Sunday, 25 July 2021

Whingeing About Death

I've been contemplating my bike accident of last month; I have absolutely no recollection of coming off my bike and hitting my head on the pavement. Just goes to show that, had I woken up dead, I wouldn't have remembered the trauma, so there's nothing to fear about death and I can leave a positive review of it....

Talking of reviews, Hay has been experimenting with putting our AirBnB rental room on other platforms, such as and Quirky Stays, with some surprising results. 

With AirBnB the hosts write reviews of guests as well as the guests reviewing the room, creating a virtuous feedback loop. Some guests go out of their way to leave the place spick and span, even stripping the bed and using the squeegee on the shower doors. Others can leave the place a tip.

Unless guests have a genuine beef about their experience, they tend not to leave vexatious reviews, as they also risk bad reviews about the state in which left the property. Too many bad reviews about noise or cleanliness on the part of a guest can result in hosts not accepting guests with a bad track record., on the other hand, does not facilitate hosts reviewing guests, which can result in some frivolous reviews by guests. One guest left a review stating that the room was too hot and there was no fan - this despite it being the hottest day of the year in the middle of a heatwave and the fan we provided showing 100% evidence of having been used.

Whereas AirBnB facilitates freeform reviews, leads one down a path, asking you to point out positives and negatives in separate sections. It's almost as it they expect you to add some negatives and encourage you to whinge. Whereas we have an unbroken record of 5 star reviews on AirBnB, we get only 8/10 on and there's hardly a single review of any property on the entire platform with more than 8/10.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Donner Und Blitzen

Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening.

Strange how lightning has no e in it, whereas frightening does.

Anyway, that's the situation here as I write; however, whereas the three, domesticated house cats are cowering from the thunder, to varying degrees, Railway, the feral cat, doesn't give a monkey's and is quite happily sitting on our patio, under the awning, eating his breakfast and showing not the least concern for the thunder and lightning raging around him. 

All this extreme weather seems to be a warning of the effects of climate change yet, when you think of it, we've never lived in a more sanitised milieu. The griminess that was there for all to see in the 50s and 60s has disappeared and everything looks pristine - yet it isn't, as far as the atmosphere is concerned. It's all hidden from view and thus capable of being ignored.

I'm currently struggling to find the cause of the fridge in the motorhome not working on 12v. Works fine on 240v and gas, but nothing on 12v. All other 12v equipment seems to be working fine, with the exception of the fridge. Strangely enough, the board where you switch from leisure to cab battery shows no current on cab battery, despite there being 12v current in many other places in the loop.

I've replaced as many fuses and relays as I can find, but still not a sausage from the volt meter on the display board or the fridge itself. The display shows full power when switched to leisure battery, but zilch when switched to cab.

Friday, 23 July 2021

Newton's Slowmo Cradle

I just happened to pop into a local charity shop yesterday where I spotted a Newton's Cradle.

These executive desk toys have fascinated me since I was a kid - I just can't keep my eyes off them when they're bouncing about, obeying the laws of classical physics and determinism at the macro scale. I had to buy it and video it in slow motion.

I don't know what it is about these things that fascinate me; it possibly says something about me that they hold my attention.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Road Radiation

I was having a bit of a walk yesterday and was meandering from grassed areas and crossing several roads. As soon as I hit tarmac, waves of heat arose to hit me. It made me wonder how much of an effect all our roads are having on the planet's albedo

All that black absorbs heat from the sun, contributing to the warming of Earth. If we used a whitening agent in tarmac, I wonder by how much this could offset global warming.

Our preoccupation with grey slate rooftiles only add to the problem too, although modern houses have red or orange slates, which are an improvement.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Underfloor Cooling

Hot, ain't it? 

Being almost totally open plan, our main problem in this weather is the heat build-up upstairs, for which the only real solution is the installation of a Velux window in the vaulted ceiling to let heat escape, but we keep putting it off. Our upstairs windows are very low in the walls and hence don't really do much in clearing the heat.

Our bedroom occasionally becomes unbearably hot, forcing us to either sleep downstairs or in the motorhome, which cools down pretty fast after dusk. Downstairs isn't that much of a problem, as we have no south facing windows and the place can be kept relatively cool by closing all the doors and curtains at either end of the house during the day and opening them at night, but what heat does build up rises upstairs and remains trapped there in the open roof space, which is vast.

