Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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.

The Long Tail

It’s a truism to say that the ‘net is ideal for a long tail, of material of interest to someone, but at best very marginal value or interest to the world at large. Vanity publishing, personal pages, personal blogs, social media, etc, etc.

It even has sophisticated Peer Review processes: a page with Google pagerank 9 is one that the world considers a leader in its field, while a PR4 is a long tail and might be of interest if you are looking to solve a very specific problem it happens to address outside the mainstream.  There’s even a competing hierarchy of peer review systems, with middle-ranking systems like the once-useful but perhaps too easy to subvert Tripadvisor and its peers, niche systems designed to measure one’s own effectiveness, and a long tail of wannabes.

But yesterday listening to the radio I was reminded that a long tail of marginal material and even utter dross doesn’t originate online.  If there’s so much that’s great in the Edinburgh fringe, how come the BBC broadcasts so much that’s – to put it very politely – utterly mediocre?

[correction: not yesterday, it was Saturday the Edinburgh crap on Radio 4 really excelled itself]

Roots

I recently visited my father for a few days.

That doesn’t mean I revisited a childhood house, or even town: neither he nor I has done that for many years.  But one thing somehow took me back: hearing the cooing of pigeons outside.  That’s not even a very nice sound: it can be quite infuriating when it goes on incessantly, and I have some recollections of them being an annoying pest.  Yet that sound gave me a faintly Proustian nostalgia.  Followed of course by the realisation that there aren’t any around here, and faintly wondering why not: it can’t be just the neighbourhood cats!

During my visit I went to an event in London, and stayed on for a concert in the evening.  It was the RPO, at the Royal Festival Hall.  I got a great seat, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  But a little more than that: the orchestral sound was somehow ultimately “right”: the canonical orchestral sound.  What I was actually hearing (apart from a fine orchestra playing great music) was the Festival Hall’s acoustic, and I think that “rightness” must’ve been because that’s where I first ever heard an orchestra when my parents took me to see The Nutcracker there as a small child!

Hmmm ….

Symbiosis

The blackberry season is firmly upon us. Indeed, it’s come exceptionally early: I’ve been getting some good pickings for two weeks in the garden.

In the wild, brambles tend to live alongside nettles. In my garden there are no nettles, but in their accustomed place is is ivy climbing anything that’ll support it, including some of the brambles. It’s got some rather attractive white flowers right now!

As a gardener, the ivy can be a pain: if I try to trim the brambles (or other plants the ivy climbs) back I have two intertwined things to deal with, and they need very different treatment. But for picking the blackberries, I discovered today a bit of ivy can be a huge advantage. Something soft and thorn-free I can grab to pull the thorny bits out of the way and give comfortable access to the berries!

Luxury!

Kafka onna bike

From the Plym Valley trail.  I’ve been meaning to photograph this sculpture for a while, so I took the opportunity when I passed it today.

sculpture of a cycling insect

Did Gregor Samsa ride a bike?