Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Several Million Drones

It would appear that several million drones are to be bought this Christmas, and the authorities are terrified.

Mine finally went sailing over the railway line yesterday and either into an area of brush, or was ran down by the 15:30 from Paddington to Bristol. It went so high I couldn't tell which way it was heading, and by the time I did know, I'd reached the limit of the radio control, which is around 100m.

Not sure I'll get another one - it'll just end up going the same way. If I do it will have to be one that streams live video to the controller - at least that way you have a basic idea of its orientation and which lever to press to get it back home. If it ditches, you also have a rough idea of where it landed. The problem is you pay around a hundred more for one with live video streaming.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

VW Disarmament in Iran

Seems a good time to buy VW shares now - they're very low for some reason.

All this disarmament talk by Corbyn and Co. Not sure I'm up for that. The first priority of any government, before building roads, before curing my ills, is to defend me. That's the contract I draw up with anyone who wants to be my leader - and that has been the case since history began - I'll allow you to rule me as tribal leader, chieftain, king, emperor, etc., but in return you have to ensure my safety - Augustus could do anything he wanted providing he imposed peace and defended the borders.

Not sure Corbyn's plans are up to it. He may well say that ISIS in a new type of foe that requires new strategies, but what about Mad Putin, the dictator of Russia? His type have been our foes since time immemorial and understand only one thing. He does nothing unless it's on his own terms and benefits his power base - a bit like Augustus. I agree with Corbyn, however, on a number of other issues which, at first glance, seem contentious - a fairer society is an admirable aim and a new kind of politics is needed. I feel people will warm to him with time - he's just not very good at PR.

While on the issue of defence, I'm not overly impressed with the UN Security Council either. Seems Russia and China use it not for its intended purpose, but to score political points and seed disarray and instability among the remaining members. Why should anyone have a veto? It's a totally impotent body - as is the rest of the UN.

David Cameron was on the news last night and meeting an Iranian official - the President, I think. Why is it that all Iranian government officials not only dress the same, but look identical. I'm sure they're all the same person.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Sort It TV

What with building cabins and the general pace of life here on the kampong, we make several trips a month to the local Sort It Centre to get rid of all manner of detritus. That said, it's a weird fact of life that we invariably come back with more stuff than we take when we spot stuff people throw away but is perfectly serviceable.

Ever scanned the TV channels desperately looking for something you can bear to watch? Isn't TV dire these days?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

GU10 Update

Been without BT Broadband since yesterday morning - there's a problem in the area by all accounts. Having to resort to my phone's mobile hotspot. 

Finally got the last mini GU10 LED bulb into the light fitting - used Sellotape wrapped around my fingers, sticky side out, to give a bit of adhesion and friction. Just managed to turn it.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Great Old Sodbury Mini GU10 Light Bulb Fiasco

Lamped up in the cabin yesterday - took me a couple of hours to put 3 mini GU10 LED bulbs into each of 4 light fittings! Never, ever buy light fittings that take mini GU10 LED bulbs - they're a nightmare. 

The fittings comprise what look like 3 cardboard toilet roll centres, and when you finally manage to engage the bulb lugs with the holes at the base of the fittings (which is a pain in the backside in itself) you have to somehow turn the bulb, which is flush with the light fitting. 

They provide a small rubber sucker to stick on the bulb face which is meant to assist in turning the bulb, but it's about as useless as a Peg Vest and doesn't stick that well - certainly not enough to facilitate any torque whatsoever on the bulb.

I finally hit on the idea of using Hay's Marigold gloves to facilitate some grip on the bulb face, and it worked for about half the bulbs. The rest got damaged when the plastic cover came away with the force required to effect some torque - I can stick the cover back on with superglue though. Actually that made it easier, as there was more to grab hold of in the bulb itself (which is not actually recommended by the manufacturers) or the inside of the reflector.

On doing a bit of Interweb research I discovered that virtually everyone has problems with these little beggars, so be warned.

