Sunday, 31 August 2014

A Question of Balance

Women MUST be inherently unstable!

Hay is the same height as me - if the truth be told, possibly an inch taller - but she has a shoe size that's 4 and a half sizes smaller than me. How the hell does she keep upright? There must be some gyroscopic mechanism at work, surely?

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Phone Geek

Got my phone upgrade this week and was bumped up to a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The Note 2 has now been inherited by No.1 Son, who is very pleased with his new toy.

The Note 3 has some very nice features (some being hidden by Samsung), which I won't bore you with, but the battery life in no better (and possibly worse) than the Note 2. The decision was taken to Root it (very easy with TowelRoot) and do some small modifications, especially on under-clocking the CPU, which is way over-powered at 2.3 GHz. Reducing it to 1.6 GHz has made no difference to performance.

I've overcome most of the battery life limitations by resorting, once again, to Tasker and creating profiles to:

  1. When on Wi-Fi, shut down mobile data; when not on Wi-Fi defaulting to Nos. 2 and 3 below.
  2. When not on Wi-Fi, launch mobile data every 20 minutes between 06:30 and 18:30 to check for emails (this could also be achieved by using scheduled synch, but data would have to be on 7 x 24 with the consequent battery drain).
  3. When not on Wi-Fi, but needing certain apps to function, to launch mobile data and/or GPS on opening the said apps and then switching them off again when the app is closed.
  4. Setting the brighness to either minimum or auto-brighness and then merely shaking the phone to instantly set brightness to maximum (moving the phone up and down resets to auto-brightness).
Those profiles should go a long way to getting a full 24 hours or more from the battery when out and about.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Biblical Warnings

Spotted this little chap on the house yesterday:

I'm hoping for a plague of them to eat the cluster flies, when they decide to appear - which can't be too long now.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Shrooming Time

Overheard while watching Young Vets:

Large Woman: "Dobbin will forever be in my heart."

Hay: "Looks like he already is - she's eaten him."

We've had a very large crop of mushrooms appear almost overnight around the roots of a dead weeping willow. Not going to harvest them, as I suspect they're not edible.

Can but hope a beefsteak mushroom appears on the trunk, but they are more usually found on oak.

Talking of mushrooms, I see a 9 year-old has accidentally killed her shooting instructor. Who in their right mind allows a 9 year-old anywhere near an Uzi? Some Americans are sick in the head.

What will all this ice bucket challenge stuff going on, I wonder who would be up for the circumcision challenge to support prostate cancer?

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Nothing shows how much the independence vote is nothing more than a visceral, gut reaction and not an argument based on reason than the fact the people voting for union are mostly for the UK leaving the EU, while those voting for independence are hoping an independent Scotland will be accepted into the EU.

Nowt so queer as folks, as they say.

Sunday, 24 August 2014


Overheard outside the paper-shop while looking at the adverts:

Hay: "There's an advert here for meditation courses - might be good for you."

Chairman: "I'll think about it."

Last night, before the return of the new Dr Who, we were watching the documentary about the rehearsals for Michael Jackson's abortive last concert. I swear I spotted some early-onset Dad Dancing going on - he was 50 when he died, after all.

Hay: "Winston Churchill said that if you have enemies it's good, as that means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life."

Chairman: "Or you're a sociopath!"

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Meat & 2 Veg Post

The photo below is of a roast dinner that was served recently at Bristol's new Southmead Hospital. The patient complained.

I too would have complained - I contend that no-one could stomach that much broccoli or cauliflower (hideous stuff).

Friday, 22 August 2014


I can't help feeling that this ISIS thing (or IS, as they now call themselves) is going to be self-limiting by its very nature. Who in their right mind wants to be ruled by a bunch of homicidal maniacs who cut off people's heads (in that respect, they scored an own-goal, in my opinion)? Added to that, once terrorists get control they fracture as factions form and lust for power, inevitably resulting in internal civil war. IS themselves are made up of factions to start with, which is not exactly a recipe for long term success.

