Thursday, 31 March 2022

Nanny McPhee

Where on earth does the Ph in McPhee (or Mac Phee) come from? There is a McFee spelling, which seems more logical.

The Ph sound came from the Greek letter Phi, which the Romans translated into the F sound, and is prevalent in words originating from Greek. But when it comes to Gaelic names it just doesn't make sense to use the Ph spelling.

It's not only used in McPhee - there are many instances of the Ph spelling being used in Gaelic. Perhaps some of my readers can explain?

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Workshop Update

 A quick update on the garage and workshop.

Doesn't look a great deal different from nearly 2 weeks ago, but it's all in the foundations and the rear workshop, where the walls are flying up.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Allergic Reaction

 Over the last couple of weeks I've suffered an alarming allergic reaction.

Until a couple of weeks ago I'd been using the watery hand sanitiser that's 70% alcohol and 30% water; it dries almost immediately. I also used it to clean my spectacles, with no ill effect.

However, we ran out of that and started to use the alcohol gel, which doesn't evaporate so easily. When using it to clean my specs, it got into the hinges and nose bridge, from where it was easily transported to the skin around my eyes. Suddenly my eyelids, upper and lower, as well as my lips, went very dry and started cracking before swelling up in an allergic reaction and itching like mad - almost as if I had a very bad case of hay fever, which I do suffer from.

I took photos daily of the progress. As you can see, it gets worse before starting to get better.

I still have huge bags under my eyes and I'm not sure whether they'll eventually disappear. I may never get back to looking like a Greek god.

I started a course of antihistamines after about the 4th day, which immediately relived the itching, but not the dryness.

Monday, 28 March 2022

Horsey Connundrum

What with the Cheltenham Gold Cup having been run last week, I wondered how, before the days of horsebox waggons and small horseboxes towed by cars, they managed to move race horses around the country for the various race meetings.

Or didn't they? Were horses only entered in local race meetings? I genuinely didn't know, but thought I'd look it up.

Apparently, they rode them, which must have been a severe restriction, and later transported them by horse drawn boxes, which caught on, as those transported thus were well rested and more likely to win. Later on still, it was by train.

Sunday, 27 March 2022

Electricity Usage

Our electricity usage continues to decline, although it's starting to show a slowing down of late (click to enlarge).

Since 2017 we've used 15,000 kWh for most of the time, climbing to 17,800 kWh during the winter of 2020/21, when I had both my sons home and living in caravans in the garden, heating Old Sodbury in the process. However, since they left home, our annualised usage has continued to to decline to the extent we're now using only 9,500 kWh, saving at least 1/3rd of annual cost. 

Our average solar feed in brings us around £1.300 a year, against an annualised electricity cost, at the current tariff, of £2,130 (declining). That cost is due to increase dramatically from April 1st by about 50%.

We could reduce it further by closing the AirBnB which, being at the end of the underfloor heating circuit, consumes a lot of heat to get it up to 21 degrees - our preferred indoor temperature. However, it brings in more than we spend on heating it, and we won't be heating it for much longer.

Given the house is, with the exception of the AirBnB, open plan, using our wood burning stove, which is far in excess of kWh needs, would reduce the current electricity usage even further. Both upstairs and downstairs can be adequately heated with the 12kW stove, and logs aren't going up in price anywhere near as much as electricity. Nor is anthracite, which we could also burn in the stove, and is longer lasting than logs.

I fear the garage and workshop I'm currently building many be given over to a log store, if it's finished this year.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Familiarisation Training

I see a P&O ferry has been detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for failing a familiarisation training inspection. It's just about the only thing the government can get them on in any meaningful manner, given that the vessels are not UK registered. Doubtless it's a problem that will be rectified before long.

However, if a vessel is deemed unfit to sail through lack of familiarisation, should Boris Johnson and the entire ERG not be detained for lack of familiarisation training on the consequences of Brexit and their own 'oven ready' deal? They seem determined to interpret consequences of not understanding the terms of their own deals with the EU as punishments.

