Sunday, 30 April 2017

Whimsical Lamps for the Media Gladiators

We had a day out at Chesil Beach yesterday, as I've never seen it before. Hated the Weymouth / Portland end, (very industrial and somewhat run down) but the Abbotsbury end is worth a visit if you're in the area. 

On the way back we called in at a couple of reclamation yards in Glastonbury and Wells, at the latter of which I spotted this whimsical, upcycled desk lamp, which would make a good present for any motor mechanic.

Am I the only one who has noticed that Facebook is becoming just one long list of adverts?

Time was when I bought the Sunday Times, had a quick glance at the headlines for anything to pontificate about here, see what was upsetting Jeremy Clarkson or Rod Liddle and check out something interesting in the Sunday Tomes Magazine. Lately, however, it has turned into 30 odd pages of adverts, some columns from the Theresa May fan club, Clarkson and Liddle have become as predictable as your grandad repeating the same old jokes every time you see him and I can't remember when I last read an interesting (let alone relevant) article in the magazine. I'm paying £2.50 for just the Culture magazine, with the rest immediately going into the recycling. It's seeming a total waste of money.

The noble sport of boxing. Can't say it sits easy with me - it's a relic of gladiatorial contests and belongs in a less civilized age. I don't have the same qualms about other martial arts, as the object generally isn't to beat someone around the head and risk giving them an aneurysm or brain damage.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Half a Life in a Garage

I was in the 2nd cabin waiting for the new broadband line to settle and noticed the washing up bowl was full, which must have been left as such overnight by the new occupant. Despite the time the bowl had been left. there were still some soap bubbles clinging tenuously to the outer rim, a few still popping occasionally and rippling the dirty dishwater.

This got me thinking about the half life of soap bubbles and whether the decay is exponential, which apparently it is. Here's a short pdf paper I found on the exponential decay of beer foam. You live and learn...

I'm in desperate need of a garage/workshop, but I don't want to spend an absolute fortune on building one. The single most expensive part is constructing a decent base, which could cost as much as £4,000 or more. Once you add the garage itself, I could end up being well over £6,000 out of pocket, even something quite basic. This got me to thinking about using an old, 40 foot shipping container, which comes with an integral, sturdy base that can easily support a car and simply requires an access ramp.

The main problem is souring an over-width one, as a standard container will just about accommodate a car, but once you've driven in you probably wouldn't be able to get out of the car - especially with my old Merc, which has rather long doors. Once I'd added a door and some windows, carefully positioned so as to not to harm the container's structural integrity, I could add oak cladding to make it blend into the surroundings.

This needs some careful thought, but it's an attractive proposition given a container is, by definition. a temporary structure and thus wouldn't require planning permission.

Friday, 28 April 2017


Hard on the heels of flying cars and flying boats, we now have a flying man.

Imagine having an itch on your nose when using this contraption. Come to think of it, how does Ironman scratch his nose?

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Flying Slaves

Another flying object makes a debut, but this tie something that makes a bit more sense - a flying boat (if you could call it a boat).

Bristol's Colston Hall, a music venue / concert hall, is to be renamed after a refurb. Edward Colston, who was a local philanthropist in the 18th century, is commemorated all over Bristol with a school and various other amenities named after him - but he was a slave trader. Some of the Bristolian Afro-Caribbean inhabitants took exception to the name Colston appearing on the music venue and Massive Attack have actually refused to play there till the name is changed.

Yes, Edward Colston was a slave trader, but you can't simply rewrite history and eliminate people from the civic roll. I'm sure the Irish would love nothing more than for Cromwell's name - wherever it might appear - to be consigned to the history books alone, but that ain't going to happen; there's even a statue of him outside Parliament. It's basically a rerun of last year's campaign for the removal of Rhodes' starue from Oriel College Oxford.

If historic slave trade associations are anathema, we'll have to close the vast majority of stately homes too. One of our nob neighbours here is the Duke of Beaufort; one of his ancestors voted against the abolition of the slave trade, so are we to rename every Beaufort Arms pub here in South Gloucestershire and in Monmouthshire as a consequence?

Slave trading is bad - we all accept and know that today, but you can't judge times past by the morals prevailing today - practically everyone was a white supremacist a few hundred years ago. Slave trading was simply something we - and Africans - engaged in at one stage in our past. We also created empires, which today are viewed with distaste by most (although not some Brexiteers) - the entire Roman Empire was run using slaves - primarily European ones - but we aren't calling for Hadrian's Wall to be renamed.