When one section of society gains absolute control, oppression of the rest of society becomes the norm as a means of staying in power - that's why democracy, albeit imperfect, is a beautiful thing. When that powerful section is in alliance with a religion in the form of a theocracy, then that's the worst kind of rule as it is based on divine revelation, which is notoriously aligned with what the spiritual leader happens to want (because the divine revelation is is nothing of the sort and emanates solely from within the spiritual leader's head and not some supernatural external source).

Sooner or later, ISIS will run out of arms (arms which the West has, up to now, so kindly donated in the fight against Assad). Who is going to provide them with more on the scale they need (and without an assurance of payment)? Iran is the only contender I can think of, and that won't be anywhere near the scale of the West (and Israel can take care of them), but that scenario is unlikely as they are on opposite sides of the religious schism in Islam.

Taking over a bunch of meek co-religionists is one thing; taking on the entire, hostile West is a totally different ball-game that requires perpetual effort if they ever do get control, as they will be constantly fighting insurrection on every front.

However, IS' first objective will be to cleanse Islamic countries of heresy, so we have some time yet.

That said, we are certainly facing a clash of civilizations (if you can call a medieval mentality a civilization). However, if bombing them into the Stone Age is the objective, there's no need - they're already there.

It's ironic than the Egyptian goddess Isis was portrayed as the perfect mother...

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Most Pointless Food Product?

Saw an advert for these last night.

Is there anything more pointless? 9 minutes in a microwave for 4 raw potatoes and you have 4 jacket potatoes anyway. You have to put these jobbies in a microwave for 5 minutes - so you're saving a massive 4 minutes (I'm being ironic).

At £1.65 (Ocado price, but more like £2 elsewhere) for 800g when you can buy a kilo of raw potatoes from Tesco for £1.25, you just have to be totally bonkers to buy these.

Facebook stories posted in users' feeds are being tagged as "[Satire]" in an apparent move to prevent them being mistaken for real news stories. They should also introduce a "[Woo-woo Pseudo-science]" tag as well, based on some of the garbage you see touted as miracle cures.

We were watching Michael Moseley's TV program last night on the health effects of red meat. One section contained an analysis by a German scientist and both Hay and I commented that there's something about science pronounced in a heavy German accent that makes it more compelling and authoritative.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Gizzie Erskine as Mr Pastry

So who is Gizzie Erskine? I've seen her carefully coiffed, 1950s hairdo gracing the foodie pages of the Sunday Times magazine for a while now and still have no idea who she is. A Delia in the making?

Not sure why, but the subject of Mr Pastry came up last night. Hay had never heard of him, so I looked him up on Wiki for her. The actor who played Mr Pastry was Richard Hearne - a children's TV entertainer in the 50s and early 60s - and here's an extract from his Wiki biography.

"He was interviewed for the starring role of the BBC series Doctor Who after the departure of Jon Pertwee, but a disagreement over his interpretation of the role (he wanted to play the Doctor as Mr Pastry) led to no offer being made by the producer, Barry Letts. The role was subsequently offered to Tom Baker."

I have to say I'm not in the least bit surprised.

Richard Hearne as Mr Pastry

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Arthur Askey Tour T Shirt

Hay and I were walking into Chipping Sodbury yesterday and we spotted a chap in his 30s wearing a Jimi Hendrix T shirt. I commented that he wasn't old enough to even remember Jimi Hendrix.

This started a discussion on the rise of the T shirt promoting popular beat combos. We traced it back to the 60s with the likes of Led Zeppelin and the "tour promotion", but no earlier.

We wondered why this hadn't happened earlier and there weren't T shirts from the 50s promoting say the Frank Sinatra tour, or indeed the tours of the more famous music hall stars, like Arthur Askey.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Feline Fine Dining

Kitty has been having her food off a slate roof tile since well before restaurants began the fad.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Micro-Generation Update

Well, this year hasn't been quite as good as last in terms of solar generation - it hasn't helped that No.1 Son has been home since late June following his GCSEs and leaving his TV and computer on practically all day (even when not in his room).

