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

- George Washington

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Lib Dems Caught Out

The Liberal Democrats (and the Liberal Party and SDP before them) have been the beneficiaries of the protest vote ("neither of the above") for many years, but I have also known people - admittedly few - who have voted positively for the third party. Reasons usually centred around a 'new type of politics', 'great ideas', or 'the only party who are honest with the electorate'. Anyone who has studied local and national elections will know that, in a contest, the Lib Dems and their predecessors have been anything but honest and fair, but let that pass for the moment.

So how have the poor old Lib Dems, so keen on 'honest' politics and 'listening to the people' and 'honouring their promises' got to the stage where students (their natural support: unrealistic policies believed in by idealistic people) are attacking them in the streets and burning Nick Clegg in effigy? (Both metaphorically, I might add.) How can 'straightforward' Nick Clegg be such a hate-figure amongst the young and politically-aware? How can the wisest of the wise Vince Cable be see-sawing between voting against and abstaining on a Bill of which he was the principal architect?

Well, folks, this is what happens when you get into government. It was always said that the Lib Dems can promise anything in their election manifestos because they would never be called upon to do anything as difficult as deliver it. And the events of the last month prove that to be true. You promise, nay 'pledge', to people that you will fight an increase in tuition fees, and that pledge will come back to bite you. It's not so easy when you actually have to make the decisions, is it?

The next few months will, I think, prove critical to the future of the party. Either they will stick to their guns and make some tough choices - which will involve going back on things they earnestly promised in the election campaign - and emerge a mature and credible political force, or they will listen to their activist base, take their bat home, shrug off responsibility and cause the collapse of the coalition. If that happened, no-one (apart from the terminally dreamy) would ever take them seriously again. And none of the other parties would trust them in the future, which would send the Lib Dems back to the wilderness from which they seemed to be emerging.

Nick Clegg has done a great job in getting them as far as they have, but he will need to hold his nerve.

Legal Groping

Via Big Brother Watch, this bit of fun:


That Common Market Referendum



Doing a bit of reading around for the previous post, I came across some statistics on the British referendum on EU membership in 1975.

Of those who voted, 67.2% voted to stay in the EEC, or 'Common Market' as it was known then. (This was before the successive name changes reflecting increasing federalist ambitions, first to EC and then to EU.) Of those eligible to vote, 64.5% actually turned out to do so. I was one of them.

So, our membership of the Common Market was approved of by 17.4m people, or 43.3% of the voting public. Better than most parliamentary elections, but still not a majority of the people. And that's assuming that the basis on which we voted in the referendum was fair, and that people were told the truth about where the whole project was deliberately headed. Which is wasn't, as we now know.

I wonder what the figures would be today?

Green And Pleasant Land



I've never been to Greenland, but I'd like to go. I imagine I would like the people. After all, Greenland is the only country to leave 'Europe', as our masters insist on calling it. They left what was the European Community in 1985, the only country ever to have done so.

Basically, they realised that the EC was decimating their primary industry, fishing, and had a referendum on leaving the EC. The referendum told the government that the people wanted to leave, and the government (servants of the people rather then their masters) honoured the people's decision. Greenland now has a higher average income than Germany, France or Britain.

Fishing used to be a major British industry, too, and we were more dependent on it than any other European nation, for obvious geographical reasons. It is estimated that when Britain entered the EU we controlled 80% of all European fish stocks. This is because our fishermen had carefully managed fish stocks in the North Sea, whereas French and Spanish fishermen had heavily over-fished the Mediterranean and had destroyed most of the stocks. Nowadays, gigantic Spanish trawlers hoover up the seas round the British Isles, and our fishing industry is a shadow of what it used to be.

Incidentally, while the unions and the left were outraged at job losses in the subsidised coal industry under Mrs Thatcher, they were strangely quiet about the much greater job losses in our profitable fishing fleets. Fishermen are tough and independent people (they have to be) and perhaps they weren't the right kind of working class.

Interesting facts for those who say that leaving the EU would be catastrophic for Britian's economy. It could be the best thing we ever did.

Time for that referendum you promised us, Mr Cameron.

H/t Alex Singleton.

Happy St Andrew's Day



The stats for this blog show that I have a good number of readers from North of the border in Scotlandshire. Proportionally, I have more Scottish readers than from anywhere else on Earth.

I have no idea why. However, may I take this opportunity to wish all my Scottish readers a very happy St Andrew's Day?

Dydd Sant Andreas Hapus! 'Appy Sun Tandy's Day, tha knaws.

BBC does something useful shocker



I was delighted to read that the BBC's Panorama programme on Monday has upset a few footballers. It would seem that the programme alleged that some of the FIFA officials, including the FIFA Vice-President (above) have taken bribes in the past to influence their decisions over World Cup hosting rights.

Apparently, FIFA are about to announce their decision any day now about which country will host the 2018 Word Cup. And I am led to believe that England is a front runner. So naturally the English football establishment is delighted that the BBC is doing its best to ensure that all such decisions are taken openly and fairly, without the nasty smell of corruption to ruin the image of the 'beautiful game'.

Or not. I have seen several men on the television news being very cross (in fact one gentleman with distinctly ginger tendencies seemed rather angry) because apparently this may spoil England's chances of victory.

Good.

For one thing, it means that the whole of 2018 (and 2017, and 2016 ...) won't be quite so full of wall-to-wall football if England's campaign is fought on a distant shore. And of course, our inevitable ejection in the early rounds won't be quite such a national disaster.

And for another, it means that some other poor buggers will be standing the ever-inflating cost of hosting such an event. It has been calculated that hosting the World Cup will cost England about £1bn. Remember how the revealed cost of the 2012 Olympics quadrupled as soon as the bid was safely in the bag?

If we lose the bid, it will have been a lucky escape.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Another Nail in the Global Warming Coffin

Via Cats, a link to this article:
Recent massive volcanoes have risen from the ocean floor deep under the Arctic ice cap, spewing plumes of fragmented magma into the sea, scientists who filmed the aftermath reported Wednesday.

The eruptions -- as big as the one that buried Pompei -- took place in 1999 along the Gakkel Ridge, an underwater mountain chain snaking 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) from the northern tip of Greenland to Siberia.

Scientists suspected even at the time that a simultaneous series of earthquakes were linked to these volcanic spasms.

But when a team led of scientists led by Robert Sohn of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts finally got a first-ever glimpse of the ocean floor 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) beneath the Arctic pack ice, they were astonished.

What they saw was unmistakable evidence of explosive eruptions rather than the gradual secretion of lava bubbling up from Earth's mantle onto the ocean floor.
A quick look at Google Earth reveals that the Arctic Ocean is in a basin, surrounded by land on all sides - Greenland, northern Canada, Siberia, northern Europe, and so on. So if volcanoes are erupting explosively in such a basin, and pumping out vast quantities of molten lava beneath the sea, and that sea is covered with an ice-cap, what do we think might happen to the ice-cap? I would imagine it would start to melt around the edges: which is precisely what is happening.

One of the 'unexplained' anomalies of the Warmist argument is that while the Arctic ice-cap is slowly melting, the Antarctic cap is actually growing (graphs and analysis here). This article provides a very credible explanation for the anomaly, and of course it is nothing to do with CO2, fossil fuels, the family dog, or any of the other guilt-inducing reasons they come up with for restricting our lives in the name of the planet.

So the polar bears can blame good old Gaia when they are plummeting through the sky and landing in our cities.

Any day now, I expect to see the Greenies organising risky but valiant expeditions beneath the polar ice to plug these evil volcanoes and save the planet.

Or, on past experience, demanding that you and I do it, while they watch and comment from the relative safety of the Rainbow Warrior. (And blow you to smithereens if you hesitate.)

