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

- George Washington

Friday, 30 March 2012

I Blame The Government (As Usual)

Let's get this right.

A woman is decanting petrol to help out a neighbour who needs some. OK so far.

She does it indoors. Bad move. In the kitchen. Worse move.

She is pouring the petrol into a glass jug. Even worse move. Next to the stove. Terrible move.

The stove is on, as they are cooking tea over a burning gas ring. Suicidal move.

The vapour ignites, the woman drops the jug, and the place goes up in flames. The woman ends up in hospital with 40% burns.

And what happens next, in Britain 2012?

Labour call for a government minister to resign. You see, the minister concerned had advised people to keep a little extra petrol in a proper, sealed container in the garage in case of possible shortages, so it was obviously his fault.
John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, said Mr Maude should do the "decent thing" and resign over his comments.
They really do think like this. That's the worry.

And they wonder why we hold them in complete contempt.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Addendum to previous post

Following on from this bit of misery-making, I had a thought.

I think I have a new favourite hate-word. If you've read this blog for a while, you will know that I have a thing about the word 'appropriate'. Not in its proper sense, however; only when used by the Righteous to mean 'something that I personally don't approve of, and no-one else should either'. Like a kiss in the playground being 'inappropriate contact'. Or a man whistling at a pretty girl demonstrating 'inappropriate behaviour'. Behind the word is a mass of arrogance - that what I don't like is what no-one should like. But then reading the quotation from the BBC article I had a sudden shock. Here is a word that is worse, I think.
"Clear and easily understood information is central to ensuring that everyone is aware of the risks of excessive alcohol consumption and can make informed choices about responsible drinking," it said.
Responsible drinking. Have you ever heard a phrase that drips with quite as much misanthropic and miserable sourness?

Responsible drinking. It's so very prim and prissy, like the man who folds his Y-fronts before getting down to some carefully-planned and 'appropriate' contact with his wife.

Responsible drinking. How utterly, utterly wet. The very phrase makes me want to get totally rat-arsed on pints of absinthe and smash up a town centre or two.

Don't drink, don't smoke, eat moderately and exercise appropriately. You won't live for ever, but it will seem like it.

Alcohol and common sense

I was delighted to see this on the BBC's website tonight:
Advice on drinking alcohol to be reviewed
Well, thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for that - common sense at last. It goes on to say:
The Department of Health has consulted experts who have admitted that the
current recommended alcohol limits are not based on scientific evidence.
"Basically, we pulled the numbers out of our arses when the Royal College of
Physicians was asked to provide recommended limits. There was no solid data, so we made it up. We based our figures on what we thought the Government wanted to hear. We're sorry we didn't make this clearer at the time."
Nah, only kidding.
The Department of Health says it has heard "sufficient concerns" from experts to suggest that a thorough review of the evidence on alcohol and health risks is now due.

"Clear and easily understood information is central to ensuring that everyone is aware of the risks of excessive alcohol consumption and can make informed choices about responsible drinking," it said.

Research shows that many people who drink do not realise how much they consume.

Over 9m people in England (22% of adults) reported drinking at above guideline levels in 2009.
As the guidelines are complete bollocks, this statistic is meaningless. I am not surprised, however, that the BBC is reporting it as if it were the end of Civilisation As We Know It.

Never miss an opportunity to make people miserable, that's what I say.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Party Funding

Not "everyone chip in a tenner and send the guy with the biggest panniers to the beer shop". No, the other kind.

It looks as though state funding of political parties is on the agenda again, after the Sunday Times sting on the inept Peter Cruddas.

There are many reasons why I will never accept this. All of them are so well covered by Snowolf in his recent post that further comment from me is superfluous. Go read. Key quote:
Fourthly, it is not equitable, because you can bet that the amount of cash allocated to each party will be based on bums on seats in the House or shares of votes. It will see the big three freezing out all the others, and the LibLabCon will grow ever fatter, complacent and arrogant on the back of our enforced largesse. It really will be the old boys’ club, Christ on a little purple tricycle, the big three are indistinguishable enough at the moment, just wait until they can dictate what funding, if any, the little boys will get. It’s simply not on, UKIP, the Greens, SNP, PC, BNP, English Democrats, all legit political parties, will be starved of oxygen and shut down. You’ll be paying to hear the voice that decides what voice you get to hear.

More double standards

Remember this one?
A gang of Muslim women who attacked a passer-by in a city centre walked free from court after a judge heard they were ‘not used to being drunk’ because of their religion.

The group – three sisters and a cousin – allegedly screamed ‘kill the white slag’ as they set upon Rhea Page as she waited for a taxi with her boyfriend.

Miss Page, 22, was left with a bald patch where her hair was pulled out in the attack and was left ‘black and blue’ after suffering a flurry of kicks to the head, back, arms and legs while motionless on the pavement.

None of the defendants was charged with racial aggravation.
A thoroughly nasty attack with serious consequences for the victim, but the offenders were freed. Despite the words used, the attack was deemed not to be racially motivated. In fact, the girls' religion counted in their favour as, being Muslims, they were "not used to drink" and therefore were not held culpable for their actions.