There's still one bulb remaining that simply won't go in no matter what I do.

On another note, Old Sodbury hit the news yesterday when four pigs ran amok in the village.

England are playing Wales in the Rugby World Cup and Hay decides to hold a Macmillan Coffee Morning. Hope it's over by kick-off at 7:17 - you know how long these coffee mornings can last.

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Builders Have Left

Colin and Barry have finally left. Less than 2 months on from kick-off and the cabin (or rather, two bedroom wooden bungalow) is finished. There are just a couple of jobs to complete before our first commercial tenants move in at the end of September - the composting toilet has to be installed (half a day at most), the cooker wired in and the window sills to be painted - but Colin is coming back on the odd evening to do those with me assisting.

They've done a fantastic job and if the cabin were to be connected to our house then the continuity would be perfect. It's just like walking into an annex to the house, with exactly the same high standard of finish.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Flight Trials

Some flight trial footage from the last week.

On Saturday I lost it in a neighbour's garden over the main road, on Monday it ended up over a klom away by the bus stop on the common and took me an hour or two to find and yesterday it ended up on the railway line. It was only the kindness of a RailTrack workman that meant it was returned to my possession before the 15:20 to Paddington ended its life.

Conditions have been gusty and it's not recommended to fly in such adverse weather - at least not when I'm the pilot. Dead calm is the best, meaning early morning or evening. If a gust turns it slightly then all your orientation is gone to hell in a handcart and when you think you're sending it back to you, it's actually disappearing over the event horizon. Lose it in the sun and you're stuffed!

The biggest problem is that you've no idea of what you are videoing till you get the drone back and take out the Mico SD card. A live video stream would be ideal, but that means a much more expensive drone.

Very robust bit of kit though.

Some nice shots of the family compound - our house (and the new cabin) and Hay's dad's behind it - and Hay's sister's attached to Hay's dad's.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

WiFi to Cabins

Nerdy stuff warning!

To get Internet around the house in those areas where the WiFi has difficulty penetrating (like No.1 Son's bedroom), I use those Powerline Plugs which turn your ring main into a LAN, and very successful they have been too. He gets better bandwidth on the Powerline than I do on WiFi.

In getting Internet to the new cabin I decided to use the same Poweline plugs, as the house supplies the cabin. However, what I didn't realise was that Poweline has a problem negotiating RCBs, and of course the cabin has its own fusebox and circuit breakers, so the result was very dodgy and kept failing.

Had I my wits about me at the time, I would have laid a length of LAN cable alongside the main power cable to the cabin anyway, but it was a bit of horse-before-cart as I wasn't aware the Powerlines would have a problem. However, on second thoughts, it would have been more sensible as a backup, wouldn't have cost more than £20, and it most certainly would have worked.

Anyway, I now have the problem of extending Internet to the cabin via WiFi, which poses its own problems due to most solutions halving the speed available (I want to avail the cabin of streaming for NetFlix, saucy videos of Kim Kardashian, etc.). The majority of the kit on the market is only suitable for indoors, not 100m across a garden, and some of the claims made are just plain lies for what are inherently weak antenna signal strengths - it's like buying a VW.

MIMO antennas are the usual solution, but they're expensive and overkill for just 100m. Decided to buy two 17 dBi dual band flat panel antennas (one for the house and the other for the cabin) and some TP Link routers. Fingers crossed, although at 17 dBi  I should be able to provide anyone within 1km line of sight with Internet. If I ensure everyone in the house is on the 5GHz band, that leaves the deeper penetration 2.4GHz frequency clear for the cabin.

Fingers crossed - delivery in a week.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Peg Vest

Been thinking about an invention - something to make hanging out the washing easier (remember that I work from home and Hayley tends to work mostly away from home, and therefore the washing falls under my aegis).