The wheels are coming off the wagon.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Military Shame

I would urge you to go and visit Subrosa's blog, where she details the sneaky ways the MoD has of getting out of paying proper pensions to the families of dead or wounded soldiers.

Basically, if you have been serving in a rank for less than a year and are killed on active service, then your pension is calculated as if you had never achieved that rank, a distinction which can cost the families of soldiers thousands of pounds a year.

It's yet another example of the shameful way we treat members of our military services, and it ought to change. There is a petition asking for the matter to be reconsidered here, and I have signed it.

Please consider doing the same. As Subrosa says, they deserve better than this.

Why Standards Are Falling

This item (BBC Wales) made me hoot with laughter when it was aired on the 6 o'Clock News this evening.

Denbighshire teacher banned for emotional abuse

A teacher found to have emotionally abused pupils has been banned from the profession.

John Hughes called children at Garth Primary School in Trevor, Denbighshire, names such as dumbo and twit, a disciplinary hearing was told.
Mr Hughes was also found guilty of:
  • poking pupils with a stick [1]
  • dragging them by their collars
  • throwing their work on the floor.
Bloody Hell. No wonder the miserable pussy was banned from the profession. Is that the best he could do?

In my schooldays, being called 'dumbo' and having your work dropped on the floor was a sign that you were in the presence of someone new to the profession. Before they had learned the real stuff.

Like carrying you to the front of the classrom by the little bit of hair in front of your ear. Which was not considered a serious matter, but a mild rebuke, such as for a spelling mistake.

Like throwing a board rubber across the room and hitting someone on the temple and rendering him temporarily unconscious, for talking [2].

Like hitting you a smart slap across the back of the head that made you bury your front teeth in the wood of the desk lid, for nothing at all ("Now wait until you see what you get when you actually do something.")

Then again, I never told a teacher to 'fuck off', I always did my homework, and I left school with a decent but unspectacular set of O and A-levels. So, a bit of a win there, I think.

We are in a world where teachers are facilitators and enablers and entertainers, not disciplinarians, so no wonder the guy was a bit of a misfit. Perhaps he was just a crap teacher, in which case they should have said so. But kicking someone out for calling kids 'Dumbo'?

I'd better report my wife for causing significant mental cruelty, then.


[1] See Monty Python, Self-Defence Against Fresh Fruit.
[2] Mate of mine, chemistry lab. He survived.

Snow and the Tin Snail



A similar scene, somewhere else

It snows rarely round here (last year's was the first snowfall I can remember for at least ten years) but when it does, it doesn't mess about. I was half-way to Carmarthen this morning for my Door supervisor training, when it started. It went from cold, sleety rain to proper snow in a couple of minutes, and before I had covered a mile the A40 was white from side to side, and the traffic slowed to about 40 mph. I started getting a little nervous when a white car overtook me at about 60 and then had to dab his brakes when a white van pulled out in front of him. The white car span across both lanes of the carriageway, over the hard shoulder, back into the fast lane; and then recovered and carried on at the same speed. Good save, poor judgement. And then I got to the roundabout at Carmarthen, slowed to 10 mph, applied the brake gently, and the ABS kicked in immediately and the car slid forward for 20 yards. I had left plenty of room between me and the car in front, so no drama, but the loss of control was absolute. It's a horrible feeling.

I quite like driving in snow, and having lived in East Yorkshire for many years I have had plenty of practice. But the Mondeo is the worst car I have ever driven in snowy or icy conditions. It's a good car to drive (for a car!), and has plenty of grip in the dry and the wet. But as soon as the road surface gets icy, it loses all its composure and behaves like a bar of soap on a wet bathroom floor. The ABS cuts in almost immediately, robbing you of any delicacy in braking, and traction uphill is almost non-existent. I've had more 'helpless' snow/ice moments in the Mondeo than in any other car. I can't think why, as the tyres are in good condition with plenty of tread. I suspect it is the fact that it is a heavy car with a long wheelbase (it's the estate model), and there just isn't enough mass on the front end.

When I lived in the Yorkshire Wolds, I had a Triumph Dolomite (actually two, one after the other, both cast-offs bought from my Dad), and they were quite effective, especially with a block of concrete in the boot. No ABS, and rear wheel drive, so what they lacked in outright traction, they gained in controllability. In fact, the Dolly, given a bit of snow and no other traffic, could be a whole lot of fun. But the best car I have ever driven in snow was my Citroen 2CV6 (and its replacement, a Dyane - the same car with a posher but less stylish body). I commuted between Stamford Bridge and Hull through the winters of 1980 to 1983, and I never once failed to get to work. On one occasion, there was a complete white-out on the A1079, and I passed a strange thing at the side of the road that looked like someone had left a ladder lying there. It turned out to be the top of a petrol tanker which had slid into the roadside ditch and been covered in a snowdrift. The 2CV pootled on past, no worries.



I can think of five reasons why the 2CV is brilliant in snow:
  1. Low power (29 bhp; a 602cc air-cooled flat twin) so you are never tempted just to jam your foot down and blast your way out - which never works anyway;
  2. Modest brakes, four tiny drums, that are no more than adequate for normal use, but are sensitive in slippery conditions;
  3. Narrow tyres which dig down into the snow and find the grip that wider tyres just float over;
  4. Light weight (just over half a tonne), which means the tyres don't have too much mass to contend with;
  5. Good ground clearance.
In fact, that last point needs amplification. The ground clearance is good due to the large diameter wheels, but the reason it laughs at snow is the shape of the underside. In effect, the front of the car is the lowest point, and the underside rises from the front axle rearwards. There is no possibility of getting a wedge of snow building up under the front and reducing the traction of the driving wheels. The front bumper tends to act as a snowplough. In addition, the weight distribution is 58% to the front (when you have taken one apart, you will see why - there is nothing much to the body at all), which means the rear is virtually weightless. Under 200kg is on the rear axle (if it had a rear axle, which it doesn't). so, whatever weight it carries, and it isn't much, most of it is over the driving wheels. The effect is that my 2CV could dance up hills, slaloming round the lorries, vans and cars that had stopped dead at a variety of angles on the way up. Never very fast, but never stopping. And always home in time for tea.

I loved that little car, and if I had the money I would have another one in a heartbeat - just for days like today. Mine looked like this:



but with the square headlights of the 1979 model. Oh, YVY 27V, where are you now? Last taxed in 1984, so probably dead.

V8 Skateboard

Thanks to Peter Risdon, news of a V8-powered skateboard.

It had to be in Australia. "We haven't built any safety features into it at all, really - apart from a big red button and the ability to run away from it, that's about it."

Dear Santa, I've been really good this year.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Flight Decked?



Oh dear. It seems that Tory peer-to-be Howard Flight has put his foot in it. Cameron has told him to apologise, and apologise he has, and furthermore the apology was "unreserved".

What has he been saying? That the Jews were to blame for the Holocaust? That Global Warming Climate Change Chaos is a criminal conspiracy? That immigrants should be rounded up and sent home?

None of the above. His crime was to say:
We're going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it's jolly expensive. But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible.
Labour have called the comments "shameful" and said they showed how "out of touch" the Tories are, and Plaid Cymru have called them "disgraceful". Brendan Barber, of the in-touch-with-the-people's-mood TUC, said that Flight was "an insensitive throwback to the worst of 1980s politics". Man-of-the-people Eric Pickles has said that he found the comments "personally repugnant". David Cameron was clear that he didn't agree with the remarks, and was sure that Mr Flight would want to apologise. Which, after a brief interlude, he has. Shame.

The Tories are planning to remove child benefit from families where someone earns more than £43,000 a year. This will prove a slight disincentive for those familes (who may be accurately called middle-class) to have more children. At the same time, families on less than £43,000 (which will include those on benefits, or should) will continue to get the full child benefit that they do at present. I would be grateful if anyone could explain how anything Mr Flight said was wrong. The first two sentences are pretty much uncontested fact, or at least reasonable assumptions. It can only be his comment that encouraging those on benefits to "breed" is "not very sensible" that is causing controversy.