Can you imagine Trump Towers being renamed to something less offensive after Trump gets impeached? Of course not. Mind you, there aren't too many Hitler commemorative libraries in Germany.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Zen and the Art of Flying Small God Scammers

So Robert Persig has died. I pulled Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance off the bookshelf yesterday and will read it again, once I've finished re-reading Terry Ptatchett's Small Gods. I remember it with fondness when I last read it, which must be a decade ago.

Yet another flying car has made a test flight.

But, again, I ask myself - who on earth wants to drive a 3 wheeler?

The scammers are active again, so beware. Hayley received a call today purporting to be from BT. A guy with a thick Indian accent, who said he was called John Smith, said there was a problem with our internet and was trying to get her to download something on her computer. He was very threatening and claimed our service would be cut off if she didn’t follow his instructions. Hay knew immediately that it wasn’t BT – their customer service is so crap that it couldn’t possibly be them. Takes you all day to get someone on the phone if you do have a problem - the thought of them phoning you is risible.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Stereophonics

I have a Bose Soundlink speaker that's attached to the TV (due to the TV's own speakers being abysmal) and I also use its Bluetooth functionality to connect my phone for playing music. However, while the sound quality of the Bose is fantastic, it isn't a stereo speaker, a drawback that only struck me over the weekend when I wanted the full stereo experience on ZZ Top's La Grange. 

I had a quick shufti (do people still use that expression?) on Amazon for Bluetooth stereo speakers and found a plethora of devices which looked no different to mine. They're actually advertised as a stereo Bluetooth speaker, in the singular and not in the plural.

Now what is the benefit of an allegedly stereo speaker that's a single box? Unless these speakers are ventriloquistically-enabled (?) and can throw their sound simultaneously in two different directions, what's the point? For the real McCoy you'd surely need two boxes that can be spatially separated by a few yards at least, not just one box 16cm wide with two speakers? You'd have to have the damned thing next to your head to experience any stereo effect, much in the manner of the old Brixton briefcase - or am I  missing something here?

Monday, 24 April 2017


Overheard while trying to find the right path in Lower Woods Nature Reserve in Wickwar yesterday:

Hay: "There's another path over there."

Chairman: "Yes, there are two paths you can go by..."

Hay: "But in the long run there's still time to change the road you're on..."

Chairman: "And it makes me wonder."

Hay has been trying to persuade me for a long time to  cut down on the mowing in our garden by just mowing paths and leaving the rest to nature. Given I have a ride-on mower I've resisted, but spotting this example yesterday has made me reconsider. It all depends on getting wild flowers to seed in the unmown areas.

Just two lanes wide.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Next Election

Mrs May has staked out her wares in the elections game by declaring the Tories as the party of low taxation; however, the irony is that the NHS and care for our elderly are under intense pressure and she wants to give the electorate, rather than critical services, more money. The double irony is that the electorate, which believes the NHS to be sacrosanct, will probably fall for it. Mrs May is betting on the electorate saying one thing in public but doing another in the privacy of the voting booth. and if the referendum was anything to go by, she's probably on to a winner - after all, Brexit is already inflating the weekly shopping bill and the purse is mightier than the mouth.

That said, a few quid in tax rebates to help with the shopping bill isn't going to cut the mustard when the bill for your private health insurance, or massive the bill from the hospital, lands on the doorstep. It's indisputable that the countries with the highest level of tax enjoy the highest quality of life - just look at Scandinavia.

In going for the public's Achilles Heel, she's exposed her jugular to the other parties. No wonder she doesn't want to take part in a televised election debate.

Had to call in at Next yesterday morning with Hay to drop an item of hers off (I swear she returns 90% of what she orders on-line - if she kicked the bucket tomorrow I'd still be returning stuff on her behalf for a year). During the return process, the checkout girl said; "And have you got anything planned today?" in that voice which conveyed the fact she had been instructed by head office to say that (all the Next staff say it), but wasn't actually the least bit interested. She hadn't bargained for Hayley, who launched into a monologue about the Village Hall Comedy Night, much to the dismay of the women in the queue behind her.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Village Hall Comedy Night

Spent yesterday evening preparing the Village Hall for our annual Village Comedy Night tonight. 

Three course meal and a couple of hours of ribald fun for £25 a head - bargain! Hay, unfortunately, will be working in the kitchen preparing the food. There's usually about 3 comedians - last year we were all in absolute stitches and it was a close run thing between whether the Scouse comedian or the Geordie was the best.