Another thoroughly nasty bit of violence happened last week:
A Salford woman had acid thrown at her in a racist attack as she pushed her baby in a pram along a street.

The 29-year-old was in an underpass on Broad Street, Pendleton, on Thursday when a man in his 40s approached her.

He made a sexual and racist comment to her before throwing a container of corrosive liquid over her.

The victim, who is black, was taken to hospital with burns to her chest and back, and is in a stable condition. Her baby was not injured.

A police spokesman said it was believed to have been a random attack on the woman and it was being treated as a hate crime.
I'm not going to get into a discussion about whether throwing acid over someone is worse or better than kicking the crap out of them when they are lying on the floor. Both are deeply unpleasant acts of cowardly violence and in any civilised society should be severely punished.

My only comment is: why the different treatment?

The BBC seems to have made its mind up about the racist element of the second attack (and I am sure they are right). I wonder what will happen when this comes to court.

As JuliaM is wont to say - one to watch.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Rite Of Spring

First sunny Sunday of the the year: bike ride.

A few of us met in the cafe on the airfield and had a full English - always a good way to start any enterprise. (It's usually known round here as a Full Welsh Breakfast, but I can't see any difference from the standard variety. But it did the job: I wasn't hungry again until 6 pm.) Our Secretary was there, with her husband, on her Triumph Thruxton 900, and another member who was riding a Bonneville. The one I traded in against the Sprint last summer. Which had originally been owned, before me, by another Club member. It's all a bit incestuous, really. He likes it, though. He has shorter legs than I do, which may account for it.

We sat outside for a long time, drinking coffee and waiting for the mythical 'others' to turn up, but none did, so we decided to make it a short day. Basically, as it was nearly lunchtime by then, we went for a pint. Twenty miles away.

We spent a lot of time in the nadgery little roads between Pembroke and Tenby, along the coast. The views were spectacular, but it wasn't Sprint country at all. I was in first and second gear nearly all the way, and was constantly thinking about the amount of dust and gravel on the little-used roads, and what happened last time I rolled over some gravel on the Big Red One. It was a relief, after we had parted and gone our separate ways home, to get it on some main roads and let it rip, in a cautious and thoroughly legal way, of course. Sports and sports-tourer bikes belong on big roads. It's only at about 60 that the Sprint starts to make sense and get into its stride. Riding it on B-roads is like ploughing a field with a Derby winner - possible, but with a deep sense of wrongness.

I kinda wish I had taken the XT.

Saturday, 24 March 2012


I like this French phrase. Translated literally, it means 'pretty ugly', but Merriam Webster gives the accepted meaning:
good-looking ugly woman : woman who is attractive though not conventionally pretty
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beerholder and all that, and perhaps I am just getting old, but there is something special about a woman who does not conform to all the conventional rules of beauty but nevertheless provokes the gut reaction of "wow, yes". All those tanned, blonde, perky-breasted 20-something starlets - well, yeah, OK. But the Regency knew all about the positioning of the (fake) beauty spot, and the rule of the Golden Section demonstrates that the most pleasing proportions are never in the exact centre of the rectangle or line. Fibonacci knew a thing or two.

OK, I'm digressing. I had a very interesting conversation this morning in unlikely circumstances.

I had parked the XT outside the supermarket to use the cashpoint. Two chavmobiles (a 205 and a Fiesta, exhaust cans the size of dustbins, massive bass units, tinted glass) were parked driver-to-driver while the occupants had a chat. As I climbed back on board, the driver of the one facing me shouted something at me. Fully-helmeted, I didn't hear what he said, but I'm not one to back down from a challenge, so I got off again and walked over. I asked him what he had said.

"I said 'how old is the bike?'"

"1994, first registered 1995. What about it?"

"It's beautiful, man. What a lovely old bike."


"Yeah, it's great to see a bike like that still being used on the road. I love it."

He wasn't taking the piss. In fact, I retract those chavmobile comments above, because the pair of them were nice lads, about 20, clean and tattoo-free, and seemed very pleasant and polite. I told them a bit about the bike and why I liked it so much myself, and they seemed to understand. I told them they had made my day, and departed.

Now be serious. Have a look at this (pic taken the moment I got home) and tell me with a straight face that this is a beautiful bike:

No, thought not. The wheels are rusty, the engine is covered with oily muck, some of the body plastics are missing and it hasn't been washed in six months.

I was convinced for a while that they were taking the mick, and then I realised something. It was exactly the same reaction I have at bikes from the 50s and 60s which are tatty but in working order and regular use. There's a guy I sometimes meet at rideouts and events who rides a 1950 Norton 16H, tatty and rusty but sound and well-used. I love to see it, to ride alongside it, to listen to it. It's a proper relic, but somehow keeping a relic in working order is putting two fingers up to the planned-obsolescence culture of rampant consumerist trinketry, and I like it. What gets me going is a working bike from my own childhood or teenage years, and when I do the maths it's the same for these kids. I guess they were born in the early 90s, so their reaction to the XT is the same as my reaction to a bike from, say, 1955.

