Category Archives: Uncategorized


Had a power cut this evening, about 11:40 pm.

I was sitting at the ‘puter trying to fill some ghastly form – now abandoned for the day. Plunged into darkness, I (by lucky chance) had the mobile phone on the desk and knew approximately where it was, so I reached out carefully and found it. Used its torch to navigate to the bed, where I lay down and fired up a browser and went to check whether the issue was known. Not finding my location on the map or live feed of outages, I went to report it.

But as soon as I entered my postcode, it replied that the outage was already known. Someone got there first! Interesting: whoever it was presumably had to go through the same preliminaries as me – find a light source, find a phone or other means of reporting at a time when any mains-powered router is out of action. And to have been quicker than me, they can’t have spent time figuring out where to go and what to do, which implies they already knew at least enough to find it without hesitation.

What are the chances of that, bearing in mind this is West Devon, not Shoreditch?

Ultima Thule

NASA appear to be showing a profound lack of ambition.  They’ve gone to the end of the world, and will never go further.

For there is no destination more remote than Thule, the semi-mythical far northern land of tales of the ancient world.  A mythical character that leaves it open to being identified with a range of different northern isles known to modern man, but always the end of the earth.

Iceland is by far the biggest candidate on the modern map, and tales of a land of fire and ice like Weelkes’s Period[1] of Cosmography (from around 1600) support that.  And if Thule is Iceland, Ultima Thule could be either even-more-inaccessible Greenland or merely inflationary language.  But only because Renaissance Europe’s exploration had gone further than the Odyssey in the 2000+ years since ancient Thule.

Now NASA has gone to Ultima Thule.  The end of the world.  By their own choice of nomenclature, they can go no further.

[1]Period as in punctuation: the ultimate end of the world!

The Humbug that stole Christmas travel

The bizarre story of the Gatwick Drone(s) seems to have gone quiet, and some of what’s been reported appears to indicate the possibility that responsible authorities may have egg on their face.  Very likely the Police: they’re a regular scapegoat for idiocy on the part of politicians, civil servants, and the judiciary, as well as their own cockups.

The jokes have done nicely on it: a fat bloke on a sleigh, or Liliputian tourists, for example.  And when a senior policeman suggested the possibility there was never actually a drone, only to be “corrected” the following day, how could conspiracy theories fail to follow?  Quite apart from the obvious kneejerk reactions and the added complication of the sale of Gatwick airport itself in the middle of the crisis!  Someone has something to hide, but what?  Do even TPTB know?

My non-conspiracy theory: it was christmas lights.  There seem to be a fair few coloured lasers around: could some of them have interacted to produce an accidental holographic display?  The first reported sightings being at night and in the rain (unlikely flying conditions for a drone), it was presumably just lights that someone actually saw.  And after it had been reported, I should imagine only the merest ghost of a hologram would be needed to convince the brain it had seen a drone!

Would TPTB ever admit such a thing?  No suggestion of malicious intent, just too embarrassing for someone.  And lots of people no doubt wanting compensation, and lawyers circling around delayed travellers!  Mind you, it would be rather satisfying if the whole thing were indeed down to humbuggery!

The Virgin saga continues

Damn, I can’t post a comment here.  Both Firefox and Chromium browsers complain of a bogus certificate somewhere at wordpress, and I haven’t the time to dig into that.  Let’s see if it works as a new post.

Feb. 22nd, 11:32

More this morning. A call from a number apparently associated either with Virgin Media or with a scam impersonating them, but it stopped before I could get to the phone. And a text message threatening cut off.

Investigating the phone number, is inconclusive as to whether it’s Virgin or a third-party scam, with some comments offering evidence of the latter. There’s also a thread here on Virgin fora at raising precisely that question. It’s nearly two years old, but no reply from the Virgin team. Presumably another facet of the no-communication policy I’m trying to complain about.

I also replied to the text message. Unsurprisingly, my reply was flagged undeliverable.

I’ve also now blogged about this:

New Toy

Damn, I seem to be blogging so rarely I might as well not be here.  I guess too much of what I have to say is being said elsewhere, or falling victim to can’t be arsed syndrome.

