Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Lava Zebras

Ever tried getting a replacement bulb for a lava lamp? These LED bulbs are energy-efficient, and that's achieved by them emitting less heat. What does a lava lamp need? Yes, you guessed it - heat!

You can get them, but it's not that easy. While they can be obtained for under £2 a pop, most outlets charge an arm and a leg.

Our local Tesco has a covered car park, where it's naturally dark. I detest looking for a car parking space in there due to the numerous zebra crossings for pedestrians. You have to simultaneously keep an eye out for a parking space and a zebra crossing, all in the gloom. Hideous! They'd be better getting rid of the zebra crossings and giving cars the right of way. Pedestrians, after all, have only one thing on their minds and not two.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Rubbish Flowers

For our wedding anniversary last week, Hay received a beautiful bunch flowers that included some lilies. While they look fantastic, the lilies make the house smell like a funeral parlour and I'll be glad when they've gone over.

We went for a walk yesterday and, as soon as we got out of our drive, I found these items, which had been casually thrown out of a car window.

A Tesco pasta salad (half eaten) and a couple of Tesco chicken sandwich packets. Why do people do this? It's antisocial and shows a lack of concern for the environment, regardless of whether it's in the countryside or in the middle of a town.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Defining Moment for Fees

Well, No.1.Son is ensconced in his en-suite room in the student halls at Royal Holloway and No.2. Son has moved from the caravan next to the house into the room vacated by No.1 Son. 

It didn't go completely smoothly - the electronic pass key to his halls didn't work - none of the students could get in. The powers that be used the PIN code to open the door, but neglected to tell us the code, so as soon as the door closed again they were locked out yet again on the next trip to decant possessions from their parents' cars.  Luckily, I'd remembered the code that was punched in the first time.

It's amazing what some students bring with them. No.1 Son just had a couple of holdalls of clothes and a box of essentials, like bedding and cooking utensils. One girl opposite No.1 Son's room  seemed to have brought the entire contents of her bedroom, and more.

A defining point in life - almost, but not quite, self sufficiency. Oh well, one down, one to go in another 2 years.

I see the Chancellor (of the UK) has realised how important the student vote is with a proposal to cut tuition fees. What the hell Boris is up to is anyone's guess, but he does seem to be defending the indefensible yet again. With friends like Boris, Mrs May needs no enemies...

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Fresher Hunting Solution

Well, seems I was wrong about the portrait. My friend George Spearing has discovered it's Frederick Francis I, Grand Duke of Mecklenberg-Schwerin, and the portrait is by Rudolph Suhrlandt, court painter to Fredrick Francis.

George says: "I'd like to say it was my vast historical/art knowledge but nothing so impressive. I used Googles 'reverse image' function to find him. Cropped and copied the main part of the image from your blog. Brought up Google search in my browser - selected the 'Images' function and then clicked on the icon of a camera that's to the right of the search panel. Uploaded the cropped image of Frederick, and Google then produced the mirror image. (and close variants)." Never knew Google had that function.

Hunting with dogs developed to hone the knight's skill while not engaged on campaign - it exercised his horse and ensured his riding skills were kept at peak performance in case he was called up to go to war. It was also a means of obtaining game for the pot. Doing it as a sport, with no thought to using the kill as food, is against my principles, as it is with a lot of people. However, when it comes to hunting with birds of prey, a lot of people are more accepting and see it as romantic. Prey is generally nothing larger than a hare, although an eagle can indeed take down a fox. Unless used as a means of obtaining essential food, I'm still against this, as a bird of prey should not be kept in captivity.

Any thoughts from the audience? Yes - the lady with the Aussie hat!

Taking No.1 Son to university this morning - a whole new adventure for him.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Antique Conundrum

I've had 2nd thoughts about the bloke in the painting from, yesterday's post. Not French and definitely Prussian - a general too.

Looking more closely at the sash, it's not Legion of Honour, but yet another Order of the Black Eagle, as proven by the blue Maltese cross at the end of the sash. Not only that, but I'm sure the epaulettes are silver and not gold. Silver epaulettes were used almost exclusively by the Imperial German Army before WWI (aka Prussian Army), and long tassels indicate a general.