Which is exactly the same. They probably drooled over bikes like this in magazines, and Uncle Emlyn had one and he was really cool, and all that. Just like I did over the Bonnevilles and Tigers and Commandos of my youth.

Nothing really changes, I guess.

But I don't have that excuse. I think my reaction is something like the 'jolie-laide' idea. You know, when something is so bad, it's good. Who would have a pale green motorbike, still less one where the designer's idea of colour co-ordination is to mix it with lilac? A lot of bikes in the late 80s had these migraine graphics, and it looks dated but correct on a large sportsbike. I think Yamaha were a bit late to the party with their trail bikes on this one. By 1994, a lot of bikes were being dressed in plain colours. Yes, it's naff. And I like it naff, thank you.

It does pose a problem, though. When (if) I ever get round to restoring/refurbing the XT, do I go for a plain colour and less plastic - better-looking, almost certainly, and easier and cheaper to do - or do I go for the back-to-factory approach and wear myself down tracking obscure parts in even more obscure colours down on eBay? These green ones are pretty rare, it seems. A search for XT600E in Google Images produces hundreds of XTs, but hardly any of them are green and lilac. And from the reaction of these lads today, maybe it will be worth keeping it as standard as possible.

Decisions, decisions - but it's a nice day here, so I am off for a ride.

And first rideout of the year with MAG tomorrow. Excellent.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The reign in Speign

I think I am going to start a weekly John Major-style 'back to basics' spelling column. Here's the BBC's Chief Scaremonger Environment correspondent with one of my pet hates:
"However, it's not too late for David Cameron to turn this around and leave an environmental legacy he can be proud of," she said.

"He can start by reigning in his chancellor, who seems hell-bent on trashing the environment."

No, no, no.

'Reign' is what the Queen does. It means 'rule' and is related to the Latin rex or regina, king and queen. It's almost an anagram of regina. Perhaps that will help. "Reign in" makes no sense.

'Rein' is what you have on a horse to control the bridle. To stop or slow the animal, you pull on the reins, or "rein in" the horse.

From the context, I am sure Black intended that Cameron should slow down or stop his chancellor (shouldn't that have a capital 'C'?), rather than have him rule the country from his living room.

(HMTQ: As it is tipping it down outside, we propose to reign in for the afternoon.)

A hundred lines, Black, "I will learn to spell proper, like" and homework is to find out that 'homophone' means. No, not that, stupid boy ...

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Ride of Respect 2012

Another excellent day riding one-handed round the villages of Wiltshire while high-fiving local schoolchildren.

I didn't have to make the silly-o'clock start that I had to make last year as my start time was at a very civilised 11 am. I left home at 8 am, fuelled up and set off up the M4. It was a cold and wet day, but as it was the first really long ride on the Sprint I was keen to see how it performed, whatever the conditions. I stopped at Leigh Delamere services to kit the bike out with Union and Welsh flags, as I did last year:

My plan was to meet blog commenter Conniesdad on the airfield - basically, turn up and hit the phones until we made contact. In the end I rode right past him, as he was waiting for me at the entrance gate and had left me a voicemail to say that was where he would be. However, the iPhone, inaudible at the best of times, was in the bike's topbox and I didn't get the message until about five minutes ago.

In the end, I parked up and waited for him to arrive on his 'rather camp' (his words, not mine) teal-blue VTR Firestorm. It was a great-looking bike, and with his rather minimalist exhaust can, it sounded good too. Like a civilised Ducati, if that's not a contradiction in terms.

We had a chat and a burger and then our group was called. Of course, I was over by the bins getting rid of the coffee cups and couldn't find the bike in the crowd. Amazing how many red 955 Sprints you can find when you don't need them. I counted three before seeing Conniesdad's hand waving over to my left, guiding me back to the correct one.

Numbers were slightly down on last year. I think last year there were 10,000 bikes, and this year the BBC estimates 4,000, although it is too early for the final figures to be in. Guessing at one pillion passenger per three riders, that would mean £50-60,000 for the military charities that benefit from the ride. Not bad, all in all.

This will be the last Ride of Respect, as the fallen servicemen are no longer repatriated through RAF Lyneham. The repatriations were moved to RAF Brize Norton some time ago, but apparently the organisation of this year's event was too far gone to cancel, so the Police agreed it could go ahead. The purpose of the ride is threefold: to show respect for the servicemen killed or injured in their country's service and raise funds for military charities, to congratulate Royal Wootton Bassett on its 'promotion' from plain old WB, and to thank the people of the town for their extraordinary decency and dignity in lining the streets to mark the return of the fallen, at a time when the government of the country seemed to be turning its back on them.

I waved goodbye to Conniesdad at the end of the ride, and watched him do a cheeky snap overtake of a white van before turning the Sprint's nose towards home. It was good to meet up, and we established during conversation that this was the first time I had met one of my blog readers 'in the flesh'. All those friends I have never met! (There is one regular commenter that I have known for 40 years and even shared a house with, and he knows who he is, but that sort of doesn't count.)