So a little domestic event.  Today I have taken delivery of a shiny new fridge-freezer, to replace the one bought in 2005 (when I moved from a furnished to an unfurnished apartment) and which has been malfunctioning increasingly badly.  Of late the temperature regulator was completely dead and the pump on full blast 24/7 regardless of settings, so it would ice up within a week of defrosting, and everything was too cold.

[really boring paragraph you probably want to skip] Unusually (for me), I went into Currys in person to order the new one rather than order online.  That’s because it has to fit under a shelf at 144 cm above the floor, and I wanted to see and measure one described as 143cm tall – which is the model I eventually bought.  It fits nicely in the space, and like the old one, is low enough to use the top as my spice rack.  The new one has slightly more fridge and less freezer space than the old one: a 60/40 split rather than 50/50 heightwise.  The biggest drawback in the old one (back when it worked properly) was a shortage of even reasonably high shelf space in the fridge, which would tend to get more than a bit overfilled after a big shop.  Now I’ll have space to stand things up easily, as well as a useful extra shelf in the door.  As for the freezer, I think I can live with a little less space.  The main difference is that the top drawer (of three) is a more a tray, and will do nicely for the wine cooler sleeve, icecubes, and miscellaneous small things.

Seeing the new one in action, I’m struck by two things.  One, it’s blissfully quiet, even compared to a well-behaved older model.  Two, the light inside is seriously cold: clearly a LED.  I guess that’s the march of technology, and makes it not entirely a bad thing I had to replace the old one.

One more observation.  In researching my options for replacing the old one, I saw all refrigeration equipment on sale today is advertised as both CFC-free and HFC-free.  Does that mean the recent treaty on HFCs was just hot air, with the industry having long-since left them behind anyway?

We are ten!

Damn.  I’ve let the tenth anniversary of this blog pass without noticing 😦

Still, it was only a couple of weeks ago: it’s still anniversary month.  Readers mug enough to follow the blog can raise a glass of your choice of tipple to celebrate our coming of a certain age.  Cheers!

Blessed relief

After about six months, the scaffolding is gone from next door.  When it went up I naturally supposed they’d be completing the work before the traditional storms of around October/November.  Down on the road in front were not one but two lorries to take it away!  The banging started uncomfortably early this morning, but was the last.  The ghetto-blaster wasn’t a devastating development in the workmen who had been installing insulation next door, but a one-off.  It blighted an online meeting at noon today, but fortunately I wasn’t presenting anything and stayed on mute.

Next door are the second house on this road to have had such insulation installed recently, and both had scaffolding up for many months while work took place only occasionally amid long intervals of inactivity.  Presumably something has to be left for long periods, on a principle something like leaving paint to dry before the next coat.

Now I can fully open my bedroom curtain again without the risk of workmen watching me in bed.  And my front terrace area is no longer the base of their scaffolding, though I think it’s still somewhat covered in debris.

Stealth Debit

Last January I gave my dad a gift subscription to The Economist for his birthday.  He had been a subscriber for many years, but somehow lost it when his life was dominated by an altogether more serious problem.  It’s the ideal birthday present for someone who’s never been easy to buy for: not merely absolutely right for him, but also something that can be repeated each year thereafter.

A week ago he ‘phoned me, having noticed that the end date of his subscription had moved a year, to January 2017.  Great, that’s exactly as intended, but he wondered if I’d renewed.  In fact I hadn’t: I’d been awaiting contact from The Economist about renewal.  Hmm … if they haven’t asked either of us to pay, who do they suppose is paying?  Or do they have one of those billing departments that gets into a terrible mess?

Checking my bank accounts, I find I had indeed set up a direct debit, and yesterday it was debited for another year’s subscription.  OK, fine, but isn’t it customary to send at least a courtesy email notifying me ahead of a direct debit?  Not a big issue: I’d intended the payment anyway and had ample funds in the account.  But I’m mildly p***ed off not to have been warned.