I went through the list of German/Prussian Generals going back to God knows when and found this chap, who I've placed either side of my subject. I think he looks to be the same chap. How about you?

It's the snake-eyes that do it for me, plus there's no-one else who looks remotely similar. He's Bogislav Friedrich Emanuel von Tauentzein.

Here are a couple of photos I took of objects at the hotel we stayed at (Miller's at the Anchor in Porlock - a wedding anniversary present from Hayley). The hotel was started by the bloke who wrote and edited Miller's Antiques Guide (as well as Miller's Gin), hence it being stuffed to the gills with antiques.

An early steam iron...

I haven't the vaguest idea what this object is - any guesses?

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Mystery Portrait

Been trying to establish the identity of this chap, whose portrait hangs in the hotel we've been staying at in Porlock. There's no writing to suggest who he is, unless it's on the reverse of the portrait. None of the staff have the vaguest idea who he is either.

Now, while it's not certain what colour epaulettes he's wearing (could be gold or silver - it's quite dirty), he does seem to be dressed in the uniform of a French Marshal at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, complete with the red ribbon of the Legion of Honour. The epaulettes should be gold.

Here are a few clues.

Around his neck is what looks like the Prussian Order of the Red Eagle, but with the ribbon colours reversed, and on his left breast is the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle. I've been through the recipients of these and suspect he's Jaques MacDonald. However, I'm at a loss to understand why A Frenchman is wearing Prussian Orders.

While we were out in Lynmouth and Lynton yesterday, one of those monkeys that nick cameras and take selfies had a go with my phone camera.

Managed to wrestle it back though....

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Waitrose Selfies

This monkey selfie and the copyright issue - a silly court action:
  1. The camera was stolen,
  2. Pointless giving the monkey copyright - it has no concept of money as a medium of exchange,
  3. Aligned to 2 above, it has no pockets for cash and can't open a bank account,
  4. Perhaps it wanted to forge the photographer's name on the photo and cash in on his fame,
Silliness aside, PETA, the animal rights charity that brought this action should be censured for misusing funds in this way.

Anyone know what Waitrose loyalty cards are for? With Tesco loyalty cards I receive vouchers every so often, but despite having God knows how many Waitrose points, I never, ever hear from them. Perhaps they run out at the end of every month - after all, I only visit Waitrose once in a blue moon.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Road Configurations

Went to collect Hay's dad's girlfriend yesterday and spotted this unusual road configuration:

I kept wondering if I'd see Hitler Close, Hess Way and Goebbels Gardens...

Monday, 11 September 2017

The Spirit in the Machine

Having listened to the talk by the author of the book on knives that I bought at the Ludlow Food Festival has got me thinking. He was talking about objects having a spirit, or what the Japanese call wabi-sabi, being the aesthetic appeal of something worn and shaped by age and use, taking on some of the character of the user. Patina, if you will, but more than that.

The imbuing of objects with a spirit is a form of transference. I wear my father's watch, not so much because it's old and an Omega, but because my father wore it and it is a constant reminder of him. The fact it gains or loses a few minutes a day and is practically useless for accurate timekeeping is immaterial. Despite it not containing a single atom of him, it contains his essence - but that's all in my own mind and not something that's tangible.

Perhaps this is the way religion started - attributing a spirit to something inanimate through its interaction with the person who made it or wielded it. Extending that to objects having no human connection is just the next step. The sacred glade is sacred only in the mind of the human contemplating it and has no innate sacredness within it.

Machine-made knives have gradually replaced artisan-manufactured knives, and they too are expensive, but nowhere near as expensive as handmade ones, primarily because it's almost a lost art and very few people do it anymore.

This got me thinking about how lost arts are back in vogue - anything containing the word craft or artisan can command a high price, despite the tolerances achieved being nowhere near as precise as the machine-made equivalent.

It strikes me that someone wanting to clean up just needs to focus on some activity that has been completely replaced by machines, preferably in a marketable area, such as of one of the current national obsessions - cooking, gin or coffee - and turn their hand to making whatever it is by hand. Of course, it helps to have a ridiculous topknot, some tattoos and a beard, oh, and for you to be called Justin or Piers. It's surprising what people will pay for an imperfect, handmade object in a world of manufactured, homogenised perfection - so long as it's not a jet engine part or a pacemaker...