An unremarkable ride home along the M4 on drier roads ended the day. I was very pleased with the way the bike performed. I kept the speeds sensible - cruising at 85 or 90 (that's in kph if any policemen are reading this) and the bike achieved just over 50 mpg. That's just a little less than the XT returns, for speeds half as fast again and a lot less drama. I had a slight ache in my wrists and forearms for the last 50 miles, probably down to the fact that I am not used to the leaning-forward position yet. But the double-bubble screen gives a quiet and non-blustery ride, the fairing keeps the worst of the wind and weather off, and the riding position is way less cramped than the Bonnie's was. My knees didn't trouble me at all today - last year, I could hardly walk after two hours on the Bonnie. Changing to the Sprint was a good move.

All the magazines rave about the Triumph triple engine, both in 955 and 1050 manifestations. I can see why. It's very eager, and has more power than I can safely use. There is useable power from 2000 rpm onwards, so you can be lazy about changing gears, but dropping two and letting it howl to the redline is quite addictive. Cruising at 80 sees the engine turning at 4500 rpm, which is just less than half the maximum on the dial, so it feels unstressed but still lively. It just wants to keep going, which makes for a relaxing and fatigue-free ride. Apart from the slight ache in the arms, I got off after 300+ miles feeling as fresh as a daisy.

Not only was this an opportunity to do a bit of bonding with the bike (it has spent most of the 7 months I have had it in the garage, as the XT is still my daily hassle-free choice, and I have only ridden it about 2500 miles), but also I got to find out the results of my mechanical playtime over the last few weeks, when I replaced the head bearings, refreshed the forks, and fitted new pads to the front brakes. One, nothing fell off, which is always the first definition of successful spannering. Two, the bike now steers as sweetly as it did when new - I can't believe how I dared to ride it in the condition it was in before. And three, EBC HH pads have transformed the braking from 'fairly good' to 'bloody hell!'. A two-finger squeeze on the lever stands the bike on its nose, just like the comics said it should.

Oh, and I have finally found a place to put the 'Team Bike' sticker that I have had hanging around for a couple of years. It was free with an edition of the magazine back in the mid-70s (I remember getting one, and then losing it) and I found this one in a pile of old magazines that someone was throwing away a few years ago. I also have a 'GB' sticker with 'Bike Magazine - Invasion Force' on it, but I couldn 't find anywhere on the Sprint's slim and shapely arse that would take it. Maybe another day.

Off We Go ...

That time of year again - Mother's Day and the Ride of Respect 2012. I've managed to arrange an 11 am start time, and hope to meet commenter Conniesdad there (or later for a coffee if not). I'm looking forward to that.

I spent a bit of time hunting round the shops the other day, looking for a jokey gift to Anna from Bonkers Dog and Rescue Cat. I was a bit overwhelmed with all the cheesy Mothers' Day stuff, but curiously I find I am more in sympathy with it than ever before. When my own mother was alive, I was full of all the angry young man stuff about commercialisation, greedy companies cashing in on a traditional religious occasion (getting all that faux outrage on behalf of a religion I didn't share), "It's Mothering Sunday, really, you know".

Now that I don't have anyone to buy for, I realise what I prick I used to be.

If you have a mother, give her a hug today. One day, you'll wish you could.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Nokia win

Yesterday, I was rummaging through a box of junk while clearing out the study for a bit of redecoration. And I found the phone I have been looking for. My old faithful Nokia 6310i, which was on my desk (under a pile of power supplies, portable drives, wireless dongles and millions of connecting cables) and had then been swept into an old green Safeway box as part of the Nowhere Towers Clearances.

I have been searching for it for quite a while, as I have it as an emergency phone with a PAYG simcard, and it needs switching on and a call made every so often to keep the SIM alive. I think I last held the phone three months ago, but it could easily be four or even six.

I pressed the 'on' button.


Why can't they make phones like this today?

Hello, old friend.

Crowdfunder Update

Follow-up to my earlier post today:

Rose from Crowdfunder replied before 9 am. Someone who obviously likes to start the day by clearing the crap off her desk. Good girl.
Hi Richard

I'm sorry you're having trouble with the site, we do take payments via credit card but it works through the Paypal interface, so if you continue with the button that says "pay by Paypal" then it will take you to paypal and you can pay by credit card and you don't require a paypal account.

I will go through the FAQ's and make some amendments, thanks for pointing this out.

I love the logic. To pay by credit card, you must act as if you are paying by Paypal (and there's nothing to tell you that this is what you are not doing) and then do a last-minute swerve. It's utterly counter-intuitive.

At least she is looking at the FAQs.

If I feel strong later today I will have another crack at it.


I clicked the Paypal button and, sure enough, you can pay using a credit/debit card this way. But you have to accept all of Paypal's terms and conditions to do so, and the amount still includes a Paypal charge of 6.6%, so I suspect you will still be paying the eeeevil capitalists at Paypal however you choose to donate. I have emailed Rose for clarification.