Paying people to have more and more children (i.e. breeding) when they can't even afford to support the ones they have is indeed not very sensible. I can see the argument for helping anyone who finds him or herself on low or no wages to support children they already have, and that is reasonable and humane. But the current system pays the feckless to be even more feckless. In an age of reliable contraception, there is no reason why anyone should have children they can't afford. Why I should keep on paying for Che'lsee to pop out her fourth and fifth sprogs while sitting at home watching Jeremy Kyle is a mystery. The noises from the Left are as expected. But for Cameron and Pickles to join in an attack on a man who is only saying what many ordinary people are thinking shows a lack of balls.

I happen to think that Flight is wrong on the issue of the higher earners. If you are earning over £43k, you can afford a couple of children, and these are the kind of people who are the least likely to have children they can't afford in any case. His remarks on the incentive that those on benefits have to produce even more children are spot on.

The Coalition - gradually revealing themselves as New Labour with a new coat of paint.

Better Off Out



Sue has a nice bit of music to accompany a headline in a major English newspaper that I thought I would never see:

GET BRITAIN OUT OF EUROPE

(Which should, of course, read "out of the EU" - Britain isn't leaving Europe unless there are some pretty powerful tugboats out beyond the Irish Sea.)

The Daily Express has come out in favour of a British withdrawal from the EU. Leading article in the link above. They are also running an online petition, linked in the article. I have signed.

Regular readers will know that I love Europe, meaning the European Nations. As a Brit, I feel part of Europe emotionally, and I believe that co-operation between European nations is a good thing. What I can't stand is the unaccountable, corrupt and profoundly undemocratic European Union. I voted 'yes' in 1975, when what was on offer was membership of a trading bloc. That is nothing like what the EU is today, after 35 years of name-changes and mission creep, and at no point have I, or any other Briton, been asked my opinion on whether I want to be part of it. This is not xenophobia: this is a belief in independence and self-government, democracy and accountability, and a hatred of corruption and self-serving elites.

Perhaps this is the first crack in the dam.

Happy Thanksgiving



I know I have some regular readers from across the Pond, so let me take this opportunity to wish all of them (you know who you are) a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

This week I am mostly ...


... training to become a Door Supervisor. I need this badge to carry out my new job, and I was appointed on the understanding that I would train and get the certificate within three months.

That's £295 for the training and £245 for the certificate (renewable every three years), and my employer will neither pay the costs nor give me time off to do it. So I have been working almost continuous shifts to carry forward four free days to so the course. Nights and days; days and nights. My body-clock is utterly scrambled. The upside of that is that the qualification is mine and not the company's, and I won't feel any guilt about using it outside my normal working week.

It's quite good fun, and a long way from the bald, tattooed hard-man-in-a-leather-jacket image of the traditional 'bouncer'. I have no experience of night clubs, so a lot of it is completely new to me, and quite an education.

If this blog has been a bit quiet recently, that's why.

Normal service, etc.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Science Fact?

I've never been a big fan of Science Fiction, although I have read a fair bit over the years. I have no time for the scary-alien stuff, but there are some very thoughtful and thought-provoking books out there. Robert Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land is obviously a classic of the genre, and I would also include one of the two most prescient books I have ever read, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (the other is Nineteen Eighty-Four): books that describe a possible future society, which are both believable and chilling. If SF doesn't go down the 'warring tribes' route (like the Mad Max films), then it is usually a World Government theme, where the people's freedoms have all been taken away 'for their own good', and life is superficially happy (or not) but ultimately purposeless and trivial. In the past, I have cheerfully dismissed this as - well, fiction, as that is what it was. After all, it couldn't happen here, because a) no government would want that level of control, and b) people wouldn't let it happen. No siree.

Then I came across this, thanks to Cats. The article is interesting, but the real interest is in the mass of quotations which support the notion that our leaders really want a World Government, and that the climate change con is simply an instrument to get people's willing compliance for changes that will make the New World Order possible. This idea has been at the back of my mind for some time, but I have always dismissed the more extreme expressions of it as tin-hat paranoia. But the quotations in the article (and there are masses), if genuine, really frighten me. None of the quotes are referenced, and it will be a fair piece of work to track them all down and verify them, but that may be worth doing. If they are genuine, then we have a lot to be worried about, and we need to wake up to the situation fast.

I won't list them all, but here are some examples:
Quote by Mikhail Gorbachev, communist and former leader of U.S.S.R.: "The emerging 'environmentalization' of our civilization and the need for vigorous action in the interest of the entire global community will inevitably have multiple political consequences. Perhaps the most important of them will be a gradual change in the status of the United Nations. Inevitably, it must assume some aspects of a world government."

Quote by Gordon Brown, former British prime minister: "A New World Order is required to deal with the Climate Change crisis."

Quote by David Brower, a founder of the Sierra Club: "Childbearing should be a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license. All potential parents should be required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing."

Quote by Club of Rome: “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill....All these dangers are caused by human intervention....and thus the “real enemy, then, is humanity itself....believe humanity requires a common motivation, namely a common adversary in order to realize world government. It does not matter if this common enemy is “a real one or….one invented for the purpose.”

Quote by Maurice Strong, a wealthy elitist and primary power behind UN throne: “Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring that about?”

Quote by David Foreman, co-founder of Earth First!: “My three main goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with it’s full complement of species, returning throughout the world.”

Quote by Robert Muller, former UN Assistant Secretary General: “In my view, after fifty years of service in the United National system, I perceive the utmost urgency and absolute necessity for proper Earth government. There is no shadow of a doubt that the present political and economic systems are no longer appropriate and will lead to the end of life evolution on this planet. We must therefore absolutely and urgently look for new ways.”

Quote by James Lovelock, known as founder of 'Gaia' concept: “I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.”

Quote by Jeremy Rifkin, Greenhouse Crisis Foundation: “The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.”

Quote by Ted Turner, billionaire, founder of CNN and major UN donor: “A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.”

Quote by John Holdren, President Obama's science czar: "There exists ample authority under which population growth could be regulated...It has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society."

Quote by UK's Keith Farnish, environmental writer, philosopher and activist: "The only way to prevent global ecological collapse and thus ensure the survival of humanity is to rid the world of Industrial Civilization...Unloading essentially means the removal of an existing burden: for instance, removing grazing domesticated animals, razing cities to the ground, blowing up dams and switching off the greenhouse gas emissions machine."

Quote by Club of Rome: "Democracy is not a panacea. It cannot organize everything and it is unaware of its own limits. These facts must be faced squarely. Sacrilegious though this may sound, democracy is no longer well suited for the tasks ahead. The complexity and the technical nature of many of today’s problems do not always allow elected representatives to make competent decisions at the right time."

Quote by Michael Oppenheimer, major environmentalist: "The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States. We can't let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialization, we have in the US. We have to stop these Third World countries right where they are."

Quote by emeritus professor Daniel Botkin :"The only way to get our society to truly change is to frighten people with the possibility of a catastrophe."

Quote by Stephen Schneider, Stanford Univ., environmentalist: "That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have."

Quote from Monika Kopacz, atmospheric scientist: "It is no secret that a lot of climate-change research is subject to opinion, that climate models sometimes disagree even on the signs of the future changes (e.g. drier vs. wetter future climate). The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’ — and readers’ — attention. So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty."

Quote by Christine Stewart, former Canadian Environment Minister: “No matter if the science is all phoney, there are collateral environmental benefits.... climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.”

