(You can choose or or both)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

7 ages of man ... les 7 âges de l'homme

Politiquement incorrecte, mais drôle.

Highly politically uncorrect, but funny all the same.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Zonked ... Crevée

De retour de nos vacances, et de Swiss Vapeur Parc, Kalia était complètement raide, et s'est endormie dans la voiture.

C'était il y a plus qu'un moi maintenant.

Aujourd'hui on part à Lyon...

After our holiday, and a long day at Swiss Vapeur Parc, Kalia was zonked and fell asleep in the car.

More than a month ago now.

Today we're off to Lyon...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ford Focus Headlamp bulb change

Lots of people have had problems with this. Thanks to one generous contributor (found amongst this lot), I managed to Do It Myself this weekend.

This is my attempt at a photographic Haynes-style how to.


  • You do not need to take the front of the car off.
  • You do not need to take the battery out.
  • You do not need to take the wheel arch covers off.
  • You do not need to pay any mechanic to do it for you.
  • However, you do not want to be doing this on a hard shoulder in the rain with a snotty policeperson looking over your shoulder.
What do you need?
  • This how-to.
  • A small mirror (a make-up mirror is a good idea, but only if the missus doesn't mind getting it back covered in grease).
  • A 10mm spanner (wrench).
  • A flat-headed screwdriver (just in case)
  • The new bulb
  • Patience (allow an hour for both bulbs)
  • Absence of rain helps.
This worked for me on my 2003 Ford Focus Diesel (Mk1, find Mk2 instructions here). It may not work for you.
I have a left-hand drive car - so the fiddly side (where the battery is) is on the left.

  • Handling little fiddly things (bulbs, screws, tools) over a complicated engine with lots of deep dark holes is fraught with danger. The first time I tried this, I put the retaining screws in a 'safe' place, then promptly knocked one down with my head while trying to get the bulb out. That took me an extra hour - and immense stress - alternately squinting down into the bottom of the engine, and inserting the full length of my arm and fiddling around with my fingers to get it out. Short of turning the car upside down and shaking it, there's not much anyone can do for you if you lose something (and Murphy's law prevents it falling out the bottom). Moral: don't let anything (bulbs, screws) slip out of your hands, don't leave any tools lying on a handy bit of engine. Oh, and don't drop that fiddly little retaining spring either, because not only could it screw your engine up, but you will also probably have to buy a whole new headlight...
  • You will be taking the battery cover off. I hope you have seen enough films to know that placing a long metal tool (screwdriver, spanner) across the two terminals is NOT a good idea.
  • Don't touch the new bulb with your greasy fingers (but you knew that already). Oh, it's the see-through end you mustn't touch...
That said...

First step - make yourself some room
Remove the two self-tapping screws on top of the headlight unit (below). This will not be enough to remove the whole unit (there's another screw underneath), but it will give you a bit more finger space. (Put them there screws in a safe place!)

If you're on the battery side, you'll want to unclip the battery cover, and then wiggle it off (hint: there's a lug on the opposite side to the release clip).

Second step - get a look
Push down the clip that holds on the 'weather cover' (photo) - you can let it go as it won't fall in the engine.

The weather cover hinges up from the bottom - once you've opened it as far as it can go, you should be able to wiggle the cover out of the two lugholes that make it hinge. (You've got to peer down between the headlight unit and the metal strap - the following photo doesn't help much.) You can give it some welly.

Now you want to use that little mirror (don't drop that either!) to have a look what's going on. On the non-battery side, you may be able to just about see what's happening without the mirror. At this point, though it's a bit late, it may be a good idea to turn on your lights and just check exactly which of those bulbs you're supposed to be replacing.

You'll probably need to click on the photo to get a better look - you can just make out the retaining spring which is holding in the bulb. On one side of the car you have to push it up, on the other side down, to unclip it. Working out which one is which when looking in a mirror is not easy.

Third step - get the old bulb out
If you can wiggle the connector block off with the bulb in situ, things will be easier. I couldn't, so there is more detail in this section about how to extracate the 'bits'.

To unclip the retaining spring, I found the easiest way was to stand on the side of the car, facing the same way as the car, and use my thumb to do the unclipping.

On the non-battery side, I found that I could wiggle the bulb out of its hole, and then pull the connector through the retaining spring. At this point I could use my flat-headed screwdriver to gently (with the emphasis on gently) prise the two apart. Note that the bulb has a little black ring on the base - don't confuse that with the black connector.
Having said that, there's more chance of you knackering the bulb than the connector, so if the bulb is dead anyway, it doesn't matter.
Oh, and DON'T drop the bulb down into the engine...