The key, though, is to stick with trends and not wander into segments that produce no money, such as farming implements, dry-stone walling or thatching. It has to be something that appeals to the middle classes, where trends are quickly adopted, but equally quickly dropped. Anyone for handmade solar panels that operate at 10% efficiency but where imperfections give them wabi-sabi?

When all's said and done, what's the difference between talking to a sky god and your car, to which many ascribe a personality, especially if classic or handmade? Both ignore you most of the time and are insanely capricious.

Kids talk to their toys all the time.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Blue Cheese Ice-Cream Knives

It was our 1st wedding anniversary yesterday, so Hay took me to Ludlow for the Ludlow Food Festival, where I got the latest 'must have' festival wrist band that I have to keep wearing for many weeks, just to show all my acquaintances that I've been there...

Inside the festival grounds, a cup of tea, served in a steampunk jam jar by a top-knotted hispter, was £2.80, whereas the tea from the owner of the burger van outside the grounds was £0.80 and infinitely superior.

There were various 'trails' at the festival - the beer trail, the sausage trail, etc. Wherever we went we found queues of people (at least 100 per queue) lining up for a sausage in a bun, for which they probably paid a pretty penny. The bloke in the burger van did exactly the same sausage in a bun for £1.50, and you didn't have to stand in an interminable queue with 99 other people.

Hay was persuaded to part with £39 for a bottle of artisan gin, which I thought a bit on the high side; however, I do have to admit it was the closest in taste to a genuine Dutch gin I've tasted in the UK - it's the coriander that does it. 

I also parted with £20 for a book on knives, the author of which was giving a talk on with an absolute passion that was infectious. 

We stayed at Downton Old Lodge, way in the back of beyond. A very nice converted set of barn buildings.

Didn't stay for the £60 a head tasting menu, as we thought that a bit steep. Instead we went to the Riverside Inn at Aymestrey for an excellent meal for £100, including wine and tip, where as a dessert I chose blue cheese ice-cream with sliced pear and caramelised walnuts. It worked! Going to make that for our Christmas meal for the extended family.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Mutt Piling

Overheard while our neighbour, Colin, was speaking to Railtrack contractors when complaining about the intense noise at night from piling works for the electrification of the Paddington main line:

Colin: "Why do you have to do this electrification piling work in the middle of the night and keep us all awake?"

Contractor: "Because there are trains on the track during the day."

Colin: "The rail line was closed weeks ago - there hasn't been a train on the track for weeks. In fact, Bristol Parkway station has been closed since the 2nd and all trains are diverted around us. I'd have thought you lot and Railtrack would at least speak to each other!"

They're having problems with the piling work, which shakes all our houses when it occurs (which is invariably at 3am) - the piles are 7m tall and the contractors have hit solid rock at 3m.

My own suspicion about the piling work is that the contractors are working nights because it brings them more money.

Cockapoo - isn't that what years ago we'd have called a mutt?

Friday, 8 September 2017

Tolerance & Statues

Been reading a biography of Frederick the Great and this jumped out at me:

"In society tolerance should allow everyone the liberty to believe in what he wants; but tolerance would not be extended to authorising outrageous behaviour or licensing young scatterbrains to rudely insult the things that others revere. These are my views, which suit the maintenance of liberty and public security, which is the first object behind all legislation."

Analyse and discuss.

What with all this argument over statues of one-time heroes from an imperialist or dubious past, it strikes me that the Indians and Pakistanis had the perfect solution - to merely move the statues to a backwater, allowing them to moulder away out of sight.

As an aside to the above, while the benefit of British imperialism is debatable in an age when there was a mad, European scramble for foreign soil to dominate and with which to trade, British rule was infinitely preferable to the alternative - French, or later German rule. When all is said and done, the Mughals were foreign imperialists too.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Confidence Trick

Regulars will remember I had a plan for identifying the probability of good weather on each day of the year by charting the average solar energy production of our Solar PV system over the last 4 years.

The issue was that using the average wouldn't necessary show the level of confidence as there could be a wide disparity in the readings. So what I did was to include a column showing the standard deviation. However, the SD works counter-intuitively, in that a low number equates with high confidence and a high number a low confidence. To overcome this I divided the SD into 1 and plotted this figure, which shows a more intuitive value for confidence.