Quote by Timoth Wirth, U.S./UN functionary, former elected Democrat: “We’ve got to ride the global-warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”

Quote by Richard Benedik, former U.S./UN bureaucrat: "A global climate treaty must be implemented even if there is no scientific evidence to back the greenhouse effect."

Quote by David Frame, climate modeler, Oxford University: “Rather than seeing models as describing literal truth, we ought to see them as convenient fictions which try to provide something useful.”
Strangely enough, the most significant of these quotations for me are the two referring to nuclear fusion:
Quote by Jeremy Rifkin, Greenhouse Crisis Foundation: “The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.”

Quote by Amory Lovins, scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute: "Complex technology of any sort is an assault on human dignity. It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it."
I had always assumed that the Green objection to energy use, and specifically nuclear energy, was that it was environmentally damaging, and then when a clean and cheap source of energy was developed (and for my generation that has always been fusion), everyone would welcome it and be happy that all the world could share the advantages of plentiful energy that we have had for some time. Apparently not. Plentiful energy, it seems, is a Bad Thing per se, even if it does no harm to the planet. That revelation is frankly shocking to me. I can't see why anyone would object to lots of clean, cheap energy, unless they hate the human race - and that, I'm sorry to say, seems to be a constant theme of the discourse.

Go and have a read - there are tons more like these.

We need to wake up to this.

Friday, 19 November 2010

When Polar Bears Get Cross

Sent to me in an email recently.

A man was camping in the Northwest Territories of Canada, way up in the high Arctic, and was sleeping when he was attacked by a Polar Bear. He managed to get the bear off him and shot it after a struggle. Don't look at the pics if you are squeamish. As the sender of the email says, it will take a while for the ankle to heal.













That's one very lucky chap.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Blitzed

I've just done a string of 12-hour night shifts, and my body clock has gone haywire. I got up at 10 am yesterday, hoping to be tired enough to sleep last night, as I had a day shift starting at 6 this morning.

I went to bed at 11 pm and set the alarm for 5 am. I lay awake until 2 am, then got up for a cup of tea. Back to bed at 3 am, and lay until the alarm went. I have now been awake for 30 hours. That's the first time I have spent a night with absolutely no sleep at all since I was a student. These things were normal then.

I expected to be completely useless today (well, more than usual) but in fact I have got a second wind and I feel fine, if a little disconnected from reality. I hope I can sleep tonight, as I have another day shift tomorrow, followed by ... nights again. Bugger.

If there's been a lack of quality blogposts recently, this is why.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Bored Already



Yes, she's lovely, and I'm glad they are happy. Can we talk about something else now?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Kit Report - Duragadget Satnav Case

Last in the current series, until I invest in anything new, and I've left the latest acquisition until last.

When I took the Honda to Denmark, I cobbled together a mounting system that did the job adequately well. I robbed the suction mount for the TomTom from the car, and mounted it to the top of the fairing under the screen with three self-tappers. The TomTom is a car unit and the mounting system is not robust, so I backed it up with a nylon strap glued to the back of the unit, such that if it vibrated off, the strap would catch it before it fell off entirely. This worked pretty well for a low-cost solution, helped by the fact that the unit was protected from above and in front by the Honda's generous screen. I had a ziploc bag in my tank bag in case of downpour.



Because there was very little wind pressure on the unit, this worked pretty well, considering it cost very little. But it wouldn't do for the Bonneville, which has no wind or weather protection at all, and no plastic bodywork to attach it to. A friend (you know who you are) came up with a surplus-to-requirements satnav holder. In fact, he came up with two: a rather smart Givi case, waterproof and well-made, and a cheaper device designed for use on bicycle handlebars. (He wouldn't accept any payment, so a donation to Help For Heroes was agreed as a quid pro quo.)

The Givi case was by far the better of the two (and at over twice the price, it should be). Beautifully-made, as I have found all Givi stuff to be, waterproof, and with lots of little extra pockets for phone and small change, it is a little jewel.



Unfortunately, it is also so 'universal' that it was hard to find a way to fit it securely to the Bonnie handlebars. There are yards of velcro straps and flaps, and by the time I had got a satisfactory fit, it was getting dark and time to unfasten it again. I may use this in the future, but probably for a longer trip where I can pay more attention to such things. For this trip, the other one seemed a better bet.

The Duragadget satnav case is a bit flimsy, as you might expect, as it is designed for bicycle use and "not tested above 20 mph", to quote one eBay seller. It isn't waterproof (with the zip closed you can see daylight through it), but it does come with a waterproof cover. This had become lost in transit, so I took along a heavy-duty ziploc bag from the kitchen, just in case.


It comes with a universal mount, and attaching it to the handlebars was a breeze. I chose to mount it on the left hand side, so it was easily visible but did not obscure the instruments. The attachment to the mount is only a plastic clip, but it worked well, and at speeds somewhat in excess of the stated 20 mph. I already had a cigarette-lighter type socket wired to the battery and stored behind a side-panel, so I plugged in the power cable to the TomTom through the little hole in the bottom of the case, ran the cable back underneath the tank bag, and plugged it into the socket which I had tucked into the map pocket. (It is a double socket, and I also had the iPhone plugged in there so I could use the MCN Ride Logger app.) Here it is on the bike:



(That's perspective - it's not really that big, as I keep telling them.)

All in all, it worked extremely well. The screen was reasonably easy to see, although glare was a bit of a problem at certain angles of the light. At times, all I could see was my hi-viz jacket shouting back at me. The ziploc bag I put over it filled with air from the wind and then flapped itself into tatters, so that part needs revisiting - probably curable with an elastic band round the bottom. Even so, the unit let in only a small amount of water, enough to dampen the case of the TomTom but not drown it. And it stayed in place at speeds up to x, where x is a number greater than 20, but less than 85. A bit.

OK, it's not going to be as satisfactory or permanent a solution as a proper RAM mount, but it performs the same function for a fraction of the price, and is perfectly adequate for occasional use. Price is under £20, such as this one on eBay.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Justice At Last

Amazing. The courts have finally started dishing out suitable sentences for those who promote ethnic violence. From the BBC, a story of a man (I'll call him X, for reasons which will become clear) who has been sentenced to 15 months for posting racially inflammatory material on YouTube. Sorry for the long quote, but I think you will agree it was worth it. Prepare to be astonished.

Man jailed for posting jihadi video clips on YouTube

A man has been jailed for 15 months for uploading jihadi video clips on to YouTube. X, 29, of Bognor Regis, earlier pleaded guilty to five offences under the Public Order Act at Leeds Crown Court.

The clips called for a "racial holy war" and were designed to provoke violence against the ethnic majority, particularly in Dewsbury.

When he was arrested, police found Islamic and jihadist memorabilia at his home.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the material came to the attention of police when a journalist researching Dewsbury on the internet came across videos X, of Longford Road, had posted and reported them.

Jihadi imagery

The CPS said they included titles such as 'Behead Those Who Insult Islam' and 'Dewsbury needs Sharia'.

They also featured jihadi references and imagery including an assault on a white man by an Asian man.

Stuart Laidlaw, reviewing lawyer for the CPS, said: "X decided to use the very public forum of YouTube to distribute videos of racist and inflammatory nature which he had edited, and which were designed to provoke violence against the ethnic majority, particularly those living in Dewsbury.

"They called for a 'racial holy war', described acts of violence and made supportive references to Islamic groups such as Islam4UK and al-Mouhajiroun."

Mr Laidlaw added: "Freedom of speech carries with it responsibilities.

"Publishing something that is abusive and insulting and that is likely to stir racial hatred is against the law and the CPS will work with the police to prosecute robustly anyone who does so."
Heh. Only kidding.

Don't you love that last sentence from the CPS?

Blog Title of the Month

Leg Iron's superb pun, concerning criticism of Lidl's plans to sell non-traditional meat:

Rudolf, the Dead Roast Reindeer.