To get the bulb out on the battery side, I had to resort to desperate measures - which means taking out the retaining spring. This is not too difficult, it's two ends are splayed out and slot into little holes to make a hinge. You just have to squeeze the ends together to get them out. Just don't drop the spring...

With the spring out, you can then do the prizing apart thing.

Here's what the retaining spring looks like

Fourth step - Put the new bulb in
If you had to take the spring out in the previous step, you're now going to have to put it back in. This shouldn't be too difficult, but be careful not to put the ends 'down' the hole as opposed to 'through' it (The left arrow in the photo below shows the problem - compare with the other end of the spring above it).

Did I say not to drop it?

Here's a view out through the hole where the bulb isn't.

If you are a smarty pants, you will have checked the orientation of the bulb when taking it out.
If not, check out the following photo (observant observers will observe that I did not follow my own advice about tools...).

An inspired tip from the forum I quoted earlier - practice clipping the bulb in using your naff bulb. That way if you get your greasy finger marks on it, it won't matter.
1. Put the bulb in the right way up - look through from the outside to check that it is seated correctly.
2. Swing the spring round and clip it in (using the thumb method described previously)
3. Plug the connector block in.

Fifth step - the reverse
As they say, putting it back together is the reverse of taking it apart. But just to be sure you don't forget anything.
Give that weather cover some welly and get those lugs back into their holes. Don't take no for an answer - you got it out, so it must go back in, right?
You'll know when it's fitted correctly, because you won't have to force it to close.
Pull the retaining clip back up.
Push the battery cover into the lughole, and push down till it clips on the other side.
Put the headlamp unit retaining self-tapping screws back in. (Tip: self-tapping means "don't screw them too tight"). Don't drop them.

At this point (or even earlier), you may want to check they actually work.

Hope that helps.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fish to death ... Pêche désastreuse

(Caleb voulait bien aider Kalia à finir son assiette !)

J'ai eu une réaction à mon article de l'autre jour sur le rechauffement de la planète. Voilà un autre un peu dans le même genre, qui illustre le problème de fond - à mon avis - qui demeure même si le rechauffement de la planète n'était que du 'poudre aux yeux'.

Il s'agit de nos amis les pécheurs, à qui on dit depuis des années, "attention, y'a bientôt plus de poisson", mais qui continuer à pêcher encore plus. Il y a un bon article en anglais ici sur ce sujet. Ce n'est qu'un métaphor pour notre société occidentale en générale - en sait qu'on va dans le mur, mais on est incapable de s'arrêter...

(Caleb wanted to help Kalia finish her dinner)

I actually managed to get a reaction to my previous post about global warming. Here is another post in the same vein, which illustrates the real problem - in my opinion - which remains true even if global warming turns out to be a myth.

I read an article recently about our fisherman friends, who've been warned for years now that there won't always be more fish in the sea. There's an interesting article about it here. It's like a metaphor for western society, I think: even if we're heading for a cliff, we just can't bring ourselves to stop or change direction.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The empire strikes back ... l'Empire contre-attaque

(Bethany et Kalia jouent 'ensemble').

Juste au moment où l'idée du réchauffement de la planète dû à l'activité humaine commençait à être accepté comme une réalité par les medias et la population en générale, j'ai constaté plusieurs articles et émissions qui disent à nouveau le contraire. Au point où j'imagine que les anti- vont bientôt faire cause commune avec les créationistes pour dénoncer les idées fixes du monde scientifique.

Ce qui m'énerve c'est que les médias ont toujours besoin de présenter le 'pour' et le 'contre'. Pour tout. Soi-disant par soucis journalistique d'équilibre, mais en fait juste pour monter l'audimat en créant des controverses là où il n'y en a pas.

Je me rappelle d'un article où le BBC parlait d'homéopathie (je crois), en citant plusieurs professeurs qui remettait en question son efficacité. Mais 'en revanche' ils ont cité une petite vieille dame parfaitement inconnue qui racontait comment ça lui a toujours fait du bien. Je n'exagère pas, je vous promets, puisqu'ils l'ont corrigé quand j'ai tiré la sonnette d'alarme.

D'ailleurs, tu cherches sur Internet sur n'importe quel sujet dans n'importe quel domaine, tu trouveras à coup-sûr quelqu'un qui est 'contre', avec des 'preuves' à l'appui. De ceux qui croient que la terre est plate, à ce qui ne croit pas que l'homme est allé sur la lune, à ceux qui croit que l'enfer se situe physiquement à l'intérieur de la terre, ceux qui croient que le 'King James' est la seule traduction de la Bible qui soit 'de Dieu'...