You know how you simply can't hold enough pegs in your hand at one time to hang more than one or two items on the washing line (or perhaps not if you're not into laundry)? Well, my concept is a washing line that grabs the washing itself, dispensing with pegs altogether and thus speeding up the process.

However, while hanging out the washing yesterday I hit on a novel idea for the interim - the Peg Vest. You simply put aside a tee shirt to use as a permanent peg receptacle, clip on pegs in the prescribed manner (see photo below) and you have ample pegs available close at hand, enabling you to hang numerous washing items over your arm and peg them quickly.

When taking the laundry back in, simply clip the pegs back on the Peg Vest and then hang it up till the next wash load.

The design of the Peg Vest needs some careful thought, as putting pegs on your T shirt tends to shorten it considerably. The secret therefore has to be to choose an extra long T shirt. Alternatively you can have the mem-sahib sew some fringes onto the T shirt on which to clip the pegs, although, as a bloke, you'd look a bit daft in a fringed T shirt.

Of course, the simplest way to overcome the problem is to leave pegs on the washing line, but they can get grubby using this method and it's simply an excuse for laziness. Using an apron with a deep pocket is another solution, but still the pegs still aren't that easy to grab.

Like the ripped T shirt, this could become a male fashion icon..... or perhaps not....

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Syrian Lee Bay

The likes of the UNHCR and aid agencies keep bleating about the rules on refugees having to be adhered to, but the rules were made for situations comprising a few hundred or a few thousand people, not half a country - and more. This is a unique situation that was not envisioned by those who drew up the rules in the first place. There are no rules for this situation - especially when that flood has been infiltrated by what is very obviously a large proportion of economic migrants heading for one specific destination. 

I was listening to some young British Muslims being interviwed yesterday on Radio 4. On being asked whether they would consider joining ISIS, one said yes. Asked why he would go and kill fellow Muslims, he responded that they weren't Muslims as they were killing Muslims. There were several unasked questions left hovering in the air around this circuitous and idiotic logic.

Got back from Lee Bay yesterday afternoon. It's a lovely, and yet undiscovered place - and ideal for both kayaking and walking. I hate doing exercise purely for the sake of exercise; however, when something I actually enjoy has the accidental side effect of giving me exercise, then that's fine.

Lee Bay has an air of Agatha Marple or Daphne Du Rebecca about it. It has a large, yet derelict hotel (which is the subject of much controversy) that could be the venue for a Poirot mystery. The whole place reeks of the early 1900s with several of those lovely houses from the between the wars period and an altogether more relaxed lifestyle. This is aided by the fact you can't get a mobile signal there.

The hotel in question was purchased by a developer to demolish and then build some luxury apartments, much to the opposition of the locals who don't want an influx of rich people from London who will only live there at weekends, bringing everything they need with them. As a consequence, the developer is letting the place go to wrack and ruin - I suspect in a cynical ploy to bolster his cause and leave the local planning authority no option but to agree to demolition.

The hotel can be seen to the left of centre in the photo above.

Spotted this at the local church:

Now most refer to WWI as the 1914~1918 war, and that's what you'll see on the majority of memorials. However, 1918 was only the Armistice and the war was not officially over till the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, so technically the war was still going on till 1919.

A few snaps from our time in Lee Bay and the surrounding area:

Oh, and another failed drone attempt:

Monday, 14 September 2015

Et Tu Brute

Labour MPs have been urged to get behind Jeremy Corbyn. I should think that's the last place he'd want them; one is reminded of the senators who got behind Caesar - et tu, Brute....

Managed to get my quad 'copter working yesterday. Had a little play, but I'm afraid the controls are a bit complex for me. Lost it a few times and had to send No.1 Son into a tree at one stage. It even ended up  being returned by a neighbour once after I lost sight of it drifting over her house in a gust of wind. No.1 Son seems to be able to control it with no problems, but he's an ardent computer game player.