Scams 3

Well, well, well. This post, and this, and now this from the Beeb:

Internet users are being warned about cold callers who offer to fix viruses but then install software to steal personal information.

Campaign group Get Safe Online said a quarter of people it had questioned had received such calls, many suspected to have been from organised crime gangs.

Some gangs, employing up to 400 people, are known to set up their own call centres to target people en masse.
I wasn't alone, then.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Wise words

From behind The Times paywall, so typed laboriously by hand.

Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Fry, on his unease about the public's relationship with the armed forces:
He warned that the changes reflected underlying damage to the relationship between the public, the Government and the armed forces. "We had a consensus about the use of force for most of the last 200 years," he argued. "When we went to war it was assumed that we would obey certain conditions: it would be rules-based; we would be likely to prevail; and the outcome would be largely beneficial. With Napoleon and the two [world] wars of the 20th Century those conditions were largely met. In 2003, with the Iraq invasion, the consensus was broken and has yet to be reconstructed. Maybe it won't be."
About Remembrance Day, he says:
"There is some of this that is good and laudable, and there is some that is pretty mawkish," he said. "It is a question of trying to celebrate what is good and trying to avoid the Diana, Graceland stuff."
He goes on to praise Help For Heroes as a desire for the public to reach out to the Forces "over the heads of the intervening elites" of politicians and generals. He doesn't actually say that this is a result of the disgust felt by many people over the way that the last government treated the Forces, but I think that was his general drift.

Canny PR

Following a recent post, I had a nice email from a man called Grant who works for Scottoiler, and who asked if he could put a link to the blog on their website (and also their 'social media channels', whatever they are). I said I would be OK with that, and included a broad hint about sending me a free kit for the XT, but that has been ignored. Oh well ...

Interesting how companies these days are trawling the web for references to themselves and responding directly to customer issues. I've heard of a number of cases where people have criticised a company or product online, and have been contacted directly by the company concerned to offer a solution. I think that's a good thing. In the past (and the quite recent past), it was almost impossible to speak to a company or get a complaint taken seriously. I had almost two years of problems getting a TomTom satnav to work properly, and it was like banging your head on a wall - or, more accurately, shouting your complaints at midnight in the middle of the Sahara desert in a sandstorm. Only a very firm snail-mail letter direct to HQ in the Netherlands got a result. Nowadays, you are more likely to be contacted by them.

Is this the future? You have a complaint, you post it on Facebook, and the company will contact you directly and offer a resolution? It's certainly better than the old system.

Full marks to Scottoiler for being on the ball. Email me for my postal address, Grant. It's the least you can do for your 'product champion'.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Football and Compo

I hate football. Actually, that's not strictly true. I hate professional football.

I much prefer to watch Rugby, although I will concede that football is a far more attractive game per se. Where football can be graceful and even artistic, Rugby is brutal and slow. It's the difference between hitting a tennis ball and pushing a concrete block across a ploughed field, between riding a lightweight bike down a twisty road and driving a concrete mixer.

As a game to watch, football ought to win hands down. And yet I can't stand it - at least the big-money, televised version. I have stood in the cold and watched children's matches and village derbies and had a thoroughly good time. So what is it about the professional game that puts me off?




"Whut I do, ref?"

For me, it's the cry-baby whinging and the foot-stamping and the theatricals. Any mildly physical challenge in the penalty area, and the player will dive dramatically to the ground, roll over fourteen times clutching his ankle, and come to rest with a look of a crucified Christ on his face. From the visual evidence, the man is close to death, or at least a potential amputation and a long stay in hospital, and the opponent who so cruelly slashed him down is guilty of attempted murder at the very least. Once the penalty is awarded, the dead man is back on his feet, a token limp for the first three steps, and then he is back in the game, job done.

Some grand examples here. Some of them even twitch after the injury, as if they had damaged their central nervous system and were in the last throes of brain death:



When I learned the rules of football back in the Victorian era, the idea was that you played the ball, not the man, but as long as you were playing the ball, there was no foul, even if the guy fell over. Whatever happened to that bit of common sense?

When I see football, all I see is a bunch of massively-overpaid pansies (with names like Fibreglass and Cnxwgt and Alfonsiño) who can't play a simple physical game without bending the rules, playing for sympathy and gaming the referee. Why would I waste my time watching that? For some reason, this kind of thing is incredibly rare in Rugby. Players get smashed into like they have walked in front of a train, they get up, grin and carry on. If there is serious physical damage, a man comes on with a staple gun and MIG welder, and patches them up. I'm tempted to say that Rugby is a game for proper men, and footbal is for vain, over-rewarded poofs [1], so I will say it.

Over at Julia's place, she has a post on a similar theme, which made me think that this attitude is not confined to professional sport, but has worked its way into the whole of society. From the Mail, the story of a teacher who was 'forced' (always that word) to raise her voice in the classroom because of the noise of a nearby playground, developed problems with her throat and was 'forced' to resign. She sued her employers, and has been awarded £156,000 compensation.
The 50-year-old says she now struggles to speak on the phone and suffers a sore throat and hoarseness when she raises her voice in noisy bars.

Mrs Walters, who taught for 12 years, won a total of £156,000 in out-of-court settlements from her council after claiming she could never teach again.
As an ex-teacher with 18 years' classroom experience, I have a couple of observations:
  1. If the background noise was so great (both in volume and duration) as to make her damage her vocal cords, then surely her pupils would have suffered similar damage to their hearing. And if this went on over 12 years, why was this serious health risk not brought to the attention of the authorities much sooner?
  2. Any experienced teacher will tell you that a loud teacher is a bad teacher. We've all heard the screeching from a nearby classroom as Miss Binks tries to get control of 3Z. The occasional use of a loud voice is often necessary, but if it goes on over a whole lesson, you have to ask why. Was this never picked up in inspections and assessments?
But the killer quote is from her solicitor:
Joanne Jefferies, a specialist in workplace injuries at law firm Irwin Mitchell who represented Mrs Walters, added: ‘Despite attempts to raise her concerns with her employer, she was ignored and it has resulted in this terrible, life-altering injury.

As Julia points out, a "terrible, life-altering injury" is the loss of a limb, or permanent disablement, or brain injury - not a sore throat. But the news is full of people who stub their toe, and then claim that they will never work again because of the pain and the disability. We are invited to feel sorry - ££££-worth of sorry - for people who have suffered things that most people shrug off as a minor inconvenience. The lawyers plead, the judges nod, and the claimant gets more cash than they know what to do with - paid for by the rest of us, in one way or another.

I despise this attitude, and it's why I hate football too. Stub your toe, cry to mummy about how it's so unfair, get a sweetie, and run off to play in the sunshine. Why can't we just grow up?



It's a attitude skewered very well by Michael Bywater in his excellent book Big Babies, which I recommend to you.

[1] Poofs, as in lily-livered Fotherington-Thomases, not as in people of a homosexualist persuasion. I couldn't care less what they get up to in the changing room. Just so you know.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

11/11/10

For all those who fought to keep our country free, for all those who gave their lives, for all those who suffered, and suffer, terrible injury in the cause of freedom -

Thank you. You are not forgotten.



And a plague on those who would use those very freedoms to denigrate the great causes you fought for.

The irony of watching those who are able to desecrate the two-minutes' silence with alien chants and the burning of a poppy - because of your sacrifice they are free to do so.

The shame. The utter shame.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Anna Raccoon - she's back!

I wrote here and here about the demise of the excellent Anna Raccoon blog last month.

The blog was kept going by the sterling efforts of some of Anna's team, but it was never the same. Now, I am delighted to hear that Anna has returned.

This is good news. There is plenty of knockabout humour and polemic, some of it humorously caustic, in the blogosphere, but there is far too little intelligent and thoughtful analysis. Anna's return will rectify that to some extent.

