If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas all

To all my loyal readers, if I have any left after such a period of inactivity, I wish a very happy Christmas. May you get everything you want or, failing that, everything you deserve.

More apologies for the lack of posting recently. Things have been busy. There have been bike-related shenanigans, some car issues to sort out (including a mysterious tale of a brake caliper and a wheel bearing) and there may be a new job on the horizon for the new year. Also, I have had a big birthday (ending in a zero) which took a bit of coming to terms with.

I won't be posting over the next few days, but as soon as the Christmas nonsense is out of the way I will be back.

Take care and have fun.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Aye, Laddie!

I can't remember ever learning to read.  It was just one of those things that came to you, like walking or eating.  I think I was fairly surreptitious about it too, as I surprised my mother with my facility for textual decoding (can you tell I used to be a teacher?) one day when I was about three years old.

We were out for a walk somewhere (at a guess, Stanhope Park, in Darlington) and I needed a wee.  I told Mum and she said I'd have to wait.  But no, I said, there is a toilet here.  No, that's not for you, she said. You can't go in there.   But, but, I said, I can.  Look, the sign says "Laddies"!

OK, not perfect decoding of the double-consonant rule, but nearly there.  I made her laugh, and she got her revenge by telling friends of the story when I was in my mid-twenties.  And thirties.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I was browsing Facebook recently, and came across this advert in the sidebar.

Do they think I was born yesterday?  Those are gurls.  I know.  I'm nearly four.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Comment policy

Regular readers, both of you, may remember that a while ago I turned on word verification for comments to this blog.  I was getting so much spam it was 'doin my ed in like', and turning WV on stopped it instantly.  However, I know from my own experience that the Blogger WV thing is very irritating and clumsy.  More than once I have written a fairly thoughtful and considered response on another blog, only to give up after six attempts to decipher some random squiggles in a box.  My time has been wasted, the world will miss that particular pearl of wisdom, and the whole thing is unsatisfactory.  I was very reluctant to turn on WV for my own blog, as I know how big a pain it is, and I have had some feedback from readers that it was putting them off commenting.

But when you are writing and managing a blog in your spare time, spam is a real hassle and takes a lot of your attention away from where it should be, so I don't apologise for turning on WV until the tsunami of rubbish abated.  I'm a bit of an innocent when it comes to these things, but the spam was increasing over time, and my guess was that the blog was getting on more and more spam lists as the spam comments were visible for a while until I got round to deleting them, and therefore appeared in some Greatest Hits in a database somewhere.  My hope is that, now the blog has been silent for a few months, whoever does these things will have assumed the blog is no more and will have moved onto more fertile soil.

So, WV is OFF for the time being.  Comment all you like, magnifying glasses not necessary.  If the spam returns, I will have another think.  It has been suggested that I allow comments from registered users only, which would solve the problem, but might bring others in its wake.  We shall see.

If anyone has any bright ideas, let me know - in the comments :)

Here's a poster to make you laugh.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Fleet update

For those who are interested ...

I had to move everything about yesterday to clear leaves and stuff from my usual storage locations, and I ended up with all three bikes on the driveway, and I thought it would be an ideal photo opportunity.  There's one new addition to the fleet since the last bike-related post here.

Here's the chorus line:

From left to right:

Yamaha XT660R, 2006, fully functional, road legal, the commuter and everyday reliable workhorse.  Previous owner rode it to Romania and back (from his name on the V5, I think he was visiting relatives) and I intend to give it a similar workout before too long.  Not to Romania, but further than the Severn Bridge, for sure.

Triumph Trident 750, 1994 (but an early VIN, probably made in 1992), one of the early Hinckley revival Triumphs.  Bought because I could no longer credibly be the Chairman of my branch of the Owners' Club without owning a Triumph, and this was a very cheap eBay purchase in May.  Bought (more or less) to say I had one in the shed, and perhaps to keep with a view to long-term restoration.  In fact, it is a superb bit of kit, and I am hooked.  It had 52k on the clock when I got it (53k now) and it is not without its faults, but it is rideable and goes pretty well for an old girl.  I'm now focusing on a gradual improvement schedule.  The immediate stuff has all been done, and I am now onto the refinements (hollow laugh).

Yamaha XT600E, 1995 (but made in 1994), SORNed, no tax, no insurance, no battery as of yesterday. A triumph (heh) of mid-90s tasteless colour vandalism - pale green, lilac and white. The puppy I cannot abandon.  Long-term, it's going to get money spent on it and made fantastic, but short-term it's under a cover behind the shed.  I found an interesting nest of spiders in the air intake yesterday.  Not at the top of my priority list, but when time and funds allow, it's getting the treatment.  I have a lot of lurve for this bike.

Ah, choices.

Night visitors

A little while ago, I gave in to a long-held wish and bought myself a trail camera.  If you haven't seen one of these, it's a camera which straps to a tree or mounts on a post, and works off a PIR sensor, with IR illumination so it can take shots in the dark.  It can take either stills or video, or a combination of the two, and is fully weatherproof.  It's made in woodland camouflage colours and runs off AA batteries.  With an extra battery pack, it can be left for up to six months and will capture any object that is warmer than the background.  This is the one I got - an American LTL Acorn Scouting Camera Ltl-5210A:

Padlock? It would prevent theft of the SD card, but not the camera, which is held by a nylon strap

So far, I have had some mildly interesting results, although I have to say that the camera's performance is slightly disappointing.  Picture quality is modest (about as good as a cheap smartphone) and the range at night is only about 5m - that is, an object needs to be within 5m to trigger the camera, although it will capture an image up to about 15m, with the outer limits quite faint.

I have set it up at various places round the garden over several nights, and results have been getting better, so I imagine that with practice I can get some interesting images.  So far, I have discovered that Rescue Cat is an early bird as well as a midnight rambler:

Monarch of all she surveys
and that the cat that the people in the cottage next door swear they know nothing about is a regular visitor:

We call him 'Pink Cat' and he really is pink, well, pinky-beige. Not in this photo, though
But the best of all is an answer to the question: Who has been leaving the small black turds in the middle of the lawn?  When Bonkers Dog was alive, he would regularly come home with lovely doggy aftershave in the form of stinking black streaks on his neck.  Now we know why:

Don't mind me, I'm just off for a quick dump

Need to find the exact spot for maximum impact

Got it.  Exactly on a line between kitchen door and compost bin, hur hur
I know of several places where badgers run, and the next step (after satisfying the fox curiosity) will be to put the camera deep in the woods for a few nights and see what transpires.

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