There's a rumour that the acts this year will represent the major political parties...

No sooner do I get my new Galaxy S8 Plus than there's a software update from Vodafone. Should I be worried? Found a nice email app - Aqua Mail - I've combined my Gmail and work email into the one app. Looks and feels like desktop Outlook (the app version of Outlook is utter garbage) and the only thing you can't do is drag an email to a nested subfolder in one action. There's even the ability to give different accounts a different notification sound, so you can ignore work emails over the weekend and at nights.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Tech Update

Well, I received the Galaxy S8 Plus yesterday morning. I've jumped from a Galaxy Note 4 to a Galaxy S8 Plus by way of a Galaxy S7 Egde within 7 months, but I don't really notice much of a difference except that:
  1. With each increment the phone gets vastly more expensive,
  2. Each increment is easier and quicker to configure to my desired state, complete with all my apps, data and settings (down from a day to a couple of hours), and
  3. I don't seem to be able to accomplish much more that I did with the Note 4.
The S8 Plus has moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phone, which makes it awkward to use, especially when you have a case on it. The retinal scan security feature would be great, if I didn't wear glasses. To be brutally honest, I don't think the S8 Plus has any advantage over the S7 Edge - in fact it's a slightly retrograde step. I do miss the Note's S Pen and there's no way I've found to recover any voluminous S Notes I wrote on the S7 Edge.

One small advantage is that it supports USB 3.1, meaning the micro-USB charging cable can be inserted either way up. However, it also means I have to replace the cables for the car (although it does come with a small adapter so you can use your old charging cables, but that's just something else to lose between the seat and transmission tunnel, along with vast numbers of pound coins that reside there). You can charge it with an induction charging pad, but that's just a faddy thing and no real advantage. At rest state overnight, it loses about 1% of the battery per hour - which isn't bad. I have read that if you set the device up before inserting the SIM, it does an automatic factory reset the second you insert the SIM - no mention of this in the instructions. Also, the battery is once again integral and can't be removed if you have a battery issue.

I'm certainly not going to root this jobbie before I'm 100% sure it doesn't have an intrinsic fault.

One thing I have become aware of is the different qualities of leather used on phone cases. I bought one from Amazon that was advertised as 'genuine leather'. Now genuine leather is actually only one, small step up from PU leather - it is the lowest quality and thinnest hide. What I should have been looking for is full-grain leather. What I got was cheap and nasty; it certainly wasn't worth £18.99 and looks nothing like the photo on the advert. Just a few quid more would have purchased a full-grain leather one.

It is a relief, however, to hand back the Vodafone courtesy phone, which prevented me doing even the most basic tasks due to the lack of storage memory.

As an aside, I installed an Amazon Fire Stick on my neighbour's TV the other day. She was fed up paying £40-£60 odd a pop for TV series box sets, so I introduced her to the delights of Amazon Prime Video. Since installing the Fire Stick she's not been seen. I suspect she's been watching back-to-back episodes of Black Sails, Vikings and The Bureau. I do like its neat voice-enabled search capability - searching for films or TV programmes using a TV remote is a pain in the arse.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

Remember that hardware issue I had with a 6 month old Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge that I'd rooted and flashed with Android Nougat? Well, after submitting a letter to Vodafone whereby I  informed them that a 2 year, EU, statutory hardware warranty existed on the phone, regardless of having rooted it, I received a phone-call last week from Vodafone telling me I qualified for an upgrade, despite having upgraded already last October. Regardless of my protests that I wasn't due an upgrade, the customer services rep said there was no record of me upgrading in October, so I went with it.

OK, it cost me £50 up-front, but later this morning I'm due to receive the latest Galaxy S8 Plus - much cheaper than paying £235 for a new circuit board for the S7 Edge. Vodafone didn't actually admit liability for the old phone, so I guess this is a face-saving way of admitting I was right, without having to actually say so - and possibly opening the floodgate to warranty claims on rooted phones.

If I don't get my original phone back I'll know for certain that is the case. If I do, I'll have a spare phone to sell.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Hypocritical Shopping for a Flying Reliant Robin

Last month Mrs May said; "Another Scottish Independence referendum at this time will detract from the Brexit negotiations." What will a General Election do? I smell the overwhelming stench of hypocrisy. If anything suggests we're ripe for absolute, fixed term parliaments (never mind about 2/3rds majority), this is it. While politicians may enter parliament with all manner of good intentions and a desire to serve the country, power nevertheless corrupts and soon the survival of the party becomes the first priority. It's a consequence of the human condition combined with the party system.