Click to Enlarge

This is a weekly, as opposed to daily, summary; however, it still shows we're behind last year. The daily chart shows peak net generation is already over, about a week earlier than last year.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Age of Demons

I'm currently re-reading The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan and these two passages struck me as pertinent in today's digital age.

"Science arouses a soaring sense of wonder. But so does pseudoscience. Sparse and poor popularisations of science abandon ecological niches that pseudoscience promptly fills. If it were known that claims to knowledge require adequate evidence before they can be accepted, there would be no room for pseudoscience. But a kind of Gresham's Law prevails in popular culture by which bad science drives out good.....

"But there's another reason: science is more than a body of knowledge; it's a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time  - when the USA is a service and information economy; when nearly all key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no-one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agenda or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals or nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound-bites (now down to 10 seconds, or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance."

I see this as evident on social media, where any old story, credible or not, is passed on as if 100% factual and true without any effort to verify the claims made. It then spreads like wildfire. The gullibility of the general population appears to knows no bounds and healthy skepticism seems to have died a death.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Midlothian Question for Heroes in Israel

Tian Tian comes out in favour of independence, says Edinburgh Zoo.

I do think the word hero is overused today. We were watching an item on the local news about an RFC pilot in WWI who took off from Cotswold Airport for his first posting in France (via Kent) and died when his aircraft crashed not far from where he took off. He was being hailed as a hero. A hero is the guy who was depicted last week on the docu-drama "Our War", who remained at his machine-gun post in the face of certain death so that his platoon could retreat. He won a posthumous VC.

When I look back to my late teens and early 20s, I thought I was both immortal and invincible - as any teenager or 20-something similarly does - the thought of death was just so far away as to be not even a possibility. I too would have been up for a war - against my later-middle-aged judgement. I don't, however, think that would have made me a hero.

The UK government has said; "What is clear now is that we have agreement that if the current ceasefire ends in Gaza, which we all hope it doesn't, and there was a resumption of significant hostilities, then there would be an immediate suspension of those arms export licences to Israel that give cause for concern."

A bit strange, considering Israel has abided by every cease-fire and Hamas has been the party to resume hostilities. One wonders who runs the UK government - the people, or Hamas (which the UK has listed as a terrorist organisation) and its lobbyists.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Drink Labeling

How have we managed for the last 12,000 years of civilisation without warning labels on alcoholic drinks?

Monday, 11 August 2014

Emmerdale with Beards

What's happened to Emmerdale - the everyday story of farming folk in Yorkshire (not that I've seen an episode in more than 30 years)? Saw an advert for it last night and it looked more like a promo for a high-octane police series.

Have you noticed how bearded blokes have been rehabilitated recently? You hardly see a TV advert without a bearded bloke.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Ethnic Vote

Baroness Warsi is in the news saying Cameron needs to do more to attract the ethnic vote, but with the exception of supporting Hamas against Israel, is singularly lacking in telling us what these ethnic-friendly policies would be.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Overheard in the Devon Combes

I had just exited a public loo on the harbour in Ilfracombe.

Chairman: "You don't want to go in there - it's disgusting; the seat has been ripped off, there's loo paper all over the floor and urine all over the place."

Hay: "I suppose it wasn't so bad before you went in there..."

We stayed in a lovely farm B&B near Lee Bay (Shaftsboro Farm). Lee Bay is the most magical place - a bit like Readymoney Cove in Fowey, but even better - and with free parking.

We also took in Woolacombe, (which is hideous, being crowded with holiday makers from the Midlands) and Ilfracombe (almost as hideous, but just your average, Victorian seaside town and all that entails).

I really can't understand why people want this (which was before the crowds started arriving):

Rather than this at Lee Bay (which is a mere 10 minutes away):

I guess I'm rather glad they don't. I suppose it's because Woolacombe has kids' theme parks, whereas Lee Bay can be a tad dangerous with all the rocks - but kids need to learn how to enjoy themselves (as opposed to having entertainment laid on for them) and stay out of danger. Also, Lee Bay has just one pub - although one where the landlord makes his own brew.

As we left Woolacombe the crowds started to arrive and the single road into the place was at a standstill for several miles. Yet, inexplicably, the people kept pouring in.