I suppose, in a way, it is a punishment, but a self-inflicted one.

Friday, 25 March 2022

NATO Expansion

I keep hearing the illogical and apologist argument that NATO expansion has caused the war in Ukraine.

  • NATO does not expand of its own free will - countries apply to join NATO; they can't be forced. It therefore enlarges under external pressures - it doesn't proactively expand.
  • Countries apply to join NATO because they perceive a threat. That is a natural and logical thing to do in the face of a threat.
  • If Russia was not perceived as a threat to a nation, it would have no need to join NATO and thus enlarge it.
  • Russia, with its present regime, is a threat to any democratic country on its borders.

If I have a nice house, I pay taxes to employ a police force to go after the thieves if they target my house. If the thieves then complain that the police are a threat to them and make them more likely to target my house, I will rightly ignore such blackmail.

That's not to say NATO is perfect, because it isn't, but if a free and democratic country wants to join it, you need to examine the reason behind the request.

If Putin is removed and replaced by yet another autocratic and totalitarian face, it will still be a regional threat. Only if it chooses to join the freely democratic world will any threat be neutralised. Totalitarian states are a threat to free will, free speech, freedom of thought and free self-determination.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

PR Wars

It would seem that the Ukrainian defenders are wining the PR war with Russia.

Because Putin is so paranoid about controlling the narrative, Russian soldiers are not allowed to carry mobile phones, therefore they can't upload images of their victories to the internet, not that they're even allowed to use social media, or having many victories.

The Ukrainians have no such restrictions, meaning that every victory, no matter how small, becomes instantly available to the world and is celebrated.

The Russians, in order to progress, have to use mechanised columns. This is 20th C warfare. 

However, mechanised columns give off heat signatures from the powertrain and the heating needed to keep them warm. The Ukrainians realise this and retaliate with 21st C thermal imaging drones that target missiles on the heat signatures with pinpoint accuracy. No wonder they're demolishing the advancing Russian columns, and posting evidence on social media. 

The balance is in the hands of the defenders.

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Mk V Lampshade Adjustment

 Made the necessary adjustment to the Mk V lampshades yesterday.

I sawed off the black and gold flake bottoms, which I thought hideous, and reinserted the shades into resin with gold powder mixed into it.

It didn't work as well as expected, as the gold powder did a voyage to the bottom of the mold before the resin cured. However, it didn't look too bad. I should perhaps have waited for the resin to start solidifying before adding the gold powder, so that it remained in suspension.

Yesterday was my birthday (thanks to those who sent me birthday wishes. To those who didn't - you bastards!) and so Hay had bought me some pieces of cloth as a present so I can make more lampshades.

Zebra print, bee print, a light speckled print and music notation print. Given the shades rise from the centre of the square of cloth I use, the print on the fabric has to be at 180 degree alternations, else the front will be OK, but the back would be upside down - or the reverse - if you get my meaning.

Because of the above limitation, the music print may prove difficult in terms of symmetry.

I also bought a 55cm x 55cm piece of aluminium sheet to aid me as a cutting guide for the cloth.

My birthday present to myself was a Mathmos, tealight powered lava lamp.

Naff, but I love them - they're so relaxing to watch.

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Motorhome Tyres

Overheard while watching the news on Ukrainian aid convoys:

Hay: "They're taking huge, hi-tech printers to print....

Chairman: "UK visas?"

Hay: "...massive signs to tell refugees where to go in the camps for certain supplies."

While walking in Dorset last weekend we went down a very, very muddy lane, but there were tractor tyre imprints in the mud, through which a car or motorhome could never travel, but a tractor did. 

I've never seen a tractor bogged down in mud. I have, however, seen many a motorhome or car stuck on wet grass in a farmer's field that has been given over to motorhomes and caravans.

I can't imagine this beast ever getting stuck in a wet, grassy field though. Perhaps motorhomes for those who do more in the way of wild camping in fields should be optionally fitted with huge, deep tread tractor tyres. 