I've had an idea though.

We have underfloor heating. The heat exchanger takes warmth from the air outside via the air-source heat pump, backed up by the solar PV, and pumps it through pipes under our floors to heat the house.

Using the system as it is, but not heating the water at all and putting the thermostat to high could actually take heat away from the floor and dump it in the 500 litre tank in the engine room. It wouldn't be very efficient, as the heat would slowly build up in the 500 litre tank with nowhere to go, so eventually the system would stabilise at the outside air temperature. 

Theoretically, it should be possible, with a chiller inserted somewhere into the system, to work it in reverse, so as to give us cool floors that take the heat away from the house and chuck it outside.

That said, another idea, which I have yet to discuss with Hay, would be to roll the car into the living room, put a hose on the tailpipe leading outside for the carbon monoxide and run the aircon at full belt with the car doors open. I'm almost certain she'd me amenable to such an innovative idea. One small problem, however, would be the heat from the engine and that a car aircon is designed to cool only a small area. Minor obstacles.

Just a quick look at our electricity generation, using the initial feed-in tariff, since we moved into the house.

Click on the image to enlarge it. You can plainly see how the sunlight (yellow area) has been increasing, albeit slowly, year-on-year. The usage too has increased, but that's been subject to having two sons living at home - however, they've both left now and hence usage should reduce dramatically over winter.

Mind you, if climate change produces more weather like we're currently experiencing, then we may have to install a genuine aircon unit, using the renewable generated electricity to run it.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Freedom Day

 In my 66 years on this earth, I’ve never known anything remotely like this. 

We have taken the worst approach possible - in the world - in dealing with this pandemic. It is  self-evident from the statistics and exponential increase in infections that this government cannot learn from its mistakes and keeps repeating them ad nauseam, hoping for a different result every time. Scientists around the world, including our own scientific advisors, accuse the government of "moral emptiness" and "epidemiological stupidity". 

The spectacular advantage we gained from the vaccination lead is now being squandered by this idiotically named Freedom Day, which is actually better termed Infection Day and is resulting in hospitals cancelling elective procedures in the face of an exponential rise in infections and hospitalisations.

Who exactly is experiencing this Freedom? Certainly not those who now have to navigate around the estimated 30% of morons (according to a poll) who are refusing to wear masks, despite it remaining firm government advice that's no longer backed up by law. Only the morons will be experiencing Freedom - freedom to infect others and each other.

Personal responsibility? How can I take personal responsibility for someone else not wearing a mask and infecting me, other than by not entering anywhere where people refuse to wear masks? That's not freedom!

Johnson emphasises the risks posed by nightclubs only hours after opening the damned things and we see hundreds of young people paying not the slightest attention to protective measures. Then he says nightclubs will require patrons to have Covid Passports in September, way after the horse has bolted. Can anyone discern even a shred of logic in this?

Many on social media are saying we can't possibly wait till there are no cases reported before restrictions are relaxed. However, they're guilty of the 'all or nothing' fallacy - a false dilemma suggesting that there are only two options – either full lockdown or full freedom – when in fact there are many more options in the middle ground between those two extremes, such as masks being enforced by law when cases are spiralling out of control, along with a bit of social distancing. You'd think they were being asked to deliver their firstborn for sacrifice.

It's almost as if the Conservative government wants the NHS to fail, just so it can call in the private sector and privatise it (you first destroy that which you wish to privatise); however, it's a mistake to attribute to design and strategy what can adequately be explained by a consistent track record of incomparable, astounding and repeated incompetence.  The level of corruption, hypocrisy, incompetence and cronyism is unprecedented and laid out for all with eyes to see. 

Then there’s the self-imposed disaster that is Brexit, which just lurches from bad to worse, with blame being apportioned to anyone, rather than the very architects of this act of wanton self-flagellation. 

The racism they’re stirring up with their War on Woke and Culture Wars is in negation of any shred of compassion, decency, caring, morals, ethics or general good nature. They give licence to the worst elements in human nature to run rampant, just like Trump did in America.  

