Monday, 30 June 2014

Battery Saving

Well, I've sussed it now - just refrain from continually looking at your mobile screen, and then on low illumination, and you'll vastly improve your battery life. It's the screen that's the killer, not apps.

Note in the image below how massive drops in battery power sync with screen activity.

The irony is that the vast majority of the screen activity in the image above is checking the GSam Battery Monitor to see how I'm progressing...

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Solar PV With Emin's Unmade Bed

Well, I've added up my last four electricity bills (£1,446.26) and added up my last four cheques for the solar feed-in tariff (£1519.55) and I'm £73.29 in credit.

Allowing for the fact we have also used the best part of a 47kg bottle of Calor gas at £65 for the separate gas hob (and that was for more than a year), I'd say we're just above breaking even. That means the house costs nothing to heat or power, despite us having under-floor heating - which is not the most economic means of house heating by any means, but certainly the most comfortable.

Well, that's so long as we keep getting the £0.43 per KWh feed in tariff, which should be till I'm 84, if I live that long. I suppose we could always increase the input value in future years as solar PV arrays become more efficient and cheaper.

I hear Tracey Emin hopes her unmade bed will end up in a museum. I hope it ends up in a municipal dump. To quote Brian Sewell (with whom I am in total agreement): "Contemporary art has largely abandoned intellectual enquiry; it is subject to no formal discipline, nor has it a formal language; it is not concerned with aesthetic or empathic consequences for the viewer and, having no rules, has become unjudgeable self-indulgent by largely self-declared, but wretchedly ignorant and ill-educated practitioners. Art, in most manifestations supported by the public purse, is now neither the learned profession of the High Renaissance and the Age of Reason, nor the skill-based trade of the earlier 20th century - it has become the business of the circus freak managed by the circus barker."

That was from the coda to Sewell's Naked Emperors, an illuminating expose of the contemporary art scene - how it's run, who controls it and how the tax payer funds it. Marcel Duchamp didn't realise that his urinal heralded the collapse of art - it's art, Jim, but not as we know it.

Apparently UK fertility clinics are facing a shortage of sperm, which may force them to accept poorer quality sperm. They could try using Tracey Emin's unmade bed as a source...

Friday, 27 June 2014

Serving Suggestion

Was in the mood for a packet or crisps while watching the World Cup the other night. Pulled these out of the cupboard and noticed the "Serving Suggestion" text at the bottom left (tiny vertical text).

I immediately dashed out to the shops to get a sack of potatoes, some cheese, onions and chives. I guess you have to eat the spuds raw...

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Avast Me Hearties

The latest acquisition to be fitted to the oak doors to the 'engine room' and No.1 Son's vestibule. Thank God they arrived while Hay is away.

17 inches (43cm) across and damned heavy, despite being aluminium. The glass is toughened and fairly heavy on its own.

Was considering brass portholes, but the theme of the house is chrome and stainless steel, so aluminium is more in keeping with the look and feel (as well as being less of a bugger to keep shiny). They will require some judicious grinding of the flange at the back to make them fit the door panels as well as the fabrication of a back-plate, but I can get Stuart (our tame fabricator) to do that - perhaps with some light buffing too.

Also got this last week for a song on eBay:

It's a double sheaved block from around the 1950s made of steel, brass and oak - I'm intending to use it to convert the gun tackle hanging over the main minstrel gallery into a luff tackle, but until I get a decent ladder to reach the upper block hanging from the ridge beam, it's being used as an ornament.

The previous owner was going to use it in his house, but it had seized and he didn't know how to free it. It's pretty easy, you just unscrew the brass plaque and hammer out the pin from the other side (with great difficulty if it has become seized), but if you don't know how these things are constructed then it's a bit of a mystery. Some sanding to get rid of a thick layer or orange paint and some beeswax and it now looks like new, or at least a little less stressed.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Hannibal Suarez

If nothing else, the internet is fast!

I'll bet some Liverpool fans are a tad disappointed. 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Overheard in Tehran

Overheard during the Argentina vs Iran World Cup Match:

Presenter: "Reza is his Christian name."

I think I'm going to have to start running an Android Tech Spot on here - been playing some more with the Samsung Note 2:

  1. Installed a new launcher - Nova - to replace TouchWiz, the standard Samsung user interface.
  2. Installed a few gizmos to help me better understand extending battery life.
Nova gives you so much more control over your user-experience, allowing you to change the way folders are handled, adding gesture features, speeding up transitions, etc.