The camera points too far down, so all you see is grass, unless you send it so high that you lose sight of it. I will persevere when we come back from a few days kayaking in Lee Bay. May leave it behind for No. 1 Son to meddle with and correct the camera angle while we're gone - or Hay's dad.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Written Word

Click on a story on the BBC News website, and the first thing that appears is the text of the story, of which you can just about catch the first couple of words before it quickly moves down the page as a video materialises.

The video clip dominates the site now - but I don't want to listen to a video clip, I'd much rather read the story, added to which I tend to read the news early in the morning and prefer not to wake the rest of the inhabitants of the house with video clips. I also find it easy to scan an article to find what I'm looking for; that's almost impossible with a video clip.

OK - I understand that in this age of Youtube and sound bites some people have problems reading. Perhaps the BBC could provide a clickable icon that presets your preference for either writing or video.

Friday, 11 September 2015


This woman in the USA who was jailed for refusing a marriage certificate to a gay couple - I wonder if she has ever thought about Jesus' aims?

I've heard many people say that the Old Testament covenant is dead, as the New Testament is a whole new contract. I have to say this is generally in response to criticisms of the more barbaric punishments contained in the OT. However, they still hark back to the OT when it suits them, quoting chapter and verse selectively to justify some bigotry or other.

What they don't seem to realise is that Jesus had the utmost respect for the OT - it was, after all, the basis of Jewish law and he was a Jew. "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil," - Matthew 5:17.

Where Jesus departed from the mainstream was in interpretation. What was suitable for a tribe of a few thousand bedouin following Moses about a hostile desert inhabited by hostile tribes was not necessarily suitable for the settles nation the Jews had forged. Jesus's insight was targeted at the basic principles behind the Mosaic injunctions (and their validity in a new milieu) and not their literal meaning. 

The problem with many religious people is they are not willing to reform that which has lasted a long time. They maintain that simply because it has lasted a long time it must be right - the appeal to tradition.

This reverence for existing usage, which is always strong in human nature, was even stronger in antiquity than it is now. The belief in the wisdom of ancestors, which seems to be caused by the curious delusion that ancestors must necessarily be old and therefore deeply experienced men, stems not from history but poetry. Some of us, who may well be proud of our ancestors, realise they were essentially barbarians and their musings are certainly not incapable of revision in light of modern life.

The prohibition on homosexuality makes sense when you are a member of a very small tribe that needs to increase its numbers for mutual protection. It was valid in the day, but less so in Jesus' time and even less valid today.

Jesus never got round to revising the laws on homosexuality - he had bigger fish to fry in the few short years of his mission. Had he the time, doubtless he would have dug behind it to reach the principle and reappraise its validity, as he did with many other Mosaic laws. Moses proscribed death for the dishonoring of parents and idolatry - the New Moses was infinitely more tolerant. No amount of disobedience would persuade Jesus to condemn a man or refuse him admission to his company.

Self-professed Christians should perhaps take a leaf from Jesus' book, where strict adherence to laws was in fact looked down upon. He had no time for Pharisees and was more interested in people's hearts and minds.

What's ironic about the American experience with religion is that the country was founded by those fleeing religious persecution; however, the persecuted have become the persecutors, as is invariably the case.

What's doubly ironic is that there was no such thing as Christian marriage prior to the 9th Century, and it wasn't ritualised till the 12th or 13th Century. All marriages were civil and Christianity only introduced it to clarify inheritance rights for the establishment.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Sporadic Thought

People valiantly strive against insurmountable odds to achieve world peace or an end to hunger. One day we could even all have the same electrical outlet or agree on which side of the road we should drive on. No - that's perhaps too much!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


This is the view from my hotel room in the north of Rome - they're about to turn this gorgeous house's garden into an apartment block:

Doubtless the house is destined for redevelopment too...


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

God Not British

God is not British, it transpires. Matthew 20:16 clearly states; "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen." Given the etiquette of the Great British Queue, that's just about conclusive! Must be one of these foreign Johnnies - French, or German probably. Certainly doesn't pass the migrant test.