Am I making a fuss over nothing? I don't think so. As Joe Public says in tbe comments to the previous post, the first rule of selling is you make it easy for the buyer to buy. If you solicit donations and then start whacking charges on top, you should not be surprised if people recoil. Let me be clear: I have no problem with Paypal making money by doing what Paypal do, and I think the 'crowdfunding' idea is an excellent one. But Crowdfunder already have a revenue stream, in that they claim a success fee from projects that meet their targets. They claim that they do not make any money from Paypal charges, so I conclude that they are only using Paypal for the convenience of their potential donors. I have often used Paypal to pass small amounts of money to people, and have done so free of charge. I can't see why this should be any different.

And Paypal, as a high-profile representative of the greedy capitalist global consumerist banking tax-avoiding military-indistrial complex, is hardly likely to be a popular choice with the kind of people who go around dropping money on obscure artistic projects. It's put me off, and I am a card-carrying capitalist!

Crowdfunder - is it just me?

Following yesterday's post about Glenn Ibbitson's efforts to fund his art film project, I decided to bung the chap a few quid. It was the start of an hour's frustration.

He has decided to use a website called Crowdfunder to raise the finance. You have a creative project of some kind, you make a pitch on the website, and people donate. It's a bit like JustGiving and other fundraising websites, with a couple of differences. With Crowdfunder, if the pitch doesn't make its target, no money is handed over, but is returned to the donors. And the pitcher must offer rewards to donors (Glenn is offering stuff like signed postcards, artwork from the film's storyboards and so on). It all sounds very good, and after a bit of debating with my inner bank manager I decided to put a tenner his way.

What did I expect? Well, if it's anything like JustGiving, you find the home page of the cause you want to support, you fill in your card details, you click a button, job done. So I registered, and clicked the Fund A Pitch button, only to be told that I didn't have enough in my account balance. Huh? Of course my balance is zero - I've just got here. I wondered if perhaps you had to add funds to your account (in effect, pre-load the funds) before you could release them to a worthy cause, but I couldn't find any mechanism on the site to do so.

OK, it said, since you have a zero balance you can pay by Paypal. Ten pound donation, plus Paypal fees of 66 pence, equals ... hang on. I'm not selling something on eBay, I am trying to donate some cash to a project. This can't be right. So off I go in search of enlightenment, and find the FAQ pages, which I study in earnest. Here are some quotes from the FAQs.
How do I contribute to a project?
If you don’t have enough credit on your account then you will be prompted to add some more via your credit card or Paypal.
Reference to 'your account' sounds as if you make frequent withdrawals and deposits. Listen, chaps, I am only here to bung someone a few quid. Don't over-complicate it, OK? Right, credit card it is.
Who can contribute funds?
Anyone who has a valid credit card or Paypal account and is over 18 years old can contribute funds to projects on Crowdfunder. Please note, you do not need a PayPal account to contribute to a pitch. You simply go through the account set up and click on the appropriate credit card or debit card link to pay.
I went to the My Account pages, but I couldn’t find any mention of payment methods. I even tried setting up a new account to see if I had missed something first time around, but the system doesn't allow multiple accounts on one email address. No luck.
Can I pay by cheque or cash?
No, we only accept payment by Paypal.
Hang on, what was all that about credit and debit cards earlier?
If I contribute, what am I charged and when?
PayPal will charge you their usual transaction rate of 3.4% when you add credit to your Crowdfunder account balance.
OK, I get that. But I don't want to use Paypal, and your FAQs state explicitly that I don't have to. Another half-hour of searching the site, and I still couldn't find a way to pay by card. Every avenue ended in the Paypal cul-de-sac. So I gave up.

I still don't know whether you can donate using a debit card. The site is full of these contradictory statements which I can't make sense of, so I have emailed their support team for enlightenment.

I have sold a lot of stuff on eBay, and paid the handsome Paypal charges for doing so. I don't mind this, really. Paypal offer a service and you pay for the service. Don't like it, don't use it. It's not compulsory (except that on eBay you can't refuse payment this way, which is a bit of a sod*). I am used to Paypal charges when you receive money, not from when you pay money, however, but never mind that. What's frustrating is the lack of clarity from Crowdfunder. You don't need a Paypal account, you can use a credit card, but you must pay by Paypal, and pay 3.4% for the privilege.

Well, I say 3.4%, but for a £10 donation they were adding on 66p, which in my arithmentic is 6.6%, but hey, I'm no expert.

If I am working on any project that will ionvolve a lot of people, one of the last things I do is put everything away and then walk through the whole thing as if I had never seen it before. What do I do here? How does this work? Who does this affect? How will they know? If I can't trace a procedure from start to finish I make a note of it, go back and amend it - and then start the whole thing over again. It takes time, and it might seem a little plodding, but my projects tend to work from the start, and don't involve my employers in expensive mistakes or my colleagues in embarrassing situations. I'm old-school like that. Someone needs to do this for Crowdfunder.

Meanwhile, well, Glenn is only half an hour away up in Newcastle Emlyn. I might take up his invitation for a cup of tea and just hand him the cash.