Here are some shots of the GSam Battery Monitor from yesterday:

As you can see, the battery life has improved dramatically, even when out of the house - as illustrated by the fluctuation in phone signal from about 8:30 to early afternoon, when we went to Stroud. I kept the screen brightness down to an absolute minimum and didn't keep flashing it up every few minutes - only when necessary.

From the following screenshot you can see my location on Wednesday, based on another App that tracks the GSM cells you're using, which is much more efficient way to track your location than the power-hungry GPS function (but useless for navigation).

Took this screenshot on the way back from Dartmouth a few weekends ago and am determined to visit Diggerland some day....

I'm Home Alone for most of the coming week - Hay is having a week in Fowey with her Dad and No.1 Son is off to stay with a mate in Cornwall. Peace and quiet!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Footie Wig Fabrication

Overheard in the House:

Hay: "Dad had a 12 lead ECG this morning."

Chairman: "Is that a bit like a Stratocaster?"

Is Michael Fabricant just Martin Freeman in a really bad wig?

Those who know me know I have little interest in football. I suspect interest in football to be not so much an interest in the game itself, but a willingness to engage in uncritical partizanship for a locale. I've never really lived, as an adult, in one place long enough to become emotionally attached to it, hence the lack of interest in the various football leagues. The nearest I come to having a leaning to a place in the UK is Southport, but I'm not even sure they still have a football club. I do remember they played Everton once in the 60s in the first round of that year's FA Cup, which was a massive event. Needless to say they didn't progress much.

Only when the game is played at a national level do I feel a vague stir in my loins; even then I have to admit it is only a small stir, and I put that down to being widely travelled as Merchant Navy officer. I will, however, support Holland and England - the former due to me being born there and out of a strong sense of family allegiance, the latter due to it having been my home for the last 50 odd years. If the two were to play each other, then family allegiance would take precedence, as I'm sure it does in many foreign-born Brits. I'm obviously somewhat tribalist at heart - I think most men are - but it does give me a sense of unease; it's a bit like biting the hand that feeds you.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Silent Harley Nuisance Calls from Hodgson

Must get a push-button phone, even if just temporarily.

I keep getting automated nuisance calls from some outfit that wants to sell me a new gas boiler - not that I have a boiler anyway, or even gas (except Calor). The calls are incessant. I want to get through to someone to tell them to bugger off, but in order to be put through I have to press a set of numbers. Of course my phone is an old 1950s rotary dial phone, so I'm stymied for now. So much for the Telephone Preference Service.

I honestly don't know why I answer the calls - it's not as if anyone other than BT knows the number. All my calls are on my mobile.

Got another app - GSM Battery Monitor - which tells you exactly what's burning battery power. It transpires it wasn't Tasker that was eating up the battery, but me continually flashing up the screen to check whether Tasker was working. Seems the screen is the single largest power drain. May set Tasker to read my emails and SMS messages, rather than me looking at them.

I see Roy Hodgson has ruled out resignation - I guess that's him sacked then by the time he touches down in London.

Harley Davidson have made an electric motorcycle. Just doesn't seem right somehow - it's the sound that's the integral part of the Harley experience. Could you imagine Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda siding off silently to 'Born to be Wild'?

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Battery-Hungry Battery-Saving Apps

Having rooted my mobile and mucked about with KitKat, I decided to purchase an App called Tasker from Google Play. Tasker automates a lot of functions on your phone, like automatically switching Wi-Fi on when you get home by sensing your local phone mast signal and other nifty stuff like that.

I wrote several battery saving profiles, such as only switching on GPS when I open an App that requires GPS, only switching on mobile data when away from a Wi-Fi zone and opening an App that needs data on to function, switching off sound at night, etc, etc.

Yesterday I had cause to travel up to London for the day to attend a satellite communications event in the West End and was horrified at the rate at which my battery was draining. It would seem that having all these tasks running in background was killing my battery - got home with only 10% remaining, whereas I can normally spend a day out with 40% remaining.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Doppelganger Monoglots

Is it my imagination, or is Genesis' Tony Banks slowly turning into Brian Sewell?

Apparently 95% of British monoglots think it's important to speak English in order to be considered British. What about the 4% or so of Welsh who can't speak English? More importantly, what about the Scouusers, Brummies, Geordies and Glaswegians with their impenetrable accents that are based on English, but you can't actually recognise it as such when speaking with them?