Glad to see her back.

3 Amigos Toy Run 2010



I went on this last year.

This year: Saturday 11 December. Meet in the Commons Car Park, Pembroke, at 12:00 midday. Run starts at 1.00 pm. Bring a toy or donation.

If you're in the area, please come and participate. It's good fun.

Proof I was there last year - here, 3m 07s, green XT with fully-winterproofed rider. I'm famous.

Awkward Sod

I don't smoke; I gave up cigarettes for the final time almost four years ago, and it was the best thing I ever did. I don't like the smell any more, and I find the odour of tobacco on someone's breath pretty revolting. So count me as a non-smoker.

But I also believe in freedom. That freedom includes the right to smoke if you wish. No sentient being can be unaware of the health risks, so if anyone chooses to smoke they are doing so in the full knowledge of what they are doing. That is their right, and I will support that to the very end. As long as they don't smoke in my house, or in an enclosed space where I can't escape it, then as far as I am concerned they should be free to carry on. And the State has no right to spend my money on campaigns and co-ordinators to prevent people from undertaking a legal activity that harms no-one else. I feel the same about fox-hunting: I have never hunted and never will, but I will fight to support the rights of those who wish to. Freedom is indivisible: if one person loses their freedom to act as they please within the law, we all do. To put it another way - if it's smokers now, who's next?

Which is why I was amused and intrigued by this. It is a recording of someone who is trying to bring a quantity of tobacco through customs. What he is doing is perfectly legal according to EU law, but the British Customs don't like it. He knows the law, and he ties them in knots. Four customs officers yelling at him, and he stands his ground and remains reasonable and persistent. Admirable conduct.

Can't wait for Part 2.

H/t to Nothing 2 Declare.

*Snork*

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Kit Report - Richa Textile Suit



I bought this suit, like the boots mentioned below, in early 2007 when I returned to two wheels and decided to commute to work. Richa are a brand that don't feature very often in magazine tests (I've yet to see a single Richa item in RiDE magazine's kit surveys, for example) but they are the main product line that my local dealership stocks, and so they are local, available, and I can take them back if they go wrong.

I bought the suit in January, so warmth was uppermost in my mind when I was looking. This suit (the jacket is labelled 'Albatross', although I'm not sure if this applies to the pants or not) was basically the only suit that the dealer had in my price range. The jacket is of the usual construction: tough nylon/polyester outer, waterproof drop liner, and thermal inner jacket. Both the drop liner and the thermal liner can be zipped out, and the jacket has zipped ventilation openings, so the suit should be good for all seasons. The pants are similar, but with the waterproof liner bonded in somehow, and the thermal liner removeable. It has CE-approved armour at the shoulders, elbows and knees. It also has thick foam padding over the hips, and a substantial foam back protector. Neither of these are CE-approved, but they feel solid. I'm pretty sure the suit was sold to me as 'breathable', although there are no tags inside to indicate this. However, it is breathable, as many comfortable rides in warm weather can attest.

There was a choice between ordinary pants, which would zip to the jacket via a waist zip, or salopettes, which would not. I opted for the salopettes, as it was January and I wanted the maximum warmth and draughtproofing. The upper part of the salopettes can be zipped off the lower, leaving a pair of normal pants, but as these can't be attached to the jacket (no zip) they would need braces or a belt to stop them falling down. I leave them as they are.

There are plenty of pockets. The jacket has two outside pockets which are useful for your keys, but these fill with water when it rains, so anything that might be damaged by moisture should not be put here. There is a Napoleon packet on the front behind the main flap and I have had no problem with water in here, but technically it is outside the waterproof zone, so care should be taken. It's ideal for a wallet or mobile phone, but... There is a normal jacket pocket on the inside which is completely dry, and also a mobile phone pocket. This pocket is long and thin, so it was obviously designed for a different era of phones. The iPhone will only go in there with a struggle. This hardly matters, as there is a label warning you not to put mobile phones in it in case they fall out. Product Liability lawyers again. The pants have the normal slash pockets which, again, fill with water, but the salopette part has a small zipped pocket which would be ideal for an emergency stash of money or a phone. As it is under the jacket, this is completely dry, but it requires a full strip (almost) to reach it.

The suit as a whole is well-designed. It has a few grey/silver contrasting panels to relieve the monotony of the black and some logos and patches that are retro-reflective, but it could really do with something a bit bolder. There are Velcro straps on the upper arms and waist so that you can achieve a snug fit all round, and these work well. One of the waist straps pulled out of its seam a while ago, but it was only 10 minutes with a needle and thread to put it right.

Overall fit is good, although I went a little too large on the pants. I assumed I would be wearing trousers or jeans underneath the waterproofs, so I chose one size bigger then necessary. In fact, the pants are so warm that I don't wear jeans underneath and the pants are a little too baggy. This means that the knee protectors don't fit as well as they should over my knees: they tend to migrate inwards, which is annoying.

Warmth is excellent. With the (fairly thin) thermal liners in, I can ride my 20-30 minute commute with just a t-shirt underneath, even in winter with frost on the ground. This is quite convenient, as I used to keep a suit in work and just put on a clean shirt, underpants and socks, and then the Richa suit over the top. I changed into the suit at work and Robert was my mother's brother. Longer rides need more base layers, obviously, but even riding for 8-9 hours up to Newcastle at the end of October I only had on a thermal vest, t-shirt and thin fleece under the jacket, and long-johns under the pants. I was warm as toast.

Waterproofing is also excellent, although there is one weak spot to watch for. I once rode to work in a biblical downpour, and was rewarded with a soaking crotch for the rest of the day. It turns out I had failed to zip up the pants properly and had left a funnel for the water to run down and into my nether regions. When I got to Newcastle ten days ago, I was slightly damp in a similar way, and I think I must have failed to 'adjust my dress', as they say, after a pee stop somewhere on the motorway. It can't have been too bad, as I only noticed it when I stripped off in the hotel. But other than on those two occasions, the suit has been 100% watertight.

After a couple of years, the suit had started 'wetting out'. where the nylon outer fabric stops shedding the rain and gets soaked through. This doesn't affect the waterproofing, but it does make the suit very wet and heavy, and you can get quite wet taking it off, or even putting it on the next morning. Last summer, I treated it to a cleaning session in the washing machine with Nikwax Techwash, and then ran it through again with TX-Direct, which revitalises the water-repellent properties. I can't say it's as good as new after this, but it is a lot better than it was. (Note: the instructions on the TX-Direct tell you to ensure that the washing machine is clear of all liquids like fabric conditioner. I didn't bother with this first time, and the product plain didn't work. I did it all again after emptying and cleaning out the conditioner tray, and it worked fine. RTFM!)

I haven't crashed in the suit, so I can't say anything about its abrasion resistance, but it seems to be a pretty tough item and is holding up well. When this one is worn out, I will get another textile suit for sure. Leather is fabulous in all sorts of ways, but for sheer everyday useability a textile suit is hard to beat. And they are a lot cheaper than leathers as well - this suit was £180 for the jacket and £120 for the pants, so you have a full waterproof outfit, suitable for all seasons and weathers, for £300. You wouldn't get much in proper leather for that, and it wouldn't shed the rain either. I'll replace the leather jacket one day, and perhaps even get some leather pants to go with it, but the textile suit will still be there for utility purposes.

Recommend? Well, the Albatross suit is no longer available (this looks like the nearest equivalent, although I see it isn't breathable) but I would recommend Richa as a brand. I rather like the 'Richa' logo across the back of the shoulders, as if I can afford to have my own name emblazoned on my clothing, minus a couple of letters. Not everyone will feel this way, of course, including everyone called Dave. I would certainly buy another suit by them, although next time I might go for something with a bit of conspicuity built in, like this one. Logic - on dry, sunny days I will be wearing leathers or my Triumph textile jacket. The textile suit is for busy commutes, dark nights, wet days and winter - exactly the time I would be looking for a bit of hi-viz anyway. Horses for courses.