Even an anti-racism gestures, made in solidarity with an abused English national football team, are an unacceptable breach of GB News standards - that certainly makes sense in a Culture War (I wasn't aware GB News had any standards). This whole government thing about ‘we don’t do gesture politics’, is intellectually bankrupt and a blatant lie. Wearing a poppy is a gesture, handing people a leaflet is a gesture, clapping the NHS is a gesture, politicians do most of what they do with  gestures - including making promises they know will be broken.  Johnson with the huge England flag on Downing Street - that was a brilliant gesture, but nonetheless a gesture and a stunt that created fantastic photo opportunity for him.  Politics is all about gestures and symbolism.

It doesn’t help that, despite all the evidence of wrongdoing, incompetence, neglect and corruption, a lot of people continue to support this appalling government, choose to wilfully ignore objective reality and treat Boris Johnson, who has been sacked from virtually every job he's ever had for lying, as if he were the Messiah, rather than the very naughty boy he is. Why? Even Peter Oborne and Max Hastings have turned on him, and both know him well.

To quote Rory Stewart, one of a small number of true, old-style Tories I can respect  (although now an ex Tory): "Johnson is after all the most accomplished liar in public life - perhaps the best liar ever to serve as prime minister. Some of this may have been a natural talent - but a lifetime of practice and study has allowed him to uncover new possibilities which go well beyond all the classifications of dishonesty attempted by classical theorists like St Augustine. He has mastered the use of error; omission, exaggeration, diminution, equivocaton and flat denial. He has perfected casuistry, circumlocution, false equivalence and false analogy. He is equally adept at the ironic jest, the fib and the grand lie; the weasel word and the half-utruth; the hyperbolic lie, the obvious lie, and the bullshit lie."

It's as if there's a headlong rush into speculative risk taking, in the hope that at least one risk will pay off. This is despite, with the exception of going it alone on vaccines, hardly a single risk having thus far transformed into one with even a low pay-off.  A large section of the electorate has turned into infantile, self-absorbed toddlers who care for nothing but themselves.

Monday, 19 July 2021

Cruiser Catastrophe

Well, it transpires the beach cruiser is unsuitable for converting to an e-bike. There are two reasons for this:

  1. The rear, pack-peddle hub brake is incompatible, and
  2. The gap between the rear forks is too small to accommodate the motor wheel.
The gap between the rear forks wouldn't be insurmountable on a steel-framed bike as they could be bent to accommodate the wheel, but the frame is aluminium and could therefore fracture during the bending process, or even at a later stage. The existing rear hub being a pack-peddle brake would not be an issue, as I'm not that keen on this method of braking anyway and was intending to affix a normal rim brake.

It's a nice bike anyway and I'll keep it as a run-around for flat terrain.

Another, 2nd hand base bike has been purchased for the conversion and will be taken to the local bike emporium today to have the motorised wheel and Pedal Assist Sensor fitted, while simultaneously being given an overall health and safety check.

The replacement LED screen and controller for the fried parts on my original creation have also arrived from China so, hopefully, I'll have two, fully functional e-bikes by the end of this week. I need both operational by the weekend after next, ready for our next outing in the van to the Brecons.

I'm not looking forward to performing the work outside in this weather, but Hay is taking her dad and his partner on a holiday to Cotswold Water Park for a few days later today, which means I may be able to accomplish the task in the living room without her knowing.   Perhaps not....

Talking of the van, I have a small issue with it currently. The fridge, which has a gas, a 240v and a 12v supply, won't work on the 12v, which is meant to be used while driving between destinations. I've checked all the fuses, which are fine. The electrical display panel additionally registers no power in the 12v system, which is driven from the starter battery. Now the battery is fine and has plenty of power, so I can only assume a 12v relay has packed up, but I'm buggered if I can find the 12v relay for the fridge. 

The wiring diagram is of no use, as the relays on the diagram bear no relation to locations within the physical space of the van. Might have to call in an auto-electrician. Not a massive problem, just a niggle, especially in this weather - it can be overcome by packing the fridge with frozen chill packs before setting off on a journey. Once on-site, I can use either the gas or 240v hookup supplies. It is possible to use the gas supply en-route, but it's not recommended at all for safety purposes.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Small, Yet Big

Since Thursday we've been in a field in Widdecombe in Devon, where the owner has been providing camping facilities for about a month to 6 weeks. 