Monday, 16 June 2014

Camo, Two Pieces of Fish and a Toilet Roll

There was a picture in yesterday's Sunday Times of a 20 or more Ukrainian separatists, most of which were dressed in camouflage. It struck me that field camouflage is not the ideal clothing to wear when fighting what are essentially street battles in cities and towns. Surely T-shirt, jeans and a hoodie (or in the case of Eastern Europe, the ubiquitous black leather jacket) would make you melt into the background and indistiguishable from the rest of the population? Wearing camo is going to make you look as conspicuous as as Sepp Blatter at an anti-corruption convention.

Seems to me that those dressed in 'camo' are in the game more for egotistical than ideological reasons. Repressed bullies, perhaps, wielding boys' toys.

Overheard at the BBQ at Hay's sister's place:

Hay: "Badger - go over to the house and bring back the cool bag. Inside the fridge you'll find a bottle of Cava and in the freezer is a cool bucket and some ice packs - bring them too."

About half an hour later - after The Chairman had been distracted by something in the house:

Chairman: "Got the cool bag, the frozen salmon and the loo roll - where shall I put them?"

The Chairman was put in charge of The Play List, using his mobile and a Bluetooth connection to the Bose Bluetooth speaker. Everything was proceeding fine until Hay decided she wanted a particular track played; a track The Chairman didn't have in the The Play List.

Predictably, what ensued was total chaos as Perry was brought into the equation and people were hanging out of the upstairs window shouting: "Badger - do you have a cable that connects a doo-free-doo to a thingummy?" The Chairman did not.

Have one person in charge of the music and calm is the order of the day. Allow a request, and you end up with the kind of order as prevails in a Taiwanese brothel. At one stage we had 3 different tunes playing from 3 different devices from 3 different windows.

The Play List must be left to one person, and preferably one who can lay claim to a few drops of Teutonic blood in their veins. Leave it to a bunch of anarchic, Normanised Anglo-Saxons and chaos reigns. I mainly blame the Norman influence.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Supermarket Carrier Bags

I have no objection to paying for supermarket carrier bags, but if only they'd redesign the damned handles to prevent them from becoming finger garottes when used to carry anything heavier than a box of tissues..

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Evil Chancellor Osborne in Iraq

Was reading about the new Star Wars film on the BBC website yesterday and saw this:

'Star Wars: Episode VII will be the first in a new trilogy of films. 

Chancellor George Osborne earlier said the decision to shoot Episode VII in the UK was "testament to the incredible talent in Britain" and meant "more jobs and more investment".'

I always thought the Chancellor was Palpatine, not Osborne....

Iraq is turning into a bit of a farce. When you try to drag a load of disparate cultures and religious factions into one artificial country, that's what you get. No wonder the northern Jihadist tribes in Scotland want independence. Give it to them I say, else we'll be having suicide haggis bombings before much longer.

Hobbs House Bakery - a local purveyor of high-class bread (aka The Fabulous Baker Brothers) - happens to be an outlet for the Wild Beer Company (see my post of last Monday about their fantastic beers). Based on the old relationship between bakers and brewers, they have an arrangement with the Wild Beer Company and stock a sourdough beer made with their own sourdough yeast starter. Tried it last night while watching Holland totally destroy the World Champs.

A cool finish - just like Van Persie. There's a cidery taste to it and not at all unpleasant. Have discovered one of our favourite places in Bath - Sam's Kitchen - stock it too.

Was a bit pissed off in Hobbs House. The guy behind the counter asked if we wanted any bread, to which I responded that I baked my own sourdough from my own starter. He then enquired as to how old my starter was and smirked when I said I started it before Christmas. He said Hobbs House sourdough starter was 60 years old. That's pure bread snobbery of the worst kind - as if a starter's age was a deciding factor in the taste of the bread. It's a yeast culture, for God's sake - age is immaterial so long as it's live.

What about that football match then! I rarely get worked up over football - I prefer rugby to football - but that was just wonderful to watch. I had my orange polo-shirt on as a mark of support.

No.1 Son finished his GCSEs yesterday and is now unemployed (unless he gets a summer job) till he starts his A levels in September. Hoping for 5 or 6 A*/A grades, a smattering of Bs and a single C - and he's done it all on his own too.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Emperor's New Clothes

The Tate has been gifted several art works by one Cy Twombly. 

I presume it was to save them going into a builder's skip.

Apparently they're worth £50m, but where on earth is the Tate going to find the space to house 50,000,000 pictures?

A few people in the art world are making a lot of money, but most people's pensions are going to suffer when the Emperor's new clothes are unmasked for what they really are and some sanity returns to the art market.

I'm with Brian Sewell as far as Twombly is concerned.