The specialist tyres sold for motorhomes by tyre manufacturers are only marginally better than standard tyres. As extra protection against getting bogged down, we carry sand ladders - large, plastic grids having rough sand embedded into the plastic for grip - on the back of our motorhome, but they take up valuable bike space.

Monday, 21 March 2022

Up Down Pods on Chesil

Having been away for the weekend to Dorset near Chesil Beach, I wondered why downs are not called ups, as they're hilly uplands. 

Also, what's the opposite of a Yorkshire dale? In another area it would be called a down, despite being up.

We spotted this dinky little caravan pod on the campsite we stayed at.

I think it was an advert for the manufacturer, as no-one inhabited it from Friday to Sunday.

Some photos from our excursion to Chesil Beach and the Fleet (click to enlarge):

Hay thinks this photo she took of me in St Catherine's Chapel on Chapel Hill, Abbotsbury, should be the album cover for my forthcoming Best Of LP.

Why anyone would want to build a chapel on top of a hill that knackers you to climb is beyond me. The congregation would have spent most of the sermon recovering their breath. Perhaps it was a place of pilgrimage, which requires some effort on the part of the pilgrim.

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Dual Nationality

Should dual nationality be allowed? I merely ask the question.

There are pros and cons for the individual, but I'm thinking more about the states involved.

For a start, was Nazanine Zaghari-Ratcliffe's plight made worse by having dual nationality? 

Also, in the absence of any mutual extradition treaty, a fugitive from justice can find refuge in the other nation within which they have citizenship.

I gave up my Dutch nationality when my father had me naturalised British. The reason for this was he knew I wanted to go to sea, and I couldn't become master of the British registered vessel unless I had British nationality. As a consequence, my Dutch nationality lapsed when my Dutch passport ran out and the Dutch did not allow dual nationality. Even now it's difficult for me to reclaim my Dutch nationality without living there for a year.

Saturday, 19 March 2022

Modern Warfare

A bit disjointed, as it was written in a hurry, but here we go...

I wonder if, when the Russia / Ukraine debacle is over, it will be shown that the most effective form of warfare in an interconnected world is economic and informational, rather than using armaments -  whether the threat of violence alone doesn't work, but the world crippling your economy does. 

We can be justified in asking which has been more effective - NATO or the EU?  What has happened certainly a good argument for the EU as a force for good, despite Germany's reticence. 

NATO has 30 member states, 28 of which are European, 21 of those 28 are in the EU. EU states comprise 75% of European NATO members. This will increase with the admission of Bosnia Hertzegovina and Georgia to both the EU and NATO. With its recent spending announcement, Germany will become the 3rd largest military in the world, after America and China. High Time for an EU Army as part of NATO, despite German rearmament (which will be neutralised within the EU by trade), rather than independent countries. Whether that's unanimously possible remains to be seen, but Russia, in its present guise, may force the issue.

Russia neutralised Germany by means of its gas exports; however, the remainder of the EU still had a stranglehold over the Russian economy. Had the rest of Europe been as beholden to Russia, then the tables might have been turned by Russia. 

The corollary of the Russian stranglehold on gas, however, is the German stranglehold on cash for that gas, but only if Germany accounts for a good percentage of Russian gas. While Germany was reliant on Russia's gas, Russia was reliant on German money in exchange for that gas, so it kept flowing. The questions is, who needs what most. 

Countries that trade together stick together but, what's happened so far shows that becoming too reliant on another country puts you at its mercy and you lose sovereignty as a consequence. When dealing with stable democracies, that's not much of a problem, as the trade will prevent them waging war on each other; however, when one of those is a rogue state, it becomes very dangerous.

Trade cannot be asymmetric and at the overwhelming advantage of one party only. The West is reliant on power, whether that's gas or oil, and that puts it in a weak position geopolitically. It's the oil rich nations that seem to have a high proportion of countries with questionable human rights among them.

