Thursday, 3 September 2015

Cabin Update

The larch cladding is finally going on and the cabin is finally starting to look much more like a shed (as it's meant to), rather than a 2 bedroom bungalow.

The interior has had its first fix and been skimmed.

One month left before the deadline for completing it - it's going to be tight and we may have to leave a few things that aren't required for an office let - but are for a holiday let - to a later time.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Eye in the Sky

Well, it worked for half an hour and then gave up the ghost. Think it may be the battery - five more batteries on order. Never even got to take any video footage.

Wanted one of these before Hay's sister's wedding and could have done with one for the canal holiday for videoing from above.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Corbyn Effect on Limestone Flooring

I somehow think Corbyn's comments about Osama Bin Laden's death being a tragedy isn't going to boost his chances of becoming the new Labour leader. Regarding Trident, it's said that scrapping it could fund 56 new hospitals. Trident has produced jobs, so Corbyn's plan just shuffles the deckchairs by getting rid of jobs in one area to replace them in another - not that we would have the staff to run 56 new hospitals anyway without at least a decade of training.

I do, however, understand his thoughts - take jobs which are being funded by public money from the private sector and replace them with public sector jobs. A laudable aim, providing the net benefit is comparable. Given the sheer waste in defence spending and some of the massive waste in the public sector, it's a moot point. However, is it worth exchanging one group of employed people for another - I just get the impression it's ideologically driven, rather than carefully thought out in terms of money well spent or the effect on those who will lose their jobs as a consequence. You still have to pay money to the private sector to build these hospitals, or indeed any public sector initiative..

We had very nice limestone floor laid in various rooms when we built the house - local limestone from Farmington Quarry. The problem was that it was never sealed properly, with the result that the kitchen floor became extremely grubby over the last 2 years. I've been wracking my brain for some DIY preparation to get it back to a nice buttery colour, but drew a blank at every turn.

A very good cleaner is available in the USA at $23 per 5 litres, but for some inexplicable reason, it rises to hundreds of pounds when made available here. Got a quote from a bloke who specialises in cleaning limestone floors, but at over a grand it was simply too expensive.

Anyway, I got down to some chemical analysis. Vinegar risked pitting the limestone and in any case turned out to be next to useless at removing grime, bleach did nothing and washing powder didn't leave any discernable improvement. Then I thought about one of the most powerful bleaching agents - hydrogen peroxide. Now H2O2 has unpaired oxygen molecules, which means it's like a magnet to organic stains, and the staining on the limestone is almost 100% organic in origin. Most importantly, it won't harm the limestone at all!

We gave it a go yesterday (I'd purchased 20 litres of hydrogen peroxide from eBay last week, thinking that would be the amount needed) and the result was wonderful. Took us most of the morning though, and we risked bleached hands and feet - the stuff stings like hell. Here is a photo of a bit that was cleaned (on the right) and a bit that was yet to be cleaned (left).

Much better, I'm sure you'll agree, and we only used 5 litres.

The only problem with hydrogen peroxide - besides it's effect on your skin - is that it decomposes into oxygen and water in sunlight. Not realising this, I had left a 5 litre plastic container of it exposed in the outhouse over the weekend and it burst open on the concrete floor. It started to fizz on the concrete and I had to act quickly to swill it with water to neutralise it. The remaining 3 containers were then hastily relieved of the pressure build up and covered with black bin liners, which did the job.

Now I'm looking for other uses for hydrogen peroxide to use up the remaining 10 litres. Might have a go at the algae on the limestone patio.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Chrissie Hynde

Chrissie Hynde is coming under fire from the feminist brigade for comments about rape and responsibility. 

Difficult argument, but if you choose to walk around with your wallet on show in a busy shopping centre and get it nicked, then there's no denying you are partly culpable. Thieves exist and are a fact of life - no amount of blaming them fairly and squarely for the theft of your wallet is going to change the fact your wallet will be stolen. 

On the other hand, those who set out to rape don't really care what their victim is wearing - the Nora Batty look certainly doesn't put them off. 

The kind of rape Hynde is talking about is not perpetrated by the hardened rapist - it's the kind that's on the borderline with consensual sex. That kind of rape (if it can be called that) may or may not happen depending on the attitude of the victim. Portraying oneself as louche certainly isn't going to help the situation and is more analogous to the wallet situation.