Watched the closing stages of the World Cup opening ceremony - about the last 5 minutes. I was distinctly underwhelmed. A scantily clad young woman kept thrusting her pelvis and bottom at the screen, but I told Hay to sit down and behave herself. Couldn't hear a thing.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Immigration Solution Oop North

Here's an idea - make immigrants compete against each other in a reality TV show and get Simon Cowell to organise it. If you pass the test and get the audience votes, you're accepted into a ghetto. If not, you're shot by a firing squad comprised of UKIP members.

I've managed to convince Hay that our next weekend excursion should be oop north. She's now busy arranging for the delivery of a pac-a-mac, a flat cap, a wippet and a stab-vest. I'm thinking White Scar Caves near Ingleton, with a stay at Clapham. Been a good while since I was there last, and I'm sure she'll be impressed.

Just like these fans below, I too be supporting Holland tomorrow against Spain in the World Cup.

I hear Sep Blatter's "task is not complete". I wonder what that task might be - institutionalising corruption? FIFA is becoming more like the EU every day.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

British Values

Cameroon has been going on about how schools are going to promote British values.

Bugger off Cameroon - I don't want some oik in a corduroy jacket with elbow patches teaching my son his (or for that matter the Conservative Party's) values.

My son's values come firstly from me, and once he has learned a bit of critical thinking (may be some time yet), I want him to determine his own values. What I want my son's school to teach is the Three Rs - reading, riting and rithmetic.... (?!)...

If a non-British kid wants to espouse Serbo-Croatian values, then so be it, as long as he (or she) doesn't frighten the horses, stays within the bounds of civil decency and doesn't insist my son adopts Serbo-Croat values at the point of a gun.

What are British values anyway? They move with the times.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Devon Wanderings

Well, Dartmouth was quite relaxing, and seeing cadets from the Britannia Royal Navel College brought back memories from my own days as a midshipman at HMS Conway in Anglesey in the late 60s. The Dartmouth midshpmen cadets had been let out on Saturday evening and were accompanied about town by their parents, with the cadets walking, in a highly embarrassed manner, several steps ahead of mum and dad.

Came across this beer brand in a local hostelry from the Wild Beer Company near Shepton Mallett.

Now I'm no great beer drinker, but this stuff was truly superb! A wide range of flavours and strengths.

Watching the seagulls soar above the River Dart, it struck me that you don't need to buy your kid a kite - just get a seagull, dip it in shellac and you have a ready-made kite.

On the way down on Saturday morning, Hay subjected me to Radio 2, where Brian Matthews was playing hits from the 50s and 60s. These songs with lots of shoo-wop-de-boops and rama-lama-dingdongs were a load of tosh, weren't they? Just an excuse for having no words to go with the tune.

From Sunday's newspapers it seems the Scottish referendum hinges on Andy Murray's decision as to whether he considers himself to be Scottish or British. Deep stuff!

Papers are still full of this Qatar World Cup nonsense with Milliband weighing in on the issue. I just wish at least one of the party leaders would say; "You know what? I don't give a toss as to who gets to host the World Cup." However, that would be a bit like a US presidential candidate saying they were atheist.

Spotted this painting in a gallery in Dartmouth (click to enlarge):

6 artists had cut up leonardo's Last Supper and given their own spins on their allotted section. I particularly like the inclusion of Dobby.

Called in on Totnes on the way back - again quite a nice place. Additionally called in on Teignmouth - hideous!

On our next weekend jaunt I'm going to see if I can persuade Hay to go somewhere further north - getting a bit tired of the southwest coast - see one river town and you've seen them all. They are all fast becoming yachting brands, with expensive Joules, Crew Clothing, Fat Face, Weird Fish, etc. outlets. I'm yearning to see an Edinburgh Woollen Mill outlet....

Saturday, 7 June 2014

KitKat on the Go in Heaven

I did it! Managed to flash KitKat on to the Note 2 successfully while I had an hour to spare at work (one of our colleagues died just over a week ago and we closed the office yesterday to attend his funeral in Southampton. Given the funeral time, distance and workload I had, I thought it best to go in at my usual Friday morning time and be on my own with no distractions). 

The process resulted in the phone reverting to being unrooted (along with the warranty being restored), but another 5 minutes and it was once more rooted. Didn't even lose any of my App data settings.

Not much difference between KitKat and Ice Cream Sandwich, if you ask me, but at least the issue with Gallery not working and the Sleep of Death have been cured.

I did discover "OK Google" though by accident. Never used it before - it's a neat little App.

Clive - the guy whose cremation I attended yesterday, had a wonderful send-off. He was ex Hussars, a Freemason and a biker. His hearse was accompanied by a phalanx of bikers from his bike club and he was then given a Hussar escort into the crematorium along with a piper.