A Dutch company has developed what is says is the world's first flying car. If you ask me, it looks more like the world's first flying Reliant Robin. Wouldn't want to use this for cornering at anything more than 20you end up woth something  MPH on those pram wheels.

Four wheels good, three wheels bad.

What with take-off and landing more than likely to be restricted to registered airports (can't see the police being happy with you taking off from and landing on the M4), it's not going to be a democratic nor inexpensive mode of transport. Might as well have a private helicopter.

The problem that usually manifests when you try to design something that accomplishes two totally different tasks is that you end up with something not really suited to either.

Thought I'd reached peak self-congratulation yesterday. I went to do some shopping and had left Hay's shopping list behind at home. I tried remembering what was on the list and, unusually for me, had perfect recall. When I got home Hay asked where the toilet paper and kitchen paper were - I'd left them on the side in Lidl and never put them through the checkout.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Welsh Wales

We took a trip to the Monmouth and Brecon Canal yesterday to relive our wonderful holiday there a couple of years ago by walking a stretch of it and visiting a few of the towns and villages on the route.

Called in at the Crickhowell (or Crug Hywel in Welsh) and had a look around the Tourist Information Centre. It's a bit ironic when you see a map of the tourist attractions in South Wales and you realise the majority of them are castles built by Edward I or the Marcher Lords and were symbols of English/Norman/Angevin oppression of the Welsh.

Didn't hear a single Welsh accent there. Seems the place is almost entirely a retirement home for English pensioners. Sir George Everest, Surveyor General of India, and the man after whom Mount Everest was named (in the English speaking world), was born in Crickhowell.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Sunday Evening

I sometimes don't like Easter - OK, so you get two days of that Friday evening feeling, but you pay for it by having that Sunday evening feeling  twice too.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter Date

We keep moving our Early Spring Bank Holiday, specifically developed to honour the very important banking industry and the cultural impact it has had on all our lives, and Christians keep moving their religious festival to exactly the same days...

No.1 Son asked me yesterday why banks aren't open 9-5, or even 9-6 and specifically Sundays, like other big businesses that sell stuff to people. Couldn't answer him. Imagine if shops had the same opening hours as banks.

We spent Friday getting junk out of the shed to make some space and getting it ready to take to the Sort-it centre in the trailer. We spent yesterday poring over what we'd removed from the shed and having second thoughts. Nearly half of it went back into the shed.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The Grammar Question

One of my hobby horses, the grammar / comprehensive argument, is in the news once more.

Advocates of the grammar school system maintain it gives brighter pupils the chance to advance quicker than if they were in a comprehensive and gives brighter, poor pupils a chance of academic advancement and social mobility. Advocates of the comprehensive school system maintain grammars disadvantage children from lower income families as they represent only 9%, as opposed to a third in comprehensives..

It's an indisputable fact, supported by study after study, that children's attitude to education (among many  other things, such as religion, attitude to work and politics) is, in the vast majority of cases, assimilated from their parents. The main reason lower income families are on lower incomes is due to the fact they are not sufficiently educated in the first place to get higher paying jobs. The odds are stacked against pupils from poor backgrounds and the brighter ones do have to struggle.

While the champions of comprehensives use statistics showing lower income families are less well represented in the grammar system - which is what you'd expect where selection is on the basis of ability - grammar advocates show that brighter pupils perform less well in comprehensive schools than in grammars.

The effect of the one-size-fits-all Comprehensive system is to raise the academic achievement of some less well performing pupils while holding back some of the brighter pupils. It moveseveryone to the centre with fewer outliers. Excellence is sacrificed to homogeneity. 

Why, for God's sake, can't there be room for both systems running side by side? One-size-fits-all is an ideological position and ideology is not a good basis for progress. What is so intrinsically wrong with selection by performance when we do it in every other walk of life, from the job interview to breeding animals and vegetables? It shouldn't be just comprehensives or just grammars, but both.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Retro Vacuuming at Easter

Following hard on the heels of Cadburygate, Tesco is coming under fire from Christian groups for advertising Good Friday beer and cider offers using a humorous pun. I thought Good Friday was when men up and down the country got out the BBQ from the shed and worshiped the Norse fire god, Glöð, and had a glug on the side while performing the rituals.