Kit Report - Sidi Black Rain Evo boots



I was lucky when I bought these boots back in 2007. Why lucky? Well, I seem to have got it right first time. I had returned to biking after a few years off, and my old Frank Thomases were in pretty poor condition. Despite plenty of dubbin and regular cleaning, they had gone very floppy and let in water like a sieve. I went up to M&P in Swansea for a hunt around, hoping to spend about £100. I was planning to commute in them, so the first requirement was they had to be waterproof. I hoped that boots had improved in the way all other kit had done in the 15 years or so since I invested in basic kit, and that manufacturers had now perfected the way to make boots that actually kept your feet dry. In my younger days, the only way you could guarantee dry feet was to wear either wellies or some strange things called Derriboots, which were made of rubber and had a drawstring round the top. Fine for riding to the factory on your Honda 50, but nowhere near stylish enough for even me, or protective enough for anyone with common sense.

The Sidis were the only boots in my price-range that looked decent and were guaranteed waterproof. They are vaguely race-style boots, which was not what I was really looking for, but everything else in the sub-£150 region that claimed waterproofness looked either like updated Derriboots or something a docker would wear when he was certain a 40-tonne container would be dropped on his foot. They were (I think) about £140, but the name and the Italian origin won me over.

They are made of Lorica, which is a synthetic leather substitute. It looks like leather, it feels like leather, and (I understand) it also protects like leather. Unlike leather, you can clean it by running the boot under a tap, and it is - yes indeed - absolutely waterproof. It fastens with a zip up the inside, which has a gusset of waterproof nylon material behind it, and the front part, which carries a very serious-looking plastic shin-protector, wraps over the zip with Velcro. They are easy to get on and off, and the fit is quite generous. The sole is quite thin and light, which means that you can feel gear changes very easily and be delicate on the back brake, and there is a slim heel to make walking for short distances a reasonable proposition. If you try this, you will be pleased to learn that they don't squeak.

I needed waterproof, and I got waterproof. In nearly four years of almost-daily use, they have never let in a drop of water. Not once. I find that quite impressive.

I have quite broad feet, and Italian footwear is often way too narrow for me, but these fit me fine. I chose half a size bigger than normal, to allow for wearing thick socks in the winter, but in fact the boots are quite warm and this is rarely necessary.

One disappointment is the quality of the zips. I had had the first pair for only about six months when the zip on the right boot gave way. M&P replaced them, although they tried the line that 'we will have to send them back to the manufacturers for inspection before they will authorise a new pair'. A quick reminder of the Sale of Goods Act 1883, as amended, and they agreed to replace, but only if I presented them in person. One trip to Swansea later, I had a new pair. About a year later, the tang broke off one of the zips (again, the right-hand one) and I replaced it with one of those cheapie plastic-loop key-rings hooked through the stub. The plastic loop has gone, but the ring is still there and they work fine. However, the right-hand zip has started to jam on occasions, and I suspect that they will be due for replacement before too long.

They have also started to get a little ripe. I don't think that the Lorica breathes at all, and so although they are fine to wear in hot weather - they don't overheat - I think daily use and the lack of ventilation over three years has formed a biohazard in there. I need to get some trainer-tamer type stuff [1].

Protection is good. There is a big plastic moulding across the front in the shin area, two plastic cups over the ankle-bones, and a plastic heel cup. They feel very solid and safe; I have whacked my feet several times on footpegs and the like and the boots have saved me from bruises and bangs. There is a reinforcing patch for the gear-lever on both boots. Although Lorica doesn't break in like leather does, these boots have worn to my shape quite well.

In summary:

Good:
  • 100% waterproof.
  • Light and easy to wear, comfort when walking is adequate.
  • Easy to put on and take off.
  • Looks go equally well with leathers, textiles or jeans.
  • Good impact protection.
Less good:
  • Zip quality not up to the standard of the rest.
  • Poor ventilation.
Would I recommend them? Yes, with the above slight reservations. Would I buy them again when these wear out? Probably not - I will be looking for something with less 'race-boot' styling. But overall, I don't regret the money I spent on them.

There's a favourable review on these boots here. Still available, at around £135.
"If you have to make do with just one pair of boots to use in all weathers and all circumstances then the Sidi Black Rain Evo has to be just about the best possible choice you could make."
I'd agree with that, although from the comments it seems I am not alone with my breaking zips.

[1] I was told by someone that a good way to stop footwear smelling without the use of nasty chemicals is to put them in a plastic bag and leave them in a freezer overnight. The cold kills the bugs that cause the odour. I did this when I didn't need the boots for a few days, and I forgot I had put them there. Of course, the next time I needed the boots, they were nowhere to be seen. I eventually remembered where I had put them, but I had to put them on immediately, as I was late for work. My feet have never been so cold! It worked on the bugs, though.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Optimism

In a recent post, I told an old joke:
  • The pessimist says the glass is half empty
  • The optimist says it's half full
  • The engineer says the glass is bigger then it needs to be.
The comments provided some interesting additional angles on the topic. And now we have another take on the issue:



H/t to Tom Paine, whose thoughtful and intelligent blog I recommend.

Night Shift

Last night I did my first night shift, 6.30 pm to 6.30 am. I got to bed at 7.30 am and have only just surfaced.

I last worked 'proper' nights (rather than just stupidly late or early day shifts) when I was about 21. It seemed easier then. No doubt I will get used to it.

But for now ... bloody hell.

(The new job, for anyone that is interested, is back with my old employees - a large tourism operation - and I am a Security Supervisor. It's a lot less money than the last job, but also a lot less stress, and I think it could be quite good fun. I'll let you know.)

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Scottoiler



A few weeks ago, a friend from the TOMCC told me he had a Scottoiler that he wasn't using, and offered it to me free of charge. Fitting one of these was on my 'to do when funds allow' list for the Bonnie, so I bit his hand off and he passed it to me a few days later at a club meet.

A motorcycle chain should be lubricated regularly - even as often as every 200 miles in wet or dusty weather. For those that don't know, a chain oiler is a small reservoir of oil that is fitted to the bike and delivers a metered amount of oil to the chain while the bike is running. There are several makes and designs, but my preferred option is the Scottoiler. I have fitted these devices to two of my previous bikes, and they work well. One fill of oil lasts about 1000 miles - enough for most tours, or 6-7 weeks of commuting for me. I generally lube the chain on my bikes every week, but the Bonnie (like many modern bikes) lacks a centre stand, and so lubing the chain involves either walking the bike to and fro while trying to keep the oil bottle or spray in the right direction, or putting it up on the bike lift: more hassle than I need for a simple and regular maintenace operation. I would recommend a chain oiler for any bike in regular use that doesn't have a centre stand. It saves time and hassle, and you can't forget to do it.

The great thing about the Scottoiler is that it is fully automatic. It works by gravity, with the oil reservoir above the chain height, and with a narrow tube leading down to the rear sprocket. A little nozzle ensures that the oil is delivered to the exact spot. The reservoir has a valve which is opened by engine vacuum, so when the engine starts, so does the oiler. It delivers about one drop per minute, so standing in traffic with the engine running is no big deal. All you have to do is fill the reservoir every so often, and check periodically that the chain is moist with a coat of oil.

(Note: the version I fitted is called the vSystem - for vacuum - and used to be called the Universal Kit. There is also a system using electronics to meter the oil delivery called the eSystem. This costs over £200, and as the original system works perfectly well, I can't see why you would want one. Unless you want another module on your handlebars telling you how much oil it is delivering, which might be interesting to technojunkies, it's just more complexity for no benefit that I can see.)