There have to be cases where trade is asymmetric but, if those countries can be integrated politically, through a federation, then the power of one over the other is lessened. That, however, can only be achieved for countries that border each other, are stable democracies and have similar sized economies.

Reverting for a minute to the economic side, Russia can raise money from the companies owned by the oligarchs but, assuming money comes mainly from the population, to raise $1bn it has to levy a tax of $6.88 per person. For America it's $3.00 per person. For the EU it's $2.22 per person. America and the EU have a simple numeric advantage in raising money.

On the information side, it has been reported that 75% of Russians support the war. Some of those supporters will be of the idiotic 'my country, right or wrong' brigade, but most will be subject to Putin's propaganda, which works, providing you control the narrative and severely censor the independent media. 

The weakness of global communications today is that it is trunked via a terrestrial network, which is easy to monitor and switch off. To overcome this there needs to be a global network that's based in the sky using satellites. Blocking downlink signals is possible, but only within line of sight of the receiving station, making reception much easier. Cost, however, is currently an issue.

It has also shown that having a cause to die for (Ukraine) makes for a motivated nation, whereas having no cause to die for (Russia) is a hindrance.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Nixie Clock

 Earlier this month we became addicted to watching the series Travelers (spelling is American) on Netflix.

In the series, one of the protagonists has a valve, digital clock, which took Hay's fancy - and mine.

It's called a Nixie clock, of which there is a number of variants, all using Soviet era valves that preceded LEDs. You can buy kits on-line, but I wanted a complete clock, so I had a look on eBay and bang - I found one in Ukraine.

The bloke selling them is based in Lviv, Ukraine, and after having purchased it, I contacted him and said I wasn't bothered if he needed the cash and didn't send it. Well, he did send it, bless him, and it's now in transit.

It wasn't particularly expensive either.- $94, including postage.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Nooddorpen for Refugees

Overheard in the kitchen - The Chairman is cleaning resin gunk from behind his wedding ring at the sink:

Hay: "What are you doing?"

Chairman: "Cleaning my ring."

Hay: "Yuk - shouldn't you use toilet paper for that, and certainly not the sink?"

When I was a kid living in Rotterdam in the 50s, the place was peppered by what we called Noordorpen - emergency villages for those who had been made homeless by Rotterdam being flattened by the Nazis. 'Nood' is emergency and 'dorpen' is villages.

One such village was about half a mile across an open field, directly opposite our flat in Rotterdam South. A hospital has since been built there.

It strikes me that this is a solution to the Ukrainian refugee situation. Many of the prefabs that were built in Bristol during and after WWII have only just been demolished, so they last a long time.

I've thought for a long time that they are a solution for the homeless, except that the homeless would have to move to the area where the emergency villages are, which has consequences for family ties, jobs and a host of other issues. Such issues, however, aren't present for refugees. They would ensure the refugees stick together for mutual support and their needs (schooling, therapy, health) can be serviced on a concentrated level much more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Mind you, the process put in place by the government will ensure we receive only a trickle of refugees. Gove has made a big issue from the system being uncapped, but that's like the marketing a lot of internet companies make - they advertise uncapped data, but throttle the speed down to a level that's practically unusable. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

The Workshop

Well, we've made a start on the garage and workshop - something we should have built when we built the house. 8 years late isn't too bad, I suppose. I say garage and workshop, but what I really mean is lampshade production facility. Excavation started on the 7th and the foundation concrete pour was on Saturday. 

It's being done in three phases, as we don't have all the money - if we hadn't bought the static caravan I could have built 4 garages.

This is a rough idea of what it will look like when finished. I knocked this up as plan for Colin, our tame builder. The garage part is actually going to be longer than illustrated.

Rather than a garage door, like on the plan, I'm probably going to leave the garage section open and use a roll-up wall, which I saw at our local Lotus/Morgan dealership.

It only needs to be closed in the instance of when I'm doing any spraying, so this closure is perfect. Rather than green, I'll choose something in keeping with the oak cladding - silver grey, or similar.