Methinks all this bleating isn't doing Christian groups any favours and is actually counterproductive by making them look shrill, vaguely ridiculous and out of touch, especially when the country is predominantly secular. It just panders to other minority religions complaining of insensitivity when Tesco has pork offers during Ramadan or beef offers duding Diwali. It's about time the more vocal Christians with a deep persecution complex recognised that secularists have other things than magic on their minds when on holiday and stop trying to turn back the clock to the 19th century. It's more to do with a sense of loss of power than anything else.

What I find strange is that these Christian groups don't even bat an eyelid at the vast quantities of chocolate eggs and bunnies being sold in shops when there's no connections whatsoever between chocolate, eggs or bunnies and Christianity. Perhaps they should vent their ire on the hundreds of churches up and down the country that will be promoting paganism by holding church Easter egg hunts...

Hay let a personable Scouser into our house on Wednesday and ended up buying one of those retro Kirby vacuum cleaners from him. You know the one - looks like it's made from recycled Spitfire or Lancaster bomber airframes and actually has a flex.

Why the salesman targeted our house is a mystery - it's obvious target market is the middle class, Calvinistic Brexiteer, what with its 1950s look and the amount of work you have to do to use it. He gave her the usual and well-worn technique of putting a black cloth over the outlet to show her how much dust it collects (you can do the same trick with any vacuum cleaner, as most people know). She was nonetheless impressed and was horrified at the glass of Guinness it managed to suck up from the kitchen floor.

Hay loves it and is happy as a sand boy (whatever a sand boy is); it comes with hundreds of gadgets, and yes, you have to lug around something that weighs a ton and is designed to go only in straight lines; however, it accomplishes all the tasks she sets for it, from deep cleaning the furniture and wet cleaning the limestone floor to getting crap from all the crevices the G-Tech isn't capable of reaching. Believe it or not, it even has a turbo-sanding attachment, although there's no defibrillator. While you can use it as an upright or a cylinder, Hay has chosen to use it primarily as a cylinder with all the attachments.

Hay much prefers a vacuum cleaner that, while lumbering, heavy and sounding like a traction engine on steroids, enables her to do a good, deep clean, rather than one designed to make it easy but leaves the house no cleaner than before she started and is severely limited in functionality, which the G-Tech accomplishes with ease. If you want a cheap G-Tech, it's now on eBay. 

I think the Kirby should be in a glass display case as a work of retro-art. Hay is going to leave it out on display in the living room as she thinks it too beautiful to hide away in a cupboard. 

It did, however, necessitate a bit of rearrangement of the cupboard space to make room for the caddy of attachments. My flip-flop collection (or, as we call them, flim-flams) had to be repositioned. It's nearly that time of the year when I move permanently into flim-flams - we call it Flim-Flamtide and mark it with a special ceremony that involves eating chocolate eggs. 

What with this penchant we have for retro stuff, I'm going to have to buy myself a pair of flairs and some shirts with penny collars. Won't tell you what she paid for it (I was not part of the negotiations and would ahve insisted on half price), but I could have bought myself a small tractor with the money. To be fair, if you wanted the specialist appliances that do all the jobs this thing does, then you'd probably be spending around the same amount. Most reviews you see of it pronounce it expensive, but well worth the price as it lasts forever.

Reminds me of the old joke - I'm going to buy my wife  a bag and a belt.... I never want that Hoover to fail again...

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Charity Starts at Home

There's lot in the ether at the moment about the UK's foreign aid budget. The most common call is; "Charity starts at home," an odious and trite little phrase that usually emanates from those least likely to have ever had anything to do with charitable giving in the first place. Charity does not start at home, it starts where it's most needed and does the greatest good. That's not to say there aren't issues with the manner in which British foreign aid is spent. Better to fix the issues rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Talking of charity - any motor mechanics out there?

The 500SL is misfiring after warming up. Start her from cold and the engine growls like a bear; warm her up a bit and then she starts misfiring badly. I suspect one of the two ignition coils (V8), but before tackling it I'd appreciate some confirmation. It gets worse under increasing load.