The Scottoiler that Andy gave me (thanks buddy) was minus a couple of essential bits, but these are all available from the company's website: www.scottoiler.com. Ten quid for the extra bits was well worth it, considering the full kit now costs £90. (Still worth it even at that price, though.) So today I got round to fitting it.

Fitting is pretty straightforward. You start at the delivery end, and make sure that the delivery pipe is in the right position relative to the rear sprocket and chain. The kit comes with a lot of brackets of various sizes and designs to make this as easy as possible. Fortunately, I had lots of bits left over from previous installs, so I was able to find a bracket that suited the Bonnie perfectly. It fits to the main axle bolt and I bent it round to get the nozzle right on the sprocket at the 7 o'clock position. I took the right-hand silencer off to make access a bit easier.





After this, you work upwards. A plastic guide for the delivery tube is glued to the underside of the swingarm, and the tube glued into the guide (Superglue provided in the kit). You need to make sure that the place you are sticking it onto is clean and free of grease, which means a bit of work with the old degreaser and then roughing it down with a bit of sandpaper. Three cable ties for extra security and we're done. Then you fasten the reservoir to the frame somewhere. This is usually the most difficult bit - not the fastening, but finding somewhere suitable. The reservoir needs to be about 12" above the chain, and as near to vertical as possible. When I fitted the device to bikes previously, I tried to hide it away somewhere, but this just means more hassle when fitting, and taking off body panels and parts when the time comes to fill it up again, so this time I just cable-tied it to the frame in full view. The Bonnie is a fairly nuts'n'bolts type bike anyway, and it doesn't look out of place. If I had a Ducati 1098, I might make more of an effort to hide it. But this way, I can see how much oil is left without having to take anything apart, and filling is similarly straightforward.



The only other thing to fit is the vacuum tube which activates the valve in the reservoir. This involved simply removing a rubber cap from the carb intake and fitting a rubber elbow with the vacuum tube attached. It's a bloody tight fit (and should be), so soaking the elbow in hot water and applying a dab of Fairy Liquid helps.



The reservoir has a breather tube that needs to be tucked away somewhere - I put mine under the seat alongside the battery.

After that, all you need to do is fill the reservoir, prime it, and adjust the flow rate. The breather tube is detached, and a bottle of oil is plugged into the nozzle at the top of the reservoir. You set the reservoir dial to 'prime', then start the engine (to release the vacuum valve) and squeeze the bottle until oil comes out at the delivery nozzle. You must do this until there are no air bubbles in the tube and there is an unbroken column of oil. Once the oil is flowing through, you adjust the dial until oil is coming out at the rate of about one drop per minute. Let me tell you, this can take quite a while and is a very dull activity.

Then go and make a cup of tea. Here's the whole installation, and I don't think it is too obtrusive.



I shall check the state of the chain and the amount of oil flung onto the number plate and rear wheel for the next few days of riding, to make sure the delivery is enough but not excessive. Adjusted properly, there should be very little oil flung about. There is always some, but I regard that as an acceptable price for having a chain which is constantly lubricated and therefore efficient.

There are PDFs describing the fitting of a Scottoiler to almost every bike known to Man on the Scottoiler website, and there is a very friendly telephone helpline, so there's no excuse for getting it wrong.

The Scottoiler is simple, robust and foolproof. I'm happy to recommend it wholeheartedly.

Friday, 5 November 2010

One rule for them ...

From the BBC's Berkshire News page:
Reading cyclists fined £30 for riding with no lights

Cyclists caught riding without lights in the dark have been fined as part of a police clampdown.
Good.
Thirty people were stopped outside Reading Station as part of a new safer riding initiative, which has been rolled out across the Thames Valley.
Excellent.
Those caught between 1800 and 2100 GMT on Tuesday were given £30 fixed penalty notices for travelling without lights.
At last! Cyclists expected to follow the normal rules of the road like the rest of us. Whatever next? Fined for running red lights? Riding on the pavement? Treating one-way streets as if they were their own driveway? I'm all in favour. Oh, hang on ...
If riders show police a receipt showing a set of lights has been bought within seven days, the fine will be cancelled.
So, if I am stopped and given a fixed penalty for (say) riding with a bald rear tyre, I will be offered the chance to turn up at the cop shop a week later with a receipt for a new one, and they will forget all about it?

Nope. You see, we're not special like cyclists.

UKIP if you want to ...

I see than the grinning Nigel Farage has been re-elected as UKIP leader. In a way, I don't trust Farage. He reminds me of the hail-fellow-well-met type you meet at social functions who clap you on the back and say things like "so tell me, Richard, what's your poison old boy, eh?" He is definitely of the blazer-wearing tendency, and I bet he secretly hankers after a Jaguar if he doesn't already own one. And drives it in a car coat and string-back gloves.

However, accidents and near-misses have a habit of endearing people to you, despite your reservations. I can never see Norman Tebbit without remembering the awful image of him being lifted out of the rubble of the Grand Hotel, Brighton in his pyjamas, caked in dust and with a look of anguish on his face. He was never Vlad the Impaler after that. And Farage's plane crash on election day has had the same effect. I feel rather fond of the old boy.

This comes at rather a good time. I had the strong feeling that the country I grew up in and loved had gone in a different and very wrong direction, and away from me, in the last 13 years of Labour. I had high hopes for the coalition, after their promises to roll back the database state and have a bonfire of unnecessary laws. And of course there was the 'cast-iron' guarantee of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Heh.

I do not have unrealistic expectations about what can be achieved and how quickly. I don't expect the coalition to bring back the Golden Age in the first 12 months of office. But there are depressing signs that things are perhaps not going to be done quite as I had hoped. A lot of quangos are to be axed, but an awful lot will be spared too. There is no sign of the Government tackling the spiteful bias of the BBC's news and current affairs output. Nothing was done before the announcement of the Spending Review, which allowed the BBC to colour the whole affair as 'the terrible cuts', and any action taken now won't repair the damage that the coverage did to the public's view of the events. Maybe they won't do anything. Call Me Dave seems to have kowtowed to the EU just as much as Blair and Brown, although with less visible enthusiasm.

I have always voted for the party that stands a realistic chance of effecting the kind of politics that I want, which is why I haven't ever voted for minority parties. Last May, the Conservatives seemed to be the party that was offering something close to what I wanted, and they had a good chance of forming a government and being able actually to do something. I'm not writing them off yet - for all their faults, they are a million miles better then the last lot of hucksters and criminals - but I am starting to feel a lot of disappointment at their lack of activity on certain things that I regard as vitally important, specifically
  • cutting the BBC down to size and making it politically neutral once more
  • standing up for British interests abroad, and especially with the EU
  • starting to reform the law in favour of the law-abiding majority and not the terrorist and the criminal
  • "That government is best which governs least".
Of course, many of the reforms that I would like to see are impossible while we are full members of the EU. So tackling that relationship - and being brave enough to take some bold and far-reaching steps - has to come at the top of the list. And I no longer have much confidence that Cameron is about to do anything remotely radical about it. He's looking more and more like Blair in a blue tie.

Farage talks a good talk, and isn't afraid to say what ordinary people are thinking, without the self-censorship that most politicians indulge in. I still hold out hope that the coalition will do some good things, and maybe even start working towards a Britain that I will recognise as my own. But their time is running out for me, and if they lose my confidence and support, UKIP is likely to be the beneficiary.

It's easy to look at small, single-issue parties and see the lack of proportion and paucity of talent. You may agree with everything the BNP says, for example, but would you want them in charge of the economy? Really? Of all the minor parties, UKIP seem the most coherent and competent. And, if Cameron can't or won't deliver what the country needs, how much worse would they be? At least we know what they stand for.

I haven't changed my voting intentions yet, but I can now see a time when I might.
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