Not surprisingly, we returned to Lee Bay.

On the way home we called in at Lynmouth (quaint, but touristy), Porlock (quaint and filled with food emporiums) and Watchet (industrial and a bit of a nightmare I was glad to leave behind).

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Name Those Band Members

Given there was absolutely bugger-all worth watching on regular TV last night, we resorted to the usual stand-by - Vintage TV and a programme called Classic British Soft Rock.

Now who can name the members of the following bands (a point for every correct answer - without cheating):

  1. Supertramp,
  2. The Eagles (except for Don Henley),
  3. Moody Blues (except for Justin Hayward),
  4. Roxy Music (except for Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno),
  5. The Small Faces (no, Rod Stewart was not a member - that was The Faces), 
  6. The Nice,
  7. The Average White Band,
  8. Dexys Midnight Runners (except for Kevin Rowland) - and yes, the missing apostrophe is how they spell it.
For additional points, who can honestly say they can understand what is being said in the songs by the following:

  1. Dexy's Midnight Runners,
  2. Manic Street Preachers.
Despite sterling resistance for the last 10 years, I fear we're going to have to subscribe to some cultural pay TV channels to stand any chance of receiving programmes other than those to do with other people's boring jobs, police patrolling the roads in cars, cooking or inane soaps. TV is now pandering to the lowest common denominator and being made on the cheap. Even the BBC is guilty of dropping its standards.

Going away for another holidayette, this time in Devon, so a small hiatus in output till Saturday.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Understanding the Ununderstandable Mood

British artist Jake Chapman has said taking children to art galleries is a "total waste of time". He said  parents were "arrogant" for thinking their children could understand artists like Mark Rothko or Jackson Pollock.

I'd go further - no-one but Rothko, Pollock or psychiatrists can understand Rothko or Pollock - or indeed the Chapman brothers. Anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves.



An understandable Pollock

While we were in Latvia, Hay wanted to visit the Rothko museum in Daugavpils (Rothko was Latvian). Luckily it was a 3 hour drive from where we were staying, so we didn't go. In any case, if you've seen one Rothko, not much is gained by seeing another - it's a bit like seeing a wall covered with Dulux testers. The same can't be said as strongly for Pollock, although many were a bit samey.

Hay agrees with Chapman that some people visit an art gallery for some peace and quiet, which is hard to find with children (or me) being present and volubly ridiculing the said "artworks". I contend children tend to see through the arty bullshit and prick the pseudo-intellectual, self-conceit of many so-called artists.

If something is ununderstandable, could it just be standable?

In another news story, Dell Research says it is working on mood-reading software that could be ready for sale within the next three years. I wonder what it will make of on-line Daily Mail readers...

Monday, 4 August 2014

Holiday Aftermath for Parking Fees

We've just spent one week of a 2 week holiday abroad. The final week was meant to be an opportunity to do all manner of jobs around the house that have been waiting for a clear week to get done.

So much for good intentions - I predict, with a high degree of certainty, those jobs will not get done.

Some of the time will be spent preparing my defence against a certain parking company, who have issued me with a court summons for not paying a £2.20 parking fee back in June, despite the fact I did pay (and have a corrobarative statement from a work colleague to support that, as well as an unreceipted expense claim), but never received a ticket from the parking machine. 

They're claiming £175 (a £100 fine and £75 in lawyers' expenses - which will probably climb). I refused to pay their fine and said I'd see them in court. From what I understand, they can only claim back the £2.20 parking fee and cannot issue a fine. I intend to make them disclose the registered ticketed takings from the machine and the actual takings, predicting a discrepancy of £2.20 - or possibly more.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Any Questions While on Holiday?

Got back from our holidays yesterday and managed to catch  Any Questions, which has a tradition of not having politicians on the panel in August.

What a refreshing debate - no politicians trying to score political points and dragging any debate down to the level of PM's Questions. Yesterday we were given Mary Beard, Rod Liddle, Clive Aslet and Richard Dannatt. All very civilized.

Now for a selection of the holiday snaps of Latvia (we loved every minute of it).