The issue only started following the after-market alarm going off randomly during the high winds we had earlier in the year. As I was going away on a business trip, I took the precaution of disconnecting the battery and it was only after reconnecting a week later that the misfire problem manifested. I can't help feeling it's connected to the misfire, but it may just be coincidence.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Roll of Honour

I heard someone on the local TV news the other evening talking about police officers who have died in the line of duty. It was to do with the death of PC Keith Palmer and the woman interviewed mentioned that 5 police officers have died this year and are entered on the Police Roll of Honour. I was horrified, as I didn't realise the number was that high as I'd heard no media splash.

Intrigued, I  had a look at the Roll of Honour - you can find it here. The key word is 'died', not 'murdered'. Perusing the Roll of Honour shows a police officer is more likely to die in a road accident travelling to or from work, or a heart attack at their desk, than from being murdered. I was somehow under the erroneous impression that the Roll of Honour was reserved for police officers who were killed as a direct consequence of their job, but I was wrong, and it's any death from any cause.

Of the 5 who have died so far this year, one was hit by a car while deploying a stinger to try and stop it, PC Keith Palmer we all know about, two took ill at work and later died and one was accidentally hit by a car on the way to  work. In 2016 two officers died on duty, both from illness. Below is a chart showing 2010 to 2015 from all causes.

Looking back through the years, it's apparent that (unlike in the USA) police officers being murdered on duty in the UK is actually a very rare occurrence and they're far more likely to die from something completely unrelated to their job, unless you make a big leap and assume stress was the underlying cause in the heart attacks.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

One Groat for Brexit Watering Cans

So while United Airways have to forcibly remove passengers from their planes because they love them so much, Ryanair have to use cattle prods to actually get them to board in the first place.

There was an item on the BBC News website yesterday advising people with more money than sense on how to destroy one of these new five pound notes. They involved using liquid nitrogen or a rather nasty acid mix. Both of these, I would imagine, entail a high degree of danger and some considerable expense. I'd have thought the simplest method would be to find a handy goat and just put it anywhere near its mouth.

Apparently Anglicans were more likely than Catholics to have voted Brexit. I  wonder if that's anything to do with the fact Catholics are used to a foreign leader of their Church, whereas Anglicans have a British senior primate. Also, you're morel likely to have voted Brexit if you've remained close to your town or city of birth, rather than having moved a lot due to  job seeking or other reasons. The common theme here seems to be status quo ante.

Hay bought some watering cans from Amazon yesterday and was rather amused by a customer review: "Does the Job! Holds water really well, unless it is tipped forward and then it pours out of the spout...nice feature. The cap for the end was useless as it was full of holes, apart from that it was good value."

Monday, 10 April 2017

The Devil's Invention

I speak, of course, of that abomination - the plastic toothpaste tube. With the old metal ones you possibly risked lead poisoning, but at least you could curl it up further at each use and ensure you squeezed the last bit of toothpaste from the tube. These damned plastic ones draw air back into themselves after being squeezed, meaning you have to start from scratch every time.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Cona Mowing

And the saga continues.

Went to Nuneaton very early yesterday morning to collect the 'spares or repair' Cona I won on eBay for £19.99 and returned home to find that what the seller thought was a broken handle was nothing more than a split rubber neck seal which, with a bit of judicious swiveling, can't be seen. The split seal just made it look as if the handle was broken. The seal has no detrimental effect on the unit, as it's there purely to provide some grip and not as an air seal. So I now have two, fully functional, Conas. Hay thinks it overkill and a sign of OCD.

She relegated one to function as a permanent table lamp on the sideboard. There are some slight differences between the two, which I think are due to the fact one is German manufactured and the other British, although the British made one has had some German additions over the years - probably as a result of a broken top half. As you can see from the photo, one has a longer glass filter thingy. I took the best bits from each to make a perfect unit for use as the coffee maker.

Getting more used to its operation and am now an ardent fan. We've upped the dosage to 2 tablespoons of coarse-ground coffee per person, which seems somewhat extravagant, but necessary. Still need to find some alcohol spirit to replace the meths - nowhere around here seems to stock it.

I also have a fully functional ride-on-mower now. Welding blokey came good on Friday and effected the repair admirably under remote instruction for £30. No more shredded cutting deck belts.

Spent yesterday mainlining coffee and mowing everything in sight, including making paths for the dog walkers out on the common.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Cats and Quantum Effect of the Superglue Dance

Overheard while watching Hinterland:

Hay: "Where's that shot set then?"

Chairman: "Dunno - somewhere in west Wales - not sure really."

Hay: "Wherever it is, it's cold, wet and bleak."

Chairman: "Could be anywhere in Wales then."