The vicar went on about his certitude that Clive was now in heaven (if he is, then that's not the Clive I knew); however, I do wish these Christians would make up their minds; do they believe the soul (whatever that may be) goes immediately to the world beyond, or do they believe in the Resurrection of the Dead and The Last Judgement, when all of us are meant to wend our merry ways up or down, with the corollary that Clive won't be there for a long time to come (but in the blink of an eye as far as he's concerned). I guess he was talking from Clive's temporal perspective - if he has one (which I gravely doubt - no pun intended).

The only thing religion can be certain about is that at the beginning of time and space, something caused the universe to come into existence - you may choose to call that God, and I have no argument with that. However, any extrapolation concerning God beyond that is pure supposition and akin to arguing how many angels dance on the head of a pin - an argument built on a foundation of sand, to take a biblical metaphor.

Off to Dartmouth for the weekend, so no posts tomorrow.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Time for Action

I wear an old Omega Seamaster self-winding watch from the early 60s that belonged to my father. It loses just under a minute a day, but a minute here of there is of no consequence to me and I'm rather attached to it, what with it having belonged to my father. The intention is to pass it to my son in my will - it being inscribed with JvB - both my father's and my son's initials.

Just lately it has been stopping on me in the middle of the night and I put it down to me not being mobile enough during the day for it to kinetically self-wind. I've obviously been spending too much time staring into a computer screen of late.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Nutkin Phones

Received the test-bed HTC Sensation yesterday. I'm reasonably familiar with it, as the Sensation was my last phone before I migrated to the Samsung Note 2.

Managed to unlock the phone last night for £2 odd via a service on eBay, but rooting it was one helluva faff and not at all as simple as rooting the Note 2. I eventually resorted to using an on-line service based in India at a cost of £17 - and even then the operative (using Team Viewer) took an hour and a half and 2 failed attempts. I just hope flashing it with the latest version of Android - which is the objective - is not as problematic.

One benefit is that I now know what data to back up. At least the value of the phone (bought for £42) has doubled now as a consequence.

Hay is away for a few days at a conference - me and No.1 son are Home Alone. She spotted this at the hotel:

More of a worry for male guests, I would imagine, as they could run off with your nuts.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


Couldn't get to grips with using Hay's laptop - too many settings to have to change. Finally got mine yesterday morning. Went to the local TNT depot, only to discover it was already out for delivery. I complained that the delivery man on Saturday hadn't left a consignment number, or called me when my mobile number was plainly on the package. I was told TNT don't issue drivers with phones. Guess what? The delivery driver couldn't find the house and had to call me on his own mobile, and he's probably earning no more than minimum wage.

Heard an item on Radio 4 yesterday about Mieczyslaw Weinberg, where he was called the greatest composed you've probably never heard of. It went on to describe him as Polish Jewish. Mozart was never described as Bavarian Catholic, or Bach as German Lutheran.

I hear Jews are leaving Europe in droves due to the rampant anti-semitism and heading for Israel or the UK.

If management consultancies are so good, why don't we have an Arthur Andersen Party? Although I've heard it said that the UK governments spent £20bn on management consultancies between 1997 and 2006, so I guess there's more money to be made from consulting to government that being in government. That applies to life after being a member of parliament too.

London Mining is moving non-essential staff out of Sierra Leone following an outbreak of Ebola. So I guess it's OK for essential staff to risk getting Ebola, but not non-essentials. Seems a bit perverse when you think about it.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

It's the News

11 pages about the Qatar World Cup bid in today's Sunday Times, before you get to any other news at all. I just don't care!

Been using Hay's computer this weekend. Accidentally left my laptop at work in Southampton on Friday and only realised when I got home (93 miles away). Managed to get my secretary to have it couriered for next day delivery, but Hay managed to persuade me to go for a walk at 07:45 yesterday and I agreed, thinking I'd be back in plenty of time for the package to be delivered. No chance - it arrived at 8:15 and because I wasn't in it was returned to the depot. 

The courier had been given my phone number, but decided not use it, or to leave a consignment number so I could go in the web and rearrange delivery - bastard! Thank God the depot is only a couple of miles away and I can collect it at 8am tomorrow. As MD, I think we'll not be using TNT again - and we do a lot of spares shipments around Europe.

Luckily I can still access email on my mobile or via webmail, and all my data is in DropBox, so work-wise it's not a big issue. However, using a laptop I'm unfamiliar with is a big issue!