Friday 8 December 2023

Fork Handles

Apropos of yesterday's post on candles, I went to IKEA this week to replenish the tealight and pillar candle stock and noticed we're being ripped off in a Swedish manner.

On the left is one of the tealights I bought in IKEA last winter. On the right is this year's offering.

Instead of a 4 or 5 hour burn, I'll now be lucky to get 2.5 hours from a tealight. Why can't they just be honest and increase the price to reflect increases in cost, rather than increasing the price AND reducing the size. 

With a candle, I'm more concerned with the burn time than the price - a bit like a cremation....

Thursday 7 December 2023

Four Candles

My Dutch Christmas chime is driven by candlepower, but the specific candles are hard to find and are hideously expensive.

However, this year I've managed to solve the problem by using the thermoelectric fan we have on the log burner to drive the chime.

Hay's checking all the Christmas decorations and lights before we put them up later this month. Last year she managed to decorate all of the garden in white.

It took her simply ages to get that effect.

I wonder when Christmas will have its name commercialised, more in keeping with what it actually is, a commercial holiday celebrating excess and conspicuous consumption. How about Amazonmas or, following on from Black Friday, Black Mass? ......

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Non-Orientable Surfaces

 I wanted to make a ceramic Mobius Strip in Hay's sister's pottery class. Here's an example.

Now a Mobius Strip (and a Klein Bottle) are what are called non-orientable surfaces and, while they can exist at the chemical or molecular level, they have never been observed at the macro level in nature and simply aren't viable. Think about it for a while and it will become obvious why.

Here is my first attempt (plus another tea light house).

Took me two hours. The Mobius is difficult, as you need to clay to dry somewhat so it's self-supporting, but not too much that you can no longer smooth it. It's made from raku clay, which has some grit in it.

Not sure whether to raku glaze the Mobius or do it in a crackle cream.

Both require drying, firing, glazing and then re-firing.  God alone knows when they'll be ready.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Carbon & Ash

When I clean the inside of the glass on our wood burner every morning I wet a piece of kitchen towel, dip it in the wood ash and use the resulting paste to easily remove the carbon and tar deposits. Works a treat.

When wood is burned it splits into 2 parts - the ash, which is alkali, and carbon, which is acidic. The former neutralises the molecular bonds of the latter, making it easy to remove.

Now, as wood ash is alkali, I thought I'd try household bleach, as it's a powerful alkali, but it was a very poor substitute. A modicum of asking Google Bard (which is my new ChatGPT - much better and more up-to-date) told me that this is because wood ash contains potassium carbonate, which reacts with carbon, whereas bleach contains sodium hypochlorite, which doesn't.

When I was a kid my mother would give me charcoal tablets for an upset stomach. The theory was that carbon attracts organic molecules and the carbon would mop up any bad bacteria. The problem is that carbon mops up any organic molecule, including the beneficial ones - a bit like broad spectrum antibiotics.

The consensus now is that chomping on charcoal for an upset stomach simply turns your boo black and gives you the shits.

Monday 4 December 2023

Cutting GP Appointment Waits

Following hard on from yesterday's stunning solution to EV charging points, here's an idea to cut down on the GP waiting times - GP practices swap patients with the next town, making it much more difficult to get to an appointment. The time wasters would disappear overnight.

Even better, locate all GP surgeries at the nearest hospital. Far fewer coming for their appointments because of distance, combined with the inability to park, could be referred immediately to a consultant for further tests, once the procedure backlog had been sorted. So, much smaller numbers being comprehensively treated in a fraction of the time. I should be a Secretary of State for something....

Am I serious? No, but I wouldn't put it past someone to come up with the policy.

Sunday 3 December 2023

Electric Car Solution

I've come up with a solution to the charging issue with electric vehicles - use fairground bumper cars.

An arterial network of electrified roads could be created, with the current entering the cars from a long pole that attaches to a 'ceiling' and exiting through the metal road. No need to worry about charging, as the current is always on.

Accidents would become enjoyable as cars bump into each other, but you might need a neck brace. Even kids could drive them, meaning they can get to school themselves.

The power could be DC too, resulting in additional safety and cheaper, long distance transmission. As for price, bumper cars for fairgrounds certainly don't cost anywhere near as much as standard EVs.

Getting from the arterial roads to small, residential roads could be achieved by incorporating a small lawnmower engine to create a hybrid. Bit noisey, but what the hell - it would be fun.

Saturday 2 December 2023

Tealight Houses

Apparently, small ceramic houses for tealights are all the rage in the middle classes this Christmas and, not to miss out, Hay and I decided to attend one of Hay's sister's ceramic art classes in her studio in the garden and make some.

Here are the ones available in the shops.

Now Hay has been attending the classes for several months on a Saturday morning, but I never availed myself of the facility, despite having received a free session as a birthday present.

I made one quickly, whereas Hay took more time for a somewhat refined house. She even went on to make a 2nd. 

Here are our attempts thus far.

The smaller one with the Roman tiled effect roof is mine and the other two are Hay's. She's leaving the roof off her 2nd one but, to me, it looks like a WWII Coventry, Stalingrad or Dresden model or, to be more contemporary, a Gaza model. 

I want to make a 2nd, but first want to make a paper template that minimises the use of clay - a bit like a fold-out. I may even transfer the paper template to mild steel to create a bit of a production line.

Above is a rough sketch of a template, complete with bowed walls and a bowed roof; however, if you search on t'internet you can find loads of them. Here's one, although it doesn't eliminate wastage by concatenating the sides that match.

The template above requires the joints to be cut at a 45 degree angle, which makes sense for a clean, mitred corner. It has a font and back, two roof panels and one side panel. The missing side panel is where you insert the tea light, although I would have done that at the back - better for the light too.