Chairman: "In my experience, all female cats are aggressive, whereas make cats are docile and a lot more friendly."

Hay: "That may have something to do with male cats being neutered; if I cut your 'nads off I'm sure you'd be docile."

Hay's dad was fixing something the other day and managed to Superglue his thumb and forefinger together on both hands. He spent much of the day wandering around looking like an Indian dancer.

Whenever I blindly grab for a knife in the cutlery drawer, I unfailingly pull out either a fork or a spoon. I'm convinced a quantum effect switches the positions of the respective utensils in the tray whenever the drawer is closed. Until actually observed with the eyes, they remain in an indeterminate superposition defined only by a probability wave which doesn't collapse when blindly grabbing.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Cona Conundrum

Received the replacement spirit burner I bought for the 2nd hand Cona vacuum coffee maker I bought and proceeded to take it out for a test drive.

First problem - it was rubbish - the coffee I was using was powdered coffee for a cafetiere and fatally clogged the filtration system. I did suspect this would happen but thought it worth a try..

Problem No.2 - I  don't know if modern meths is more contaminated than stuff you could get in the '70s, but the burner left brown marks on the bottom of the lower flask which, while I could get them off, took a fair degree of scrubbing. Might investigate a cleaner burning fuel.

Problem No.3 - the neck of the lower glass flask that holds the finished coffee is so narrow that you can't get anything into it to dry the inside of the container. Managed to bodge something with a J cloth and a bent bit of wire. Not the most elegant solution.

Went to Tesco to buy some medium or coarse ground coffee to solve the first problem and hit the 4th problem. No-one mentions on their coffee the degree of coarseness of the grind; the vast majority of coffee drinkers use either a filter or a cafetiere, meaning the chances are it's fine ground (any reference to medium on the packaging is actually referring to the brew strength). Bought some coffee beans to grind myself - hope Hay doesn't mind me using her NutriBullet. First grind produced a lot of fine powder, which I sieved out. 2nd grind was better, but I still had the quantities wrong; you need about one and a half heaped tablespoon coarse ground coffee per mug, not the teeny amount you get with a standard powdered coffee measure. The Cona D size is 2 pints capacity, which is about 4 average sized mugs.

Problems 5 and 6 - the meths mings somewhat when burning and it takes forever for the water to boil - half an hour or more from cold. Overcame this on the next brew by boiling the water in a kettle beforehand, which kind of defeats the object and adds to the overall complexity.

Problem 7 - lots of washing up.

While the finished article was indeed excellent, I think, if Hay has her way, the Cona is going to be used permanently as an up-cycled table lamp, a purpose for which it seems better designed given all the faff. Using a vacuum coffee maker is more of a spectator sport than anything and a ritual akin to the Japanese Tea Ceremony. I shall persevere - for a time, at least.

Stop Press - won the broken Cona on eBay for £19.99, which suffers only from a cracked handle. Will come in useful for spares, but I have to go to Nuneaton to collect it.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Easter Egg Furore Over Syrian Mower Deck

The mower deck welding sage proceeds apace. Needless to say, the mobile welder never got back to me on Monday. On Tuesday I rang him again and he said he wouldn't be able to collect the deck till towards the end of next week, but I could drop it off at his workshop between 8 and 4 on Wednesday of Thursday. I duly arrive at his workshop at 8am yesterday, and waited, and waited. By 8.30 I was fed up and left it propped against his workshop door. I called him at midday to confirm he'd seen it. I don't have a good feeling about this.

Talking of good feelings, or the lack of them, I can't help having a niggling feeling that world leaders are perhaps being a touch premature for blaming Assad and Putin for the chemical attack against Syrian rebels. It's eminently feasible that a bomb hit a chemical dump used by the rebels - no-one is whiter than white in this war. People these days do tend to go off on one before thinking things through.

Given the storm in an eggcup over East eggs, I thought I'd see what type of Easter eggs can be found out there:

See if you can guess what religions they belong to...

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Tangential Google Art

I'm starting to get rather upset with Google. The search results are more commercially focused than ever and are becoming increasingly tangential  to what I'm actually searching for. It seems most prevalent on a mobile phone, where I rarely get the information I'm looking for - although I do get ideas for where to buy it (Gibraltar, for example) at a good price.

Seems I'm not the only one noticing this. I guess that with the proliferation of online content the amount of crap is just growing exponentially and, with time, it just becomes more irrelevant. Well, either that or Google is paying more attention to advertising revenue than search criteria (or am I just an old cynic?).