Perhaps they fear losing a subscription?  That would put them in the same game as scammers who seek to sign you up by stealth to something you don’t want.  Not a happy thought.

Walking and Working vs Living, Learning, Breathing

Since my change of principal job, my use of the treadmill desk has changed, and not in a good way.

Having acquired the desk at a time when I’d been a couple of years in the job already, my work was development and maintenance, without having to tackle the steeper parts of any new learning curve.  Regular development work worked well at the treadmill.

When the job ended, I had to return the less-than-fully-functional Macbook to my ex-employer, and after a brief spell hooking up the ultrabook there, I bought a cheapo new desktop to use at the treadmill.  Unfortunately I’m now finding I rarely use it, and when I do I often feel the need to sit down with the problem at hand.  At first that was due to getting the new box up to speed sometimes standing in the way of a task, so doing it on the ultrabook became a line of least resistance.  But now I think I see another issue: struggling on the steep part of the learning curve for a new project is hard, and I don’t seem to give it adequate concentration while walking.

Or it might just be that the evenings, when I walk/work best, are blighted by wood smoke coming from a neighbour.  In the interest of not unnecessarily raising my carcinogen intake (not to mention inducing heavy coughing) I have to avoid any kind of (physical) exercise in the evenings.

I need another house move, and while I’m here I need to rearrange my computers to have a dev machine I can sit at.

Won and Lost

A distant acquaintance bet good money on a Corbyn victory, back in the days when he was a distant outsider at very long odds.  She now stands to celebrate.

Thought experiment: suppose she had instead bet, at huge odds, on his becoming Prime Minister in 2020.  And let’s also suppose it was a substantial bet.  Corbyn becomes Prime Minister, and she wins a million.  Far-fetched, OK, but not too far-fetched to be the basis of a story.

What kind of a story?  Rags to riches?  Not really – this is Blighty.  Even if it hadn’t already been done, slumdog millionaire fits better in a country where the rags half of the story is genuinely all-too-plausible.  But as a “what if” comedy, it has lots of potential.  Or indeed, an episodic sitcom: each week a different attempt to benefit from her riches is tried and thwarted.


Well, our scenario is a very socialist Prime Minister.  He bears a passing resemblance to Mr Corbyn, but could also take inspiration from other populist socialists, and from the imaginations of our scriptwriters.  As a socialist, he’s in the business of taking millions from millionaires.  Maybe (at least for the benefit of our plot) even doubly so those whose millions are demonstrably unearned.  Our lucky winner has suddenly found herself on the wrong side of the Class War, and turns out to be worse off than she had been before winning the million.  Oh dear.

Could a populist lefty nut get elected?  Well, there are precedents.  Hugo Chavez was repeatedly re-elected in Venezuela, though he may have been boosted by Uncle Sam’s botched attempts to interfere.  On a slightly similar note, we’ve just seen (Comedian) Jimmy Morales top the presidential polls in Guatemala to go one up on Beppe Grillo’s achievement in Italy.  In the UK we have a range of populists standing in spite of the main political parties, and some of them have won not inconsiderable posts up to and including London Mayor.  And Corbyn’s new deputy Tom Watson may prove a formidable force.

Looking at electorates, we’re just p***ed off with the status quo.  And now half of us are too young to remember how bad things really were in the pre-Thatcher socialist UK, and are being fed alluring messages about a mythical golden age.  However far-fetched it may or may not be, Corbyn PM is at the very least good for comedy scenaria and thought experiments.

And (sorry, different story) we even have George Osborne trying to help.  His recent announcement of a major development programme for the submarine base at Faslane is surely an attempt to hand Scottish parliamentary seats back from the Scots Nats to Corbyn’s Labour.  Osbourne rather fancies an opposition that’s busy tearing itself apart, as opposed to a united party with a strong claim to speak for Scotland.  And the Faslane project will serve to focus Scots voters’ attention on an issue where Corbyn is strongly at one with the SNP and the only UK chance to reverse Osborne’s decision (vote for him to stop it), yet much of whose party takes the opposite view (vote for him to keep it).

Bizarre and interesting times.