We still need to fire the ones we made, glaze them and then re-fire them, but they should be ready for Christmas.

Mine will be crackle glaze cream, with a terracotta roof and a trace of white snow on the roof. Very twee. I think, but can't be certain, that Hay will do the Coventry model in smoke and blackened brick.

Friday 1 December 2023

Culture & Consequences

Trawling thought Twitter, I keep being presented with posts from far right nutters. It's obviously the algorithm at work, feeding me more of what I interact with when in Nexus 6 Nutter Combat Mode.

There is an inherent contradiction between the anti-immigration stance of the far right and the unintended consequences of their support for Brexit. 

Their opposition to Freedom of Movement for people from similar cultural backgrounds has led to a labour shortage, necessitating the recruitment of workers from different cultures - in many cases, very different cultures. This influx of diverse cultures, which they oppose, is a direct result of their own actions. 

The far right's proposed solution of employing more native Brits in these predominantly healthcare sector jobs is impractical due to the low wages offered and the limited availability of British workers in these fields. The low unemployment rate further underscores the challenge of filling these positions. 

To attract native Brits to these jobs, substantial wage increases would be necessary. However, this would require tax hikes, a measure that the far right also opposes. This creates a paradoxical situation where their desired solution to the labour shortage and mass immigration contradicts their economic beliefs. 

This effectively demonstrates the far right's inability to grasp the complex interdependencies of their actions and their desired outcomes. Their anti-immigration stance, coupled with their resistance to tax increases, has created a self-inflicted dilemma, leaving them with no viable solutions to the labour shortage they lament.

The government seems to want to import foreign labour on even lower wages than the current wages, or force disabled people into low paid jobs for which they're entirely unsuited. If genuinely disabled they can't physically do the jobs and, if swinging the lead, they're not the type of people who the job requires.

When a Brexiteer next tells you that if you love the EU so much, you should go and live in the EU, simply remind them that you can't, because they robbed you of Freedom of Movement. The numpties are stuck with you until such time as there's another referendum, which there will be, and it's entirely their fault, which they didn't foresee.

We live in interesting times of mass self-delusion, cognitive dissonance and the inability to see consequences of actions.

Thursday 30 November 2023

Lord Elgin and His Marbles

The acquisition (some would say looting) of the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century remains a contentious issue, with Greece consistently calling for their return. 

Drawing parallels with the repatriation of Nazi art treasures offers a cogent and compelling argument for the restitution of the Elgin Marbles to Greece. 

Firstly, the acquisition of the Elgin Marbles bears similarities to the plundering of art by the Nazis during World War II. Both instances involved the removal of cultural artifacts from their rightful owners without their consent. While the circumstances surrounding Elgin's acquisition may not be as blatantly exploitative as Nazi looting, the underlying principle of taking cultural treasures from their country of origin remains questionable. 

Secondly, the return of Nazi art treasures has set a precedent for the repatriation of cultural artifacts. The international community has recognized the importance of restoring these looted treasures to their rightful owners, acknowledging the deep cultural and historical significance they hold for the original communities. This precedent reinforces the call for the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece, where they can be reunited with the Parthenon and serve as a tangible connection to the nation's heritage. 

Thirdly, the continued retention of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum raises concerns about the institution's role in preserving and representing global cultural heritage. The museum's refusal to return the marbles despite Greece's persistent requests can be perceived as perpetuating a colonial mentality and disregarding the cultural ownership of these artifacts. Repatriation would demonstrate the museum's commitment to responsible stewardship and cultural sensitivity. 

In conclusion, the repatriation of Nazi art treasures serves as a powerful precedent for the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece. The parallels between the two cases highlight the importance of respecting cultural ownership and addressing the legacy of colonial practices. Restoring the Elgin Marbles to their rightful place would not only reunite them with their cultural context but also contribute to a more equitable and inclusive approach to the management of global cultural heritage.

Imagine, for a minute, that the Nazis had invaded Britain for a period during WWII and sold a few stones from Stonehenge, along with the Magna Carta, to the Italians or Greeks. What would be the reaction of the British once the Nazis had been defeated?

Something that's not widely known is that Lord Elgin's descendents retain some of the lesser Marbles that the British Museum thought were not of sufficiently high quality to be displayed. The current Lord Elgin does not wish to relinquish his rubble.

Rishi Sunak has said the UK will not return the Marbles. On the basis of his success on NHS waiting lists, stopping small boats and the tax burden, it would appear they will be returned shortly.

On a personal level, I have visited the Acropolis more times than I have visited the British Museum, and I lived in London for a number of years.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Tabloid Politics

I've coined a term, or I think I have, as I can't find a reference to it anywhere.

Similar to tabloid journalists who condense multifaceted stories to fit limited column space, populist politicians streamline nuanced issues, presenting facile answers that appeal to specific audiences. This approach, marked by its ability to capture attention and resonate with certain segments of the population through the use of emotion rather than logic, raises legitimate concerns about the depth and feasibility of the proposed solutions. I call this Tabloid Politics.

While these simplified messages may gain traction and generate popular support, they often lack the depth necessary to address the intricacies of the problems at hand. This oversimplification can lead to policy decisions that, while appealing on the surface, may prove facile, impractical or even detrimental when applied to the complex, multifaceted realities of governing. 

A more nuanced and thoughtful approach is crucial in navigating the intricate web of contemporary issues. Politicians should strive to engage with the complexities of challenges and acknowledging that real-world problems rarely have one-size-fits-all solutions. Emphasizing a more nuanced discourse is essential for fostering informed public debate and promoting policies that stand up to the complexities of our ever-evolving societal landscape.

I also think that those who engage in Tabloid Politics would like to get everyone in uniforms, preferably designed by Hugo Boss, and looking as if they're prepared to invade Czechoslovakia.