Arrived in Rome last night and a taxi driver who thought I was wet behind the ears tried to charge me 90 Euro off-meter to take me to Pomezia - a 30 minute ride. Immediately got out of the car when he mentioned the price and took a metered taxi for 56 Euro. The rip-off artist was an immigrant.

Hotel is fine, but when they say free Wi-Fi, you do expect it to extend to the rooms and be a bit faster than a snail's pace.

Hay sent me a photo of the result of the electricity cable and grey water pipe laying operation for the cabin last night - my poor garden! OK, it may look like a grass prairie at present, but wait till next year.

Monday, 7 September 2015


Finally - a Sunday warm afternoon/evening BBQ. But today we had the first autumnal mists too. Indian summer? I damned well hope so!

I'm off to Italy for a couple of days on business, and temperatures of 28 degrees.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Migrant Acceptance Test for Roofing

Yesterday my friend George made a very pertinent comment on the cabin roof. He asked why we in the UK eschew corrugated metal roofing. On the continent you see all manner of houses using different coloured metal roofing (green, orange, black, brown), and it looks aesthetically superior to our standard roof tiles. Much cheaper to fit too. Our penchant for tiles can't be anything to do with thermal efficiency - slate has the insulation index of a slab of ice. Must be our love of the Welsh and their slate mines.

Here's a good test for incoming migrants/refugees to see if they're compatible with the British way of life - fly them into Heathrow and have them stand in an orderly queue at passport control. They'll either stay in an orderly queue and wait, try to queue jump or get fed up, lose the will to live and demand to be returned to a war zone. Only those who understand the concept of the interminable British queue - especially the ones that form at UK passport control - would be of a suitable temperament to be admitted. There's no more heinous breach of etiquette in the UK than a breach of queue rules...

Seriously though, the decision to allocate a quota of refugees is one currently being driven by emotion, and naked emotion without thought to the consequences does not produce good policy. A quota must be finite as any influx must be funded. It seems those shouting loudest for them to be admitted are the same ones complaining about underfunding of the NHS, social services and education - the very services that will bear the brunt of immigrants - it just doesn't compute. They are also the ones bleating about the Tory immigration targets having failed. However, what happens when that quota is fulfilled and the next small boy is washed up on the shores of the Med? Further waves will surely come as a direct consequence of admission of the first wave and the people smugglers will be rubbing their hands with glee.

The solution lies not in dealing with the symptoms, but the cause. Some are saying that those migrants who are young and fit should be admitted, trained and armed to go back to fight ISIS and Assad. Not too bad an idea, if you ask me - they'd be fighting for their homeland.

While it can be said that the UK has an obligation to Libya and Afghanistan, no such obligation extends to Syria. There has been no UK involvement there - so far.

There's no denying that a large number knocking at the door aren't refugees at all and merely economic migrants - but opening our doors is not going to solve world poverty at a stroke - well, not without serious social and economic consequences for ourselves.

Why the Muslim countries of the Arabian peninsula aren't doing more is a mystery. So much for the Ummah.

Saturday, 5 September 2015


Colin, our builder and friend, as a joke was going to leave a couple of cladding planks out for the weekend, just to annoy me, as he knows how desperate I am for the cladding to be finished.

In truth, the far end still has half a wall to complete, but I just wanted it to look complete from the house side.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Old Bastard's Biscuits

I thought I'd extend the baking repertoire from sourdough to biccies. Several months ago I had a go at cantuccini, a variety of biscotti, with surprisingly good results, and have been perfecting the method ever since (pictured on the left below)

On Wednesday I had a go at ginger nut biccies - a resounding success.

Yesterday I used the same recipe without the ginger, but added muesli. Pronounced delicious by Hay:

Thinking about a nice sideline when I finally retire from full-time work, I decided on the Old Bastard's brand. Old Bastard's Biccies has a certain nostalgic ring to it. Just think of what the brand could encompass...

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.