You have to click on the image to see it in any detail, but the red line is the average solar generation over 4 years for each day of the year and the blue is the level of confidence in that average - anything in excess of 0.5 (on the right hand scale) is a high confidence. As can be seen from the chart, confidence, whether that be of sunny or dull weather, is highest at the start and end of the year. I suppose that's to be expected in cooler weather, when the air is more stable.

5th of August has a high confidence, here at least, of being a crap day.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Crows & Coffee Pods

I regularly put old bread out in the garden for the birds, which generally comprise crows and magpies; however, you can always tell when it's autumn and harvest time, as the bread can stay on the grass for days, rather than being immediately snaffled by the birds. This year the effect is even more pronounced and, looking at the bounty of berries in the hedgerows, it's not at all surprising they are uninterested by my junk food.

Thinking of getting rid of the Krupps coffee pod machine I bought from eBay. I have no issue with the machine itself - it's the price of the damned Dolce Gusto coffee pods that's the killer. Searching on eBay for a machine that uses the much cheaper Nespresso pods, which can be bought at Lidl and Aldi, shows that they are more expensive due to their popularity and much lower running costs. There's also the fact that the Dolce Gusto pods are left with some 30ml of water inside them after use, making one hell of a mess in the bin.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Political Class

Spotted this in the Sunday Times from an interview with John le Carré (aka David Cornwell:

"It’s extraordinary to realise that Clement Attlee commanded a regiment in the war. Even Heath had experience of the war. It isn’t the war that‘s the defining factor, it was having to work with men and women of all classes. They were blooded, those people. They knew whereof they spoke.

"What we now have is the wrong set. Surely the definition of a decent society is: one, how it chooses its elite; and; two, how it looks after its losers. Now we choose our elite horribly badly and, as long as private education commands the scene, don’t talk to me about levelling the playing field - the social contract is bust in this country.

"I understand why people who are socially deprived, with the safety net taken away from them and treated as second-class citizens, have every right to vote for some other dream. I understand that, and I understand it needs a desperate remedy, and fast, but Brexit isn’t the answer."

Monday, 4 September 2017

Breeching Data

Been getting incessant calls from Vodafone about a bill that was over the standard monthly direct debit - it was one of my sons' phones, and he'd asked for more data and paid the £10 a month extra to get it. Finally acquiesced to speaking to an operative and was pleased to discover there was a cheaper way of giving him even more data.

While I was on the phone to them I asked if my mobile plan could be better arranged, as I'm not getting my bill refunded by work anymore. I was delighted to find I could go from 24GB of data to 60GB and pay £3 a month less than I was paying. Not a clue, however, what I'm going to do with 60GB of data when I'm lucky to even use 3GB a month.

Data is becoming as cheap as chips.

John Lewis customers are getting their knickers in a twist over genderless clothes labelling for kids. It's just the labels, mind you. They've obviously cann't remember the term 'unisex' from the '70s, or the term 'breeching' from an earlier age, where boys wore dresses till anywhere between the ages of 3 and 8 - and that wasn't just a labelling issue.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Trump & Kim Show

The Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has apparently castigated Trump for 'unscientific thinking'. I'm surprised to learn he thinks at all.

His arch nemesis, Kim Jong Un, who looks suspiciously like an early Bond villain, is seen here inspecting what's alleged to be a new type of nuclear warhead.

I think they mean a new kind of BBQ, or possibly a liferaft.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Nursery Care

I was watching something on the local news a couple of days ago about this free childcare that the government has initiated, but nurseries can't afford it on the money they've been promised. The owner of one nursery said they simply couldn't afford the yoga, drama and cake making. Couldn't believe my ears - yoga? - what's wrong with giving kids a box to play with, or a couple of chairs and a sheet? Is it any wonder childcare is unaffordable these days?

Friday, 1 September 2017

Drone Veg

There is a drawback to growing your own veg - you get a glut and can get sick of it.

My father had a smallholding and we used to get heartily sick of kale and broad beans, to the extend I detest them as an adult.

All this business about Amazon using drones - will they go south of the river after a certain time?