Hay sat as a model for her sister's art class yesterday afternoon and spent the session reading - this is what resulted (her sister's rendition):

A rather good likeness, in my opinion.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Here We Go Again

The Church is getting in a tizzy (predictably, and as regular as clockwork) over Cadbury and the National Trust airbrushing Christianity from Easter during their annual kids' Easter egg hunt. I suppose it's no more annoying than the Church appropriating the pagan festival of Eostre in its attempt to stamp out paganism.

What on earth does Jesus have to do with Easter bunnies and eggs anyway? Can't kids have a bit of harmless fun without the Church injecting the image of their crucified man-god into the festivities?

The Church says Cadbury was a Quaker and his memory should not be traduced by eradicating Christianity from Easter. Yet, whilst the Cadbury family were not directly involved with slave trading, they made handsome profits from slave grown and colonial manufactured produce. People who live in glass houses, etc..

Added to that, Quakers didn't celebrate Easter...

Monday, 3 April 2017


Former Bank of England Governor, Mervyn King, has said that in 30 years time Brexit will look like 'any old blip'. 

A bit like the Great Depression then...

In a way, Scottish independence has given me an insight into the minds of the ideologue Brexiteers who have no rational argument for Brexit. If I'm honest with myself, a dark recess within my mind believes Scotland should kick Westminster into touch to just to teach the government a lesson. Purely visceral, certainly not rational, not in the best interests of the Scots and not a sentiment to be put into action.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Iconic Cona

We went to Stroud yesterday and I spotted a design classic coffee icon in a local antique shop - a Cona vacuum coffee percolator. It was minus the spirit stove that heats the water, so I managed to  snaffle it up for £20.

A much sought after design classic, the Cona Coffee Maker is still produced today by the Cona Catering Equipment Company. It was designed by Abraham Games, a graphic designer and keen inventor. The Cona Coffee Maker is his most famous piece of domestic product design and the only such object he ever created. The commission came from the head of Cona, who happened to be a friend, following Games' complaint that their machine was clumsy. The first model, called the Cona Rex, came out in 1950, using scrap aluminium from wartime production. The handle has a sharper downward curve and the framework is more solid, painted cream or black. In 1962 the model was updated with the cantilevered frame forming an unbroken arc with the plastic handle of the jug. The jug floats in space, supported only at the neck.

Someone is selling a complete one, but with a broken handle, on eBay as 'spares or repair' for £19.99 (collection only) and I'm hoping they'll split the burner off for me and post it, else I'll just buy the complete unit and have spare glass bowls. You can get new spirit burners on eBay for about £27, but that's a bit steep just for a burner.

Those who have used Conas swear they make simply the best coffee due to the innovative syphon mechanism. 

While I try to  find a replacement spirit burner, I've put a tea light in the top half to make an up-cycled table lamp.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Student Debt and Brexit

I was watching an item on the local news about the lack of students from the area going into university education recently due to the cost. It's appalling to think that students leaving university these days have a debt that's 4 x the price of my first house. Mind you, my first house is now worth 3 x the student debt and nearly 13 x the price I first paid.

Someone I was speaking with yesterday maintained the Remain campaign is weakening the UK's Brexit negotiating position. When asked what exactly that negotiating positions was, there was a silence and a look of puzzlement. I explained that leaving the EU is like leaving your local golf club and trying to negotiate over how you're still going to have access to the course and the clubhouse without paying your membership fee; to any rational person it's simply a non-starter. David Davies is releasing a gradual stream of statements admitting that all the key Brexit promises will have to be broken if irreparable damage is not to be done to the UK economy; immigration, single market access, the cost of leaving, EU laws, etc., etc.

Love this Photoshopped Brexit bus...

The bus is a bit naughty though, as that money would still be spent even if we remain in, as it's money we've committed to spending on EU projects during the current budget cycle - hence the demand.

The polls are showing that as reality sets in the population is becoming more skeptical about the alleged economic benefits of Brexit. This is one from Statista, which is, by all accounts, a reliable and reputable firm.

It seems the Brexit camp is gradually shrinking down to the uncompromising and dogmatic ideologues who present their ideas as indisputable fact, regardless of evidence to the contrary, and keep repeating the mantra that 'it'll be worth the cost', even if that cost includes the breakup of the UK. Pursuing ideology at any cost is a dangerous path to tread.