large to post. I found this tool called JpegSizer which has a 15 day trial period. It changed my 400MB photo into 77MB in the blink of an eye. And it was easy to use. Pretty impressive. I may even buy it!

Anyway, now that I have had some success with Craigslist I have started looking around the house for other things that we do not use and that others may be willing to pay for. Methinks that Tony's pool table may be a prime candidate...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fuji Steakhouse

Just got back from an evening out at the Fuji Steakhouse in Marlborough. What a great restaurant! Its the first time I've been there. The chef, who was actually Taiwanese not Japanese, prepared the food on a huge Hibachi grill at the table. This provided more entertainment value than Gordon Ramsey in a bad mood. Our chef started by lighting the oil on his hotplate sending a 4 foot high flame into the air. Then he juggled knives, set an onion volcano alight and generally produced all the oohhss and aahs you would expect . By the time he was done we felt like we'd had an evenings entertainment already! But its not all showmanship. The food was very good. The ingrediants looked fresh and good quality and the chicken Terriaki I had was perfectly cooked. A friend had rolled sushi and it looked very nice too (although I did not want to taste it - I prefer my food cooked). All in all, a very good night out.

One fish, Two fish

A while ago I bought my kids a fish tank and 7 fish. We named them Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy. The next day 2 of them had died, so we decided to rename them Shaggy, Fred, Scooby, Velma and Daphne. In less than a week we had 2 left. They were named Swimmy and Splashy.....there's only so many times one can be creative in a lifetime...

Writer's block

Think Before You Blog

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sorting the dark from the light

I was reading an article in the BBC news today. It describes how a British man who has been blind for 30 years has been given a “bionic eye” and he can now see flashes of light, and is able to discern between dark and light.

Quote from the article:

Ron, 73, had the experimental surgery seven months ago at London's Moorfield's eye hospital. He says he can now follow white lines on the road, and even sort socks, using the bionic eye, known as Argus II.

It uses a camera and video processor mounted on sunglasses to send captured images wirelessly to a tiny receiver on the outside of the eye. In turn, the receiver passes on the data via a tiny cable to an array of electrodes which sit on the retina - the layer of specialised cells that normally respond to light found at the back of the eye. When these electrodes are stimulated they send messages along the optic nerve to the brain, which is able to perceive patterns of light and dark spots corresponding to which electrodes have been stimulated. The hope is that patients will learn to interpret the visual patterns produced into meaningful images.

Ron told the BBC: "For 30 years I've seen absolutely nothing at all, it's all been black, but now light is coming through. Suddenly to be able to see light again is truly wonderful. "I can actually sort out white socks, grey socks and black socks." Ron's wife Tracy is also hugely encouraged by the progress he has made. She said: "He can do a lot more now than he could before, doing the washing, being able to tell white from a coloured item. "I've taught him how to use the washing machine and away he goes. It's just the ironing next."

Well, I’m glad to see that the huge investment in technology has all been worth it. Ron’s quality of life has obviously been vastly improved; imagine going through life never being able to experience the simple pleasure of sorting out socks from the washing pile….

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Like a kid in a Candy shop

Today I am very sad. Why? Well let me tell you .....

The 2 pictures above are of the best chocolate bar in the world (IMHO). To those that don't know, this is a Cadburys“Crunchie”, and it is milk chocolate wrapped around a hard, crunchy, bubbly, honeycomb filling. These are not readily available in the US; not even in the Irish section of the supermarket.

I was browsing through Amazon a few weeks ago and what do I see in their inventory of food items but a pack of 12 Crunchies! Because I had a birthday coming up , I added them to my wishlist. This was quickly spotted and ordered as a gift to me by Helen, my cousin-in-law and fellow chocolate-lover. Before I could say “Hershey’s chocolate smells of vomit”, a pack of 12 Crunchies appeared in my mailbox. So far so good, I hear you say....

However, after carefully rationing them out to myself (and children) over the past week, I screwed up yesterday and ate 3 in a row. That’s why I’m sad. Do you know how many hours I am going to have to do on the elliptical to get rid of those calories! And to top it all, I now don't have many left in the fridge, two to be exact.

There’s only one thing I can do, and that is to order more. If I get used to having them in the fridge all the time, then I won’t be craving them all the time.

By the way, for the Brits abroad, Amazon also sells Turkish Delights, real Mars Bars, Cadbury Flakes, Treacle pudding, and PG Tips Teabags, all of which are difficult to find in the US. Lifesavers, that’s what they are!! Now if they would only stock Tunnock’s teacakes, I’d be as happy as a kid in a candy shop.