Pourquoi ça m'énerve ? Parce que le message que ça envoie aux personnes sans formation scientifique c'est "de toute façon, ce n'est qu'une question d'opinion, donc je peux aussi croire ce que j'ai envie". Alors, je ne suis pas ringard au point de ne pas avoir vu passé les derniers trente ans, je suis un bon postmoderniste. Je veux bien que ce n'est qu'une question d'opinion, mais il y a des opinions qui sont fondées sur des années d'études, de recherches, d'expériences, de collaboration entre personnes hautement qualifiées et désireuses de s'approcher de la véritié. Puis il y a les opinions qui sont basée sur un coup de tête, une envie, ce qu'a dit une copine, ou sur rien du tout.

Alors quoi ? On ne peut pas être expert dans tout, et on n'a pas besoin d'avoir un avis sur tout, pour finir. Mais ne pas se laisser avoir par le cirque des médias, et si on veut une opinion valable, chercher l'expert.

Et qui le paie...

(Bethany and Kalia playing together).

Juste when the idea of global warming being caused by human activity was starting to be accepted by the media and people in general, I've observed an increase in eco-sceptic articles and programs. I wonder whether they won't join up with creationists soon to complain how the scientific world is closed to minority ideas.

What annoys me is that the media always have to present 'both sides of the question'. For everything. Supposedly for their journalistic impartiality credentials, but actually just to get more people listening by conjuring up controversies where there aren't any.

I remember a couple of years ago the BBC web site publishing an article about homeopathy (if I recall correctly), where they quoted several eminent professors who were doubtful of its healing powers. "On the other hand", they had some totally unknown little old lady, who said that it had always done her the world of good. I'm not exagerating, honest! They rewrote the article after I complained.

Go and try searching on any given topic on the internet, you will always find someone who is 'agin', with 'science' to proove their point. Whether it's flat-earthers, or the ones who believe the hell is physically underground; those who don't believe man ever went to the moon, or those who believe that the King James is the only inspired word of God...

Why does it annoy me so much? Because it sends out the message to non-scientific people that "it's just a matter of opinion, so I can just believe what I want". Now hold on there! I'm not so old-fashioned that I missed the last 30 years, I'm a good postmodernist too. OK, so it's a question of opinion, but there are opinions and opinions. Ones which are based on years of study, research, experimentation, collaboration with other highly qualified people who are trying to approach the truth. And then others which are based on a whim, a fancy, something a friend said, or nothing at all.

So what? You can't be an expert in everything, and you're not even required to have an opinion about everything either. But don't let yourself be taken in by the media circus, and if you want a valid opinion, seek out the experts.

(And check who's paying them)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tops ... Stop

(Vive les vacances, vive l'été, et vive les glaces!)

Dernièrement on s'est intéressé (inquiété ?) au développement linguistique de Kalia. Elle a un 'retard' de langage qu'on a attribué au nombre de langues qui circulent chez nous, mais le fait d'avoir rencontré une famille multilingue avec un enfant du même âge qui semblait parler sans problème nous a (d'accord, m'a) semé le trouble.

En attendant, elle a des tournures sympa des fois :
Tops = stop
Ilou = Louis
Flowfer = souffler (blow en anglais)
Pardonte = pardon
Marci = merci

(We all love ice-cream!)

Lately, as befits anxiety-stricken parents, we've (ok, I've) been worrying about Kalia's babbling. Until recently we've attributed her late development to having more than one language to manage. But meeting another mutlilingual family recently with a child who seemed to speak a lot better than Kalia started me down that slippery slope.

In the meanwhile, here are a few of her cute ones, for posterity's sake:
Tops = stop
Ilou = Louis
Flowfer = blow (souffler in French)
Pardonte = pardon
Marci = thank you (merci in French)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Voilà le babysitter éléctronique en pleine action - il gère 4 enfants sans problème.

The electronic babysitter can handle 4 kids without even breaking a sweat.

Un autre type de babysitter, en train de se rappeler pourquoi il compte en rester à 3.

Here's another make of babysitter, reminding himself to stick at 3.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Plane ... Avion

Mon frère a crée un avion dans le jardin pour les enfants. Kalia n'a pas tout à fait compris (elle montait et descendait en cours de vol), mais regardez-moi la tête du co-pilote !

My brother cobbled together a plane in the garden for the kids. Kalia didn't quite get it (she kept getting in and out of the plane even in mid-flight). But the co-pilot was really getting into it!