Not what Crowdfunder was hoping for, I imagine.

* When I sold the Pan European for £4000 on eBay, I specified "£200 deposit by Paypal, the balance by cash, cheque, bank transfer etc." The purchaser paid the whole lot by Paypal before I could discuss it with him. I forget how much this cost me, but it was in the hundreds of pounds. I queried it, and was told by eBay that I could not refuse Paypal as payment, whatever I had said in the listing. They have you over a barrel.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Art film project - can you help?

Last May, I posted about a visit to Aberglasney Gardens and an encounter with Glenn Ibbitson, an artist who had an exhibition there at the time of our visit. I wrote this about his work:
Two local artists, Glenn Ibbitson and Carole King (no, not that Carole King) had their work on show and it was fabulous. I got chatting to Glenn and it turns out he is a Leeds lad (like me) and spent a lot of time in Hull (like I have). He's about my age, but the years didn't match, so there were no "ah, that must have been you!" moments. He's another 'ex-biker' - got as far as a Honda Superdream and then moved to London and never looked back. His work ranged from superbly-drawn landscapes to semi-impressionist interiors, and I liked it all. That's from someone who is very wary of 'modern art' - the man can paint, and paint extremely well.
Glenn has recently been in touch and is looking for support (OK, financial support) for a new venture into film-making. This was his message to me:
My latest fine art project is a video entitled ‘TATSUKO’. Based on a true story, it has been shot largely in black and white and is a silent film.

Its provisional release date is June 1st, 2012

Please take a couple of minutes to watch the trailer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ET9F5OkuIds (trailer embedded below)

With a running time of about 40 minutes, the video has proved too long to be considered for Wales Arts Council funding; too short for Wales Film Agency grants…!

So far, work has proceeded through the goodwill of the small production team, but as the video is enters its post-production phase, money is sought to pay for:

A] a Soundtrack. This is being scored by award-winning musician Wyn Lewis Jones, but this process incurs sound recording studio costs.

B] the publishing of a Book, which traces the film’s development from initial inception to final cut; comprising film stills, storyboards, location schedules, interviews and notes.

C] Marketing: through the national and international film festival network. Entry thereto is dependent upon submissions fees.

I have decided to seek funds using the ‘crowdfunding’ model. Rather than simply contribute money, the sponsor is offered a range of rewards in exchange for pledges. This then becomes an opportunity for you as sponsor to acquire some unique, tangible art product, [postcards, screenprints, original drawings and paintings] in addition to seeing your name on both film credit roll and the printed page, as a patron of the arts. To see how you can help, visit:


Every sponsor at whatever level will have the opportunity of adding their personal or business website to the project blog.


Higher level contributions will ensure this information appears in the book and on the film’s final credit roll.

If you are unable to pledge, I completely understand. In which case, could I ask you to pass this information on to your contacts, who may be in a position to help out?

Thank you for reading this through.

Best wishes,

Glenn Ibbitson

Here's the trailer:

If you like what you see and feel able to help Glenn in any way, you know what to do. I am intrigued by the trailer, and I reckon the idea is worthy of support. If you have a blog of your own and would consider giving some publicity there, I am sure Glenn would be delighted.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

And So Say All Of Us

I have been having some email chit-chat with commenter Bazza, and he has a sig line which I though worth posting here (with his permission). It's Simon Hargreaves, the Bike journalist:
Motorcycles mean much more to us than cold, manufactured arrangements of metal and plastic should. We're powerfully, irrationally, emotionally bound to our motorcycles, partly because thay're an expression of who we are - they identify us - and partly because we put our lives in their hands, literally. We trust them to get us home in one piece, late at night, after a hard day's ride. Or when when we are far, far away alone, in a foreign land. Are there any among us who don't pat the tank in silent prayer of thanks when we stop?

The Mash nails it again

ED Miliband's ability to be prime minster has been eaten by an alsatian.

"I was really annoyed because I reckon I could have got a 'C' in Not Sounding Like the Co-Chair of Roehampton Students Against Pornography."

Best Butter ...

... as my mother used to call insincere flattery.

I normally delete commercial spam comments as soon as they arrive, but this one was so OTT I thought I ought to share it with you. I'll even include the spammer's name so that they get the full benefit of the publicity.

From Medical Billing Services in California, in response to the post Health Going Backwards:
Easily, the publish is really the greatest on this laudable topic. I concur with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your future updates. Saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the fantastic lucidity in your writing. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay privy of any updates. Solid work and much success in your business enterprise!
Pure slime. Love it.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Bunsen Burner Effect

As a victim/beneficiary of a grammar school education in the 1960s, I am well aware of what is called 'writing in the third person'. You know, 'the ball was thrown by me' rather then 'I threw the ball'. You pretend to be an observer of the event rather than a participant in it. I first met it in a science lesson, where we were told that all experiments had to be written up in the third person: the bunsen burner was lit and the test tube was placed in the flame, sort of thing. It's good training to have to do this, as it forces you to be objective about what you are describing, rather than just relating a stream-of-consciousness sequence of 'what I did'. It's grown-up writing.