He told us when we arrived on Thursday that he was expecting some 20 happy campers to arrive over the weekend, but what's stark is that our motorhome, albeit a relatively small one, is the only one on the site. Most are cars with tents or VW campervans, the latter being extremely popular at present, with prices for T5s and T6s going exponential and being far in excess of their intrinsic value.

I think it must be down to motorhome owners, in general, preferring the larger sites where everything is laid on - toilet and shower blocks, along with a shop and even entertainment. A simple field just doesn't cut the mustard for those seeking luxury; however, it's just what we look for. I can't actually stand the larger sites and much prefer the off-grid life. 

Being an old Fiat Ducato Sundance, our van contains all the luxuries we need - and far in excess of what the others in the field have and who are continually packing and unpacking their VW vans to make room for themselves or their gear. 

I think we've hit the sweet spot with the size of van we have - just under 6 metres gives you the best of both worlds; small enough to get through narrow roads to the smaller sites (albeit with a few hiccups), but large enough to be self-sufficient (cooker, toilet, shower, power, beds, etc.). Any larger and we'd be forced to go to the larger, less enjoyable, more sterile camping sites where you're cheek-by-jowl with hundreds of other people.

Saturday, 17 July 2021


The coolant leak on my SAAB has been resolved - it was the water coolant by-pass valve. If I'd had the time to perform a diagnosis, I could probably have effected the repair myself. However, I left it to our local garage to do the job, not having enough time to devote to searching the internet for reasonably cheap parts. Given there was a rip on the top intercooler hose, I got them to order the necessary hose for that too.

What a shock! In a reversal of all logic, the rather complex by-pass valve was £35 plus VAT, which I thought quite reasonable, but the lump of rubber hose, which isn't at all complex, was £65 plus VAT. I looked up both parts on eBay and found the by-pass valve for £26, including postage (not a great difference) and the hose for £38, including postage (a massive difference).

All parts were sourced from Simply SAAB in Bristol - a rather handy facility for parts for a car that is no longer manufactured but is, nevertheless, essentially a Vauxhall under the bonnet.

How is it possible that a simple hose is so expensive when a much more complex by-pass valve is so cheap? You'd think that hoses, being more susceptible to wear and tear damage, would be in higher demand than a by-pass valve and therefore relatively cheaper.

Friday, 16 July 2021

Post Hoc Rationalisation

I was listening to a radio phone-in programme yesterday where the subject of the moment was makeup in schools.

After listening to the opinions of the callers, it struck me that this is one of those subjects where people have opinions that aren't rationally considered. They are essentially emotional judgements for which rational arguments are made post hoc, almost all of which don't stand up to scrutiny, which is usually the case in post hoc rationalisations and the result of the human condition.

Some justified cosmetics being used by girls under the age of 16 as a means of gaining self-confidence, whereas the counter argument was that self-confidence should therefore be taught in schools, but not allowed through the use of cosmetics. Easier said than done, when one considers that a lack of self-confidence is invariably why cosmetics are used by women over the age of 16. A lack of self-confidence is at the root of a lot of things we, as humans, do. 

The judgement on cosmetics being used by school children is invariably one made on the basis of one's own past experience - if you weren't allowed to use cosmetics as a child, then future children shouldn't. No rational analysis, simply a continuation of what happened to you, but for which you feel compelled to come up with a rational justification. It actually stifles progress and is at the heart of a lot of what ails us as a species. I can think of a lot of hideous things that are perpetuated in this manner.

One caller suggested cosmetics should not be allowed so as to level the playing field, but beauty is not a level playing field to start with. One kid is beautiful and another is ugly - where's the level playing field in that? The use of cosmetics by the ugly kid is that very levelling of the playing field.

Cosmetics are a fashion and there's no justifiable, logical or rational reason why a kid under the age of 16 shouldn't be allowed to utilise fashion, especially when parents utilise fashion when they dress their kids or style their hair.

Could it be to do with the sexualisation of children? However, it's the very act of prohibiting cosmetics use by children until they reach puberty and beyond that creates this sexualisation link, which is entirely contextual. The link is created by the action.

All girls try to emulate their mothers - we smile when a kid plasters itself in its mother's makeup. They also care for dolls, which emulate their mothers. Why don't we frown when this happens in the same manner we frown at childhood cosmetic use?

I too feel kids under the age of 16 shouldn't use cosmetics, but I can't think of a single, rational argument why not. Can you?