But as I said, a difficult argument. The feminists are looking at it from the perspective of an ideal world in all circumstances, but the world is certainly not ideal. Rape is wrong, plain and simple. So is theft. It all comes down to definitions.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Director's Cut

The holiday video is finally ready:

Over an hour of clips edited into 25 minutes.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

A Brecon Holiday

Well, we're back from our week's messing about on the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal. The Canal is a work in progress, but indubitably one of the finest canals in the country for getting back to nature and relaxing, despite being very narrow and very shallow.

Despite Hay opening the wrong lock paddles once or twice and trying to drain the canal down, we survived the week without any mishaps, and by the end she was criticising my boat handling skills, sharing steering duties from the 2nd day.

Never seen so much bracken - I reckon they grow the stuff on purpose and have bracken farms and plantations.

The canal runs parallel to the River Usk. You know how Afro-Caribbeans say 'aks' when they mean ask? I wonder if they say Uks when they mean Usk?

The boat was luxuriously appointed, but the hot tub on the bow gave up the ghost after the first day (we suspected rain in the switches). At least Hay got to have a go.

Overheard While Navigating:

Chairman: "Where are we?"
Hay: "Llan something or other."
Chairman: "You do realise we're in Wales and that puts us in any one of 1200 places?"

Overheard While Navigating:

Hay: "This bit looks man-made."
Chairman: "It's a canal - it's all man-made!"

Overheard in the pub:

Bloke: "I don't want to get philosophical about this, but in my opinion if they made an example of these suicide bomber and cut their hands off, why wouldn't do it again."
Chairman to Hay: "What doesn't he understand about the word suicide in the expression suicide bomber?"

Saw quite a few people jogging on the towpath with devices strapped to their arms, which they inspected every now and again. I'm at a loss to know what a device can tell them that their lungs and muscles can't.

Given the filthy weather (which did not detract from the enjoyment one bit), we bought some heavy weather gear in Brecon. The outdoor shops had waterproof kagools at hideously inflated prices - one place had one for £190. Bought a complete set of waterproofs for Hay and myself at a new outlet called Mountain Warehouse for £67. As luck would have it, the weather improved, but I was wishing it would hammer down for the rest of the week to justify the expense.

How can they justify the price?

Same stuff, under a 10th of the price!

Passed through a place called Pencelli. Hay reckons it's pronounced Penkethli, whereas I believe it's where all the Italian Welsh come from and it's pronounced Penchelli. Of course, Sebastopol is populated by refugees from the Crimea.

How does one pronounce this without sounding as if one is retching?

One touristy establishment we visited advertised hand-stirred jam. I winder what difference hand stirring jam makes - the odds are none at all.

Why is it restaurants and pubs have kids'meals? Can't they eat normal food? Kids' sized portions I can grapple with, but totally separate menus comprising crap?

The Usk

Usk again

Usk in flood after the rain

Would do it again in a trice. Much better than foreign holidays with all those travel disruptions and foreign people. And it's only an hour from us! However, having lived on a canal boat for three years, I know boats are money pits, so I don't think we'll be buying one soon for the 2 or 3 weeks of the year we'd probably get to use it.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Calais Touch-Up for Iran

Had occasion to do a bit of touch-up on the pool car yesterday, which is the first car I've ever owned that had a clear lacquer coating. What idiot first started this lunatic craze that makes touching up paintwork a bloody impossibility?

You know, one simple solution to the Calais problem (for the French at least) would be for them to give it back to us. It was ours till 1558.

I hear that the IAEA is to allow Iran to appoint its own inspectors. Bloody athletes - I thought Seb Coe had promised to put an end to doping within athletics with him at the helm....

Thursday, 20 August 2015


That Bradshaw bloke must have led the life of Riley - all he ever seemed to do was go on holiday.

Tomorrow we're off to spend a week's staycation on a narrowboat (or rather slightly wider than a narrowboat) in the Brecons, leaving No.1 Son to guard the house. Looking at the weather forecast there's a lot to be said for booking holidays in locations were the weather can be guaranteed.

At least the food on the route looks half decent:

Sleeping arrangements aren't too shabby either, what with a 4 poster:

But the bath leave a bit to be desired - they could have put it inside:

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Vaping University

At last, a sensible report on e-cigarettes!

Licensing will cost a packet (if you'll forgive the pun) and mean a massive price hike. On the other hand, if they're ever prescribed, I'll get mine for free as I'm over 65...

I see there's an article on the BBC News site that says we've reached the stage where the majority of university graduates are in jobs that don't require a degree in the first place. Time for an overhaul of the university system, if you ask me and limiting a university education to a top percentile of A level students and making it free for them. There's no doubting that many of those going to university are simply looking forward to the experience rather than the education it provides (although an education is doubtful in some instances), like some 2 year long summer camp. I've heard many of those interviewed on TV and radio actually say it. Even those who go for the education are saying the value for money is poor, which is only to be expected when the name of the game is bums on seats.