Later, during teacher training, I was informed that writing in the third person was evil. You see, all those readability tests (Flesch-Kincaid and the like) say that third-person writing is harder to read, requiring a higher reading age, and therefore excludes the less-able pupil (or student, as we were meant to call them). All writing must be immediate and personal, or the kids will not be able, or wish to, read it. (There's a whole nother post here, but I will refrain.)

But it is still a very useful tool, especially for politicians. Using the third person can make a decision seem more rational than it really is, as it starts to look as though the forces of nature are at work, rather then individuals making personal decisions. Compare:
Quantitative easing has been permitted in order to boost growth
We're going to print tons more money so that you lot will feel - temporarily - better off and start to spend again.
And of course it becomes a habit. Look at Eric Joyce's comment outside court, where he has just been convicted of a series of violent assaults while angry drunk:
Clearly it's a matter of considerable personal shame.
Not "I feel considerable personal shame", but "it's a matter of", which tends to put the events in the category of "descriptions of things that people do". He could have used that exact form of words when commenting on the behaviour of anyone.

Man caught with indecent images on his computer? Clearly it's a matter of considerable personal shame.

Bank chief caught with his fingers in the till? Clearly it's a matter of considerable personal shame.

MP convicted of head-butting a fellow MP while in a radge? Clearly it's a matter of considerable personal shame.

Who, me?

I'm not having a go at the MP. He's obviously got a problem with his intake, and he has behaved dreadfully and paid a price. But it is instructive how, even in moments of personal distress (perhaps especially in moments of personal distress) a politician will use a form of words that suggests that he is a neutral observer of events and is merely commenting on them.

The boiling of the water in the flask is clearly a result of the heat from the bunsen burner below it. Nothing to do with me, guv.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Boot Hill revisited

LAst April, my faithful pair of bike boots (Sidi Black Rain Evo) died of old age and overwork, and I bought a new pair of Frank Thomas Aqua Rides. Posts here and here, for those without a home life.

I didn't know it, but at the time Frank Thomas were in administration and about to go out of business. That wouldn't have affected my decision to buy them, as I had always had good results with FT gear before. However, the Aqua Rides are perhaps an example of the reason why the firm didn't survive.

For one, they were advertised as waterproof, and they weren't. They kept the worst out, and no doubt were better in the wet than a normal race boot, but after 20 minutes or so of heavy rain you could feel a cold trickle round your toes and you knew that you would be spending the next day-and-a-half drying the boots out. However, they were very comfy to walk around in, felt good on the bike, and were toasty warm, so although I was disappointed I decided to keep them.

And then, on Tuesday night, I was getting ready to go out to the TOMCC pub meet and put them on. Rrrrrip. The lining of the left boot had become detached from the rest and had slipped down into the foot part. It wasn't possible to put them on without crushing the lining underfoot, and this would have been very uncomfortable and possibly dangerous, so I went out in Doc Marten's instead. And got thoroughly wet feet. Lace holes.

I took them back to the dealership yesterday, and they are returning them to whoever looks after Frank Thomas's business affairs these days. It's unlikely I will get a replacement pair, as they don't make them any more, but I may get an equivalent pair, or a credit note. Or I may get nothing. I suppose after 11 months of daily use, it's unreasonable to expect a brand new pair out of it. The old boots are being 'sent away' and it will be a week or so before I get any answer.

I like my feet exactly as they are, and I won't go out with anything less than proper protection on them, so I had to find another pair pronto. Hence a trip today to Lamo's Motorcycles in Llandissilio. I have spent a bit more this time and got a pair of Forma Arrow Dry boots. This is another 'clearance' range, but that meant I spent £120 rather then £150. Ker-ching. They are allegedly waterproof and - good sign - they are Italian. Also, they are snazzy. Until now, for the whole of my motorcycling career, I have worn plain black boots. These have a bit of red about them.

As has the Sprint.

I am a fashion victim.

Trouble is, I am now forced to buy red bikes until the boots wear out, or buy new boots every time I change the bike, or go around unco-ordinated. Which is par for the course according to my friends, and not a problem.

Rescue Cat thinks they are ace.

P.S. Those toe sliders are magnesium. It says so on them. Only, it's 'non-sparking' magnesium, apparently. Damn.

Fun with switches

A year ago, I had a bit of a problem with the XT. It would start and run OK, but as soon as I switched on any electrical item (like the headlight or indicators), the engine would die - in fact, all electrics died, including the dash lights. Turning the ignition switch off and on again cured it, but clearly it wasn't a good idea to have this happening in heavy traffic. I bought a new switch from the acknowledged XT guru David Lambeth ('Custardgrub' on eBay), and all was well. I had to destroy the old switch to get it off, and inside it was a wreck, with dirty contacts and as loose and floppy as a nonagenarian's wedding tackle. A year later, almost to the day, it started happening again. Additionally, it was doing some rather silly things like passing current when it was supposed to be 'off'. Taking the key out and having the ignition light still glowing tells even a numpty like me that something is wrong.

My understanding of electrics is fairly limited (I understand the Smoke Theory, and the water-in-pipes bit makes sense, but advanced fault-finding is usually trial and error. Mostly error. In this situation, my guess is that the switch is making poor contact, and so it will allow the small current required by the engine, but when a bigger load is added to the circuit it gives up. Technically speaking.

This time, work patterns meant that I couldn't sort out a new switch straight away, so I decided to make my own. A look at the wiring diagram, couple of lengths of wire, a few connectors, a fuse carrier, some heat-shrink, and I was in business.

The 'ignition key' was a 20A mini-blade fuse. It worked brilliantly, if I say so myself. The system is robust, foolproof and simple. It has two-point-five drawbacks:
  • The 'ignition key' is tiny and easily lost. If you drop it on the floor in the dark, it can take several minutes to find it, even with a torch. Don't ask. And it isn't as easy to find in a jacket pocket as a bunch of keys.
  • Switching on and off is fiddly and time-consuming.
  • The bike is nickable to anyone with a suitable fuse about their persons.
The last one is only a point-five disadvantage because a) who carries a 20A fuse with them on the off-chance? b) the bike is not a desirable target, far from it, and c) you'd have to know the bodge was there in the first place.

Anyways, I reckoned that a year wasn't a very good service life for a thing like an ignition switch, so I contacted David to see if there had been a problem with that batch. He replied that he hadn't had any problems with the switches in 20 years of selling them. However, he offered to send me a new one if I sent the old one back with ten pounds. That seemed an exceedingly fair offer, but I was unwilling to take him up on it, as I was only 99% sure it was the switch. He's a very helpful guy, and I don't want to abuse his good nature. I don't rule out an unrelated gotcha which could account for the symptoms. So I bought a new one at full price, and I am going to send the old one back to him for inspection. If he finds it is faulty, I am sure we will come to some arrangement.

New switch fitted, and the XT is going like a good 'un.

But I am keeping the little harness - just in case.

Ursine sylvan defecation shocker ...

So Ken Livingstone is a stinking hypocrite? Who knew?

Guido (obviously)
Andrew Gilligan (Telegraph)
Mehdi Hasan (New Statesman)

But not the BBC website - absolutely nothing as of the writing of this post (live link so may change).

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Portaloo Massacre

OK, that title is stretching the point to bursting in the pursuit of a minor witticism, but I couldn't help laughing when this vehicle turned up to my place of work the other day.

(And I've had that title in my head for weeks, and I will probably never get to use it otherwise.)

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Castle Coombe Track Days

First off, apologies for the lack of posting recently. I've been ... er ... busy. More on that in another post. But for now, I have a small treat for my readers:

Recently, I was contacted on behalf of MotorCycle Direct, a bike insurance company, with a request to publicise some of their promotions. Now, this is a strictly non-commercial blog, and I have never taken a penny from anyone in relation to anything I have posted. And I have had some crazy approaches! 'Genuine' Rolex replicas, betting scams, dainty Italian footwear, generic Viagra, you name it. And yet the things that MotorCycle Direct is promoting seem to be a good fit with the general tone of this blog, and may be genuinely of interest to my readership, so I agreed to host a couple of promotional pieces. I told them I would flag the material as 'third-party content' and they were OK with that. No money has changed hands, but I have been promised a 'motorcycle safety kit' as recompense, which I am allowed to keep or use as competition prizes. When I see what is in the package I will decide on that one (heh), but I have the germ of an idea ...

Here is the promotion:

Motorcycle Rider Safety Days supported by MotorCycle Direct

This year, MotorCycle Direct is giving their support to the Rider Performance Safety Days by offering their customers and anyone who has completed a bike quote from their site, a 10% discount on two dates later this year.

The courses, which are held at the Castle Combe Circuit in Wiltshire, have been specially designed to allow motorcyclists to become more ‘road aware’ and therefore less likely to be involved in a motorcycle related accident.

The safety days are taught by a team of expert instructors and are open to all bikers, so it doesn’t matter whether you’re a novice, experienced or born again biker. The team of instructors will be able to guide you through various workshops that will include:
  • Positioning
  • Observation
  • Causes of Collision
  • Attitude
  • Cornering
  • Braking
  • Overtaking
  • Motorcycle Maintenance
There are two dates planned for 2012, which are on Wednesday 30th May and Wednesday 5th September. Any bikers who would like to take advantage of MotorCycle Directs 10% discount offer should call the Castle Combe Circuit on 01249 782 417 or email: sales@castlecombecircuit.co.uk and quote the code ‘MDI 2012’ along with your MotorCycle Direct quote or policy number.

It seems like a reasonable offer, and if you were thinking of renewing your insurance any time soon (or just wanted a quote to check prices), you could do worse than give it a go.

N.B. There was an illustration to go with this material, of a biker on a track next to a man in hi-viz, a sort of generic 'training' image. Unfortunately, it was embedded in a Word document and even with the help of Photoshop I was unable to get a decent quality image out of it. I shall ask them to send the image and text separately next time.

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