How about those employers who demand a degree from new entrants selecting their entrants from A level students and then being made to pay university bursaries by law, thereby sharing the risks and the costs. Many industries pay bursaries already - the NHS, for example.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Corbyn Bananas

Was watching Michael Moseley on iPlayer talking about genetic screening. Apparently you can get a kit that you spit into, send off and by return get a report on your chances of getting a certain disease. Hay reckons my test would come back to say I'm a banana.

Jeremy Corbyn has been in the news for some reason. Let's have a look at his policies:
  1. The Economy: An end to austerity through higher taxes for the rich. Well, the rich already pay more by virtue of a progressive tax system; however, I guess he means more tax bands beyond the 40% rate. There is the little problem that exorbitant taxation simply encourages tax evasion and tax avoidance. He does promise a further crackdown on tax evasion, but previous governments have already done that, with little result beyond the odd high-profile case - and it won't end austerity. Not for me I'm afraid, 
  2. Foreign Policy: Less intervention, which I can't disagree with - most of the problems with terrorism emanate from good intentions with poor follow-through. However, he advocates talking to everyone in the middle east to generate peace - people have been doing that for decades and there comes a point when Hamas' avowed intent to kill every Jew on the planet needs some alternative strategy. We're talking about religion here, and there's no debate with militant Islam (or any militant religion) and it's immune to rational argument. My jury is out and slightly jaded.
  3. The EU: Stay in. I'm not against staying in the EU - better to change it from within than try to do it from without. I'm on his side there, but a no to political union.
  4. Education: A return to LEA control. Can't disagree there - there's been too much playing around with education and trying to push through ideology that hasn't been tested. No-one can say Academies are a resounding success. On side again - also on ending public schools' charitable status (that's just a joke), as well as the charitable status of religions.
  5. Housing: Right to Buy at discount. I support this so long as it enables more social housing to be built from the proceeds on a 1 for 1 basis. However, it seems at odds with standard Labour policy. Got my vote again.
  6. Defence: Wind down the defence budget and exit NATO. Rank stupidity when we have a radical Muslim threat (partially caused by misguided foreign policy, admittedly) on EU borders and Putin is heading to make himself dictator of Russia for life. Unless, that is, Jeremy expects nations closer to the threats to bear the burden. A resounding no from me - it's far too ideological.
  7. Royal Family: Not a fight he's interested in, so no comment.
  8. Transport: Re-nationalise  the railways. Good idea - it's not as if the independent railways don't have problems with labour relations anyway. It's incomprehensible that I can fly to the continent and back for less than a 2nd class return fare to London. While he's at it, re-nationalise the telecomms companies, the post and the energy sectors - for too long they have only focused on the profitable parts of their businesses to the detriment of the countryside or whatever. At least the postie knows where I live, whereas the courier companies haven't a clue and only manage to deliver 50% of the time. Try to get broadband in the countryside and you'd think you were asking for manna from heaven. I have no problem whatsoever with key strategic industries, where the product is almost a human right, being in the hands of the government (to say it's in the hands of the people is a joke, as the people have no say whatsoever). However, take it beyond that into Clause IV and he's in USSR territory and loses by vote.
  9. Political Reform: 50% of shadow cabinet to be women. Again, too ideological and risks handicapping himself in the interests of tokenism. Women are no less daft than men.
  10. Health: Eliminate all elements of privatisation from the NHS. A contentious issue. More and more screening tests are becoming available, which add to the lifetime cost of looking after a person in the hope of allowing him or her live a bit longer. Many of these tests are outsourced, as the NHS simply doesn't have the equipment or experts available to run them. Ban all private medicine (i.e. nationalise all medicine) and we'd have the people, but not the money to pay them, or get the equipment, without continuous, massive tax increases that are an election no-no. My jury is out, yet slightly against - although that's at odds with my support of the nationalisation of key industries, and health is certainly a key industry. Perhaps I need a rethink on this.
He's by no means the rabid Marxist people portray him as - many of his policies are eminently sensible, but a handful are just too ideologically driven without evidence of them being beneficial. On the whole though, old left and nothing to get too upset about, unless you're consumed by the desire for power at all costs and want to appeal to the slightly left of Tory electorate. It certainly opens some clear blue water between the parties